As in the whole Cordillera, this should be a perfect season for Epuyén, driven by the high dollar and national tourism, but the hantavirus ended with all the projections that by November 2018 were more than positive. The city was expecting a year with hotel occupancy exceeding 80%, while today reality shows that it has fallen to dramatic levels.
News of the 9 deaths and 28 hanta certificate contagion frightened the wild nature lovers of the south.
It is estimated that about 120 thousand people pass through Epuyén every summer to visit the lake and its surroundings. More than 40,000 sleep, eat and buy souvenirs on the premises. It is estimated that Epuyén will no longer receive tourist products around 200 million pesos in the period between the end of December and mid-March.
Nicholas, an Austrian tourist who was visiting the city and planning to leave. Photo: Marcelo Martinez
Today the camps, hostels and cabins are empty. In the height of summer, the four camps in Epuyén can accommodate 750 people a day. they are tightened in the spaces enabled by the municipality.
"What you see here in the summer is full of tents, they came to ask us to please let them mount a tent where they can not find a place to sleep," he says Clarin Hector Pereyra (77), owner of the wife, Elisa Hube, from the camp The Cordillera, the oldest in Epuyén.
The scene is bleak in terms of business. Pereyra, a man of impeccable athleticism and friendly conversation, walks on the lawn of the place, green and cut like a soccer field. The silence of nature that hardly lets you see the flow of the river Epuyén, is an exotic fact at this time. The rule states that campers come and go with their backpacks, prepare meals, play guitar, and speak out loud about the exploits of the day.
Other similar spaces in the surroundings support the same solitude. Where small summer communities should be, absence prevails.
"We do not have mice here, we have 20 cats that do, but people believe hanta is everywhere and it does not come." Pereyra explains that he was a truck driver in Trelew and foreman of the local council.
Paradoxically, what Epuyén is losing will eventually capitalize on El Bolsón. The mountain town, famous for its fair and its mountain lifestyle, is fully occupied with an occupancy exceeding 90%. Streets, fairs and squares explode with visitors from all over the country. Something similar happens with Esquel, which also has about 85% of hotel occupancy. "In Bolsón we are receiving many tourists who love Patagonia, people are informed and come," says Karina Bayón, vice president of the local Chamber of Tourism.
"This summer we are already selling 90% less and we had to start throwing away milk, yogurt, butter and other products because ordinary people did not come," says Norma, owner of Epuyén's main mini-market. Dismay takes the sacks of milk out of your industrial refrigerator to leave them in a bag.
"Unfortunately we have to say that the year is lost though we can not lower our arms. This will happen and we must have patience too, "reflects Antonio Reato, mayor of Epuyén.
The city also had to postpone Craftsman's Party, which gathers more than 30,000 people during three days of musical and culinary encounters. The village bakery sells 1.5 tonnes of bread for each day of the meeting, according to local sources. Another lost income.
"I found out about the virus and what worried me most was that they say it can be transmitted from person to person. I will continue traveling because I have to go to El Calafate. , an Austrian who is traveling to Patagonia by bicycle.
For these hours, the only tourists crossing Epuyén are foreigners from Europe or the United States.. National visitors have chosen to reschedule their destination in Patagonia and today they are in Bariloche, El Bolsón and Esquel, at a safe distance from the area of the outbreak.