Austro-tinian charm...

Trip Start Oct 05, 2012
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Trip End Apr 01, 2013

Flag of Argentina  ,
Friday, February 1, 2013

If you like fake Austrian chalets, gourmet chocolate shops on every corner and the opportunity to get your picture taken with a giant St Bernard and its very fluffy puppy then San Carlos de Bariloche in the Argentinian Lake District should be high on your list of places to visit...I sort of knew this was what to expect after reading the guide books so thankfully wasn't really surprised upon arrival!! It was more the location on the banks of Lago Nahuel Huapi within the Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi that had attracted me to stop off here on my trek north. Although a little bit of chocolate certainly didn't go amiss during my visit...!!

During winter, Bariloche is Argentina's premier ski resort, and during summer it becomes a centre for many energetic outdoor activities. I hadn't really arrived with anything specific in mind; perhaps a bit of walking, some cycling or maybe an attempt at kayaking. The latter was ruled out by my shoulder, which doesn't seem to want to heal fully after my fall in Torres del Paine. This then left walking and cycling. First up, I decided to try one of the few cycle rental agencies listed in my guidebook - Dirty Bikes - to book a full day mountain biking tour though the national park. Should have been easy enough, except it turns out the address was either wrong or the agency had since shutdown. I say since, but the guidebook - Footprints - was published last autumn, and there was no sign of the shop where it should have been... I also failed to find any flyer for it in the Tourist Information office so took this as a sign that I wasn't meant to go cycling, and promptly added the money to my 'wine-tasting' budget for the next section of my trip. Not a bad alternative...!!

The only remaining activity then was walking. After spending 27 hours on a bus getting to Bariloche, I was keen to walk rather than be cooped up in yet another vehicle. I decided to go to Teleferico Cerro Otto, a lookout located only 5km from the centre. Unfortunately the only route option I had was to walk along the (very busy!) road, which had no pavement but just a sandy/gravelly strip running along it. Still better to stretch my legs than get on yet another bus!! Thankfully it was just a short distance and before long I was at the bottom of the Teleferico buying my (expensive!!) ticket and waiting to board. 4 of us were squashed into a cable car and made the ascent to the top. The whole complex is a little tired looking, definitely reminiscent of the late 70s/80s and looks like it really could do with a bit of investment. This aside, the views over the surrounding lakes and mountains are spectacular and definitely make it worth the trip. Although there is a revolving restaurant at the top, I decided against visiting this - apparently it's nice enough but very expensive and you can see 360 degree views from the roof terrace so no real bonus from its revolving feature. After a walk back into the centre, I spent the rest of the evening watching the sunset from the panoramic windows in the hostel. All in all, a nice lazy day to gear me up for the following day...

...when I'd decided to walk part of a popular tourist route called Circuito Chico. The whole circuit is 60km, although 36km of this is the same built-up stretch of road taking you to and from the centre of Bariloche. Cycling atleast part of it is popular with many tourists, but given I'd probably have needed to walk the bike up most of the hills I decided that the main scenic part of the circuit (apx.25km) was actually walkable, especially as I had about 8 hours or so to do it in. Plenty of time!! I followed the route from KM17.5 passing through Llao Llao (location of one of Argentina's most prestigious hotels), Bahia Lopez, past Refugio Grey through the Punto Panoramico and finally ended up almost back at my starting point about 6.5hours later. Although, a whole lot dustier, with very tired legs and quite hungry!!

I enjoyed the walk, but had expected it to be slightly more scenic than it turned out to be. Most of the road went through forests and it was only at certain points you got glimpses of the views overlooking the lakes and mountains. It would have been the same if I'd been on a bike, although admittedly I would have probably been faster and therefore had more time to go off and explore whilst leaving the bike at one of the carpark areas. That's just a theory though - as I said before, I would likely have had to walk parts of it as my hill-climbing abilities on a bike are not great...!!

From this experience, I'd definitely say that Bariloche is best explored with a car. Public bus transport is good and frequent, but very limited in terms of where it will get you. I could have seen a lot more had I been able to drive, park and then walk. It was unfortunate that I met someone in the hostel on my last night who had hired a car for the next 2 days and kindly invited me to join him - certainly the only way I would have been able to get out in a car as there's no way I'd have hired one given my lack of driving experience and the requirement to drive on the opposite of the road!! Ah well...

The hostel I was staying in was also a little more rundown than the 'gem' description which Footprints had attributed to it. I think they may have skipped researching this again before the last edition as I can't say that one bathroom between 14 people is really acceptable. I was also slightly surprised when I went to use the other bathroom on the floor above me to be told I couldn't - it was only for those on that floor; if mine was busy I just had to wait!! Luckily I was only trying to wash my feet, but imagine if it had been anything more urgent...

I also witnessed my first real dorm trouble in an international face-off between France and Israel. An older French lady (maybe mid 50s) decided that midnight was late enough for anyone in the dorm to be awake and told 3 young Israeli girls that the light needed to be switched off so we could all sleep. This, of course, then resulted in them taking twice as long to sort themselves out as they stumbled around in the dark trying to use light from the corridor whilst the door banged constantly against my bed. I didn't really see her point - it's a dorm room; you pay less because you share with others, and therefore have to be more tolerant and not expect everything to be according to your wishes. As if this wasn't enough, I couldn't believe it when in the morning she woke up first and proceeded to rip open the curtains allowing sunlight to stream in and wake us all up!! So, not only did we have to go to bed at a certain time, we also apparently had to wake up according to her timetable. Totally rude and unnecessary given there were others in the room as well as the Israeli girls...I can't wait for a break from dorms...roll on the private room in Rio for Carnaval!!

The lure of wine and staying at a place with a pool was all too much for me, and hence I decided to leave after 3 nights as my original plans. Roll on Winedoza...I mean Mendoza!!
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Comments

Pigwig on

Good old dorm antics ; )
yes. roll on Winedoza and the Carnival, wild times ahead indeed xx

irene henry on

Caught up with your blogs, Fiona. Just love reading about all your adventures and seeing all the wonderful photographs. So clear just as if I was seeing it from the boat too. Love the penguins. Enjoy the Carnival. Lots of love xxxxx

curlsandtales
curlsandtales on

Thank you - glad you are enjoying them!! I have fallen behind during Carnaval and now trying to catch up. Not as many photos though, and sadly no more penguins :-( hope all is well with you. Xx

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