I’d heard about Villa Epecuen a while ago, firstly through a photo essay, and then my friend Stephen Phelan visited and it jumped to the top of my must-visit places in Argentina.
Last week 4 of us took off on a mini road-trip and as luck would have it our route took us past the town to Carhué, some 10 kilometres south of the the ruined village, so we took a small detour and headed off to see what was left of Villa Epecuen.
Villa Epecuen was founded on the banks of Lago Epecuen in the early 20th Century and soon became a popular tourist resort with crowds flocking from Buenos Aires to sample the curative qualities of the mineral-rich water of the lake. They say that by the 1950s, the village’s population of 1,500 would swell to more than 6,500 in the high season.
But the lake, the very thing that drew the visitors would prove to be Villa Epecuen’s undoing. In November 1985, 8 days of heavy rain burst a nearby dam and the waters began to rise, slowly enough for the residents to evacuate, but too fast to prevent the flooding and before long Villa Epecuen was under 10 metres of water.
And there it remained until a few years ago when the water began receding, revealing a ruined and very different place. Much of the water evaporated leaving a thick layer of salt coating much of the remains, giving the place a very sparse and blasted look.
The main streets have been cleared, and every year more of the village is uncovered, but only one resident remains, or more accurately, returned. 83 year old Pablo Novak returned to his home once the waters had lowered sufficiently – claiming that he was born there and is happy to die there.
This looks like the perfect place to go crazy with my camera!
It’s a great place for photos – I just wish we could have stayed longer, and that I were a better photographer ;o)
The place looks amazing. I searched for some photos from before the flooding but the only ones I could find were with the houses already surrounded by water.
Ah, I remember reading about this place. What fantastic photos you’ve taken there!