On our second day in Malargüe, we went to Valle Hermoso. This is really a package tour of several locations, with superb-looking landscapes and plenty of opportunities for photography, but not much else. First the van starts climbing and climbing up a dangerously winding dirt road, and (a couple of hours later) you get to see colourful mountains...
... and you get to the top of the tour, at about 3,100 m above sea level. You get off to stretch your legs and take pictures, and then you go down for a while and you're taken to the posh ski resort of Las Leñas, where celebrities are said to walk among normal folk without causing so much as a sideways glance.
Las Leñas, though superficially just a bunch of ugly expensive hotels and gift shops parasiting on one of the best places for skiing on Earth, actually owns half of the beautiful landscape around you, including places that no country but a true banana republic like Argentina would ever privatize. Las Leñas is in turn owned by a multinational group rumoured to be led by the president of Malaysia, whoever that is. I wouldn't be surprised to know it's the property of the Reverend Moon or of some other shady religious figure, like G. W. Bush.
After succesfully making use of Las Leñas for what it was worth (toilets), we took off, climbed again out of the valley, and after a while we started going down again, this time toward our main destination, Laguna Escondida (Hidden Lagoon), a small lake surrounded by a truly dreamy sight (owned by Las Leñas). There were horses being herded, cows grazing on the bottom of the valley, and birds quietly gliding in the wind. It was a bit cold, in fact my first encounter with real cold during the trip, for which I wasn't prepared.
We spent a while beside the lake, watching the campers on the other side (owned by Las Leñas), and then we took off again, now towards Laguna de la Niña Encantada (Haunted Girl's Lagoon), which is more like a big pond of emerald waters. It's protected, so you have to pay a small fee to see it, and you can't even touch the water, but the trip is worth it.
After a lot of clouds and wind coming and going all day, the weather got really wrong, and it started raining soft, heavy cold drops. It was the end of the tour anyway, so we packed our stuff and left for the hostel.