From the old Roca railway station, now a museum, La Trochita still makes entertaining excursions to the Mapuche hamlet of Nahuel Pan. Its wooden passenger wagons, with salamander stoves and hard-backed benches, are classics of their era, and the entire line is a national historical monument.
As the train departs the new station, opened in late 2008, residents leave their houses and cars to wave as it chugs past their backyards and crosses the highway. Each passenger coach has a guide, but the rolling stock is so noisy that understanding the narration is difficult.
Taking about an hour to reach Nahuel Pan, La Trochita remains there an hour before returning to Esquel. In the meantime, there are good oven-baked empanadas, drinks, and Mapuche crafts as well as short horseback rides. The Museo de Culturas Originarias Patagónicas (9 a.m.–noon Mon., Wed., and Fri., 9 a.m.–noon and 5–7 p.m. Tues., Thurs., and Sat., free) has moved here from downtown Esquel.
In summer, the train leaves at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily, but excursions are less frequent in other seasons. The fare is US$13 pp, cash only; you can usually buy a ticket without a reservation. For details, contact La Trochita (Roggero and Urquiza, tel. 02945/45-1403, www.latrochita.org.ar).
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition