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| Estimated reading time: 1 min.|| Karina Jozami Foto 1: Jorge González / 2-4: Santiago Gaudio|
Touring around the capital of Neuquén, visitors may see various attractions that make up the Great Valley.
|In a quick tour, it might be suspected that, in addition to urban attractions and nearby farms, Neuquén does not feature any other places to visit. However, the surroundings of the capital of the province hide several nooks for visitors to explore. Here we propose an amusing circuit to discover them.|
First of all, visitors must leave the city following diagonal 9 de Julio, which starts one block North of the San Martín Monument on Argentina Avenue. Then, they must take Provincial Route 7. After crossing Alta Barda Neighborhood and the industrial park, the fruit fields and the poplar groves with their irrigation system may be seen at the 8th kilometer marker.
|At the 14th kilometer marker, there is a roundabout to access Centenario, a city founded in 1922 then known as Sayhueque Colony. At the booming district, there are intense fruit, agricultural and industrial activities, packaging sheds, slaughter houses, juice producers and sawmills.|
Cinco Saltos is reached through the bridge over the Neuquén River. Following a stretch displaying plenty of green to both sides, the small hamlet of Vista Alegre Sur is found at the 20th kilometer marker. Five kilometers ahead, there is a fork in the road. The detour to the left leads to Loma de la Lata and Lake Mari Menuco, or else, travelers may continue up to the Ballester Dam and Cinco Saltos.
Heading for Loma de la Lata, Lake Barreales is accessed. One of the most important paleontological excavations in the province is being carried out there. Besides, the Portezuelo Grande and Loma de la Lata dams, along with the Planicie Banderita central, make up the Cerros Colorados area in El Chocón.
|Finally, visitors may see the artificial Lake Mari Menuco with the cliffs over its shores, the energetic plant and the summer village which features the necessary infrastructure to welcome the families coming along from the valley.|
Towards the Dam
Visitors who choose to go to the Ballester Dam must continue along Provincial Route 7 up to the access detour. This dam is raised over the Neuquén River and the bridge above it is 400 meters long. Built between 1910 and 1916, it has 17 gates in all (which regulate the river waters) and it is the starting point for other regional hydraulic works.
When crossing the bridge, the Province of Río Negro is entered. Not only is the pump seen but also a lighthouse and a sundial may be spotted. Camping is allowed in this area but campers should be careful as the river is deep and dangerous.
After passing by the Barda del Medio Neighborhood -in the Province of Río Negro-, Lake Pellegrini may be spotted. To catch a glimpse of this water body, visitors must turn right at the roundabout with National Route 151, enter the town of Cinco Saltos and follow the signs. The Pellegrini is an artificial lake of greenish waters coming from the Neuquén River and its bathing resort is located on the Ruca Co Peninsula. In this area, there is a quaint tourist and weekend village crossed by one central street with leafy eucalyptus and residences with private beaches and boat ramps. This spot is chosen to practice windsurfing, water skiing, jet skiing, rowing and fishing, to name some of the most regular activities.
|Back at Cinco Saltos, visitors may return to the City of Neuquén along the same route or turn around and then left towards Cipolletti first and cross the bridge over the confluence to end up at the capital of the Province.|
The Mari Menuco or the Pellegrini village camping sites are ideal for a good picnic day.