Refugees

Trip Start Sep 02, 2008
1
27
30
Trip End Dec 14, 2008


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1004

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Friday, November 28, 2008

From El Bolson, we headed to Bariloche, the heart of the Argentinian Lake District and supposedly the Queenstown of Argentina, i.e. beautiful mountain/lake views, lots of action and adventure!  The town sits on the shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi, and our hostel, on the 10th floor of the tallest building in town, had awesome views of the lake and distant snowy mountains, whilst spoiling the view for everyone else in town! The hostel is called 1004, which actually stands for the apartment number and not (which I had assumed) was the number of people in the kitchen at any one time! There was a bit of a culture shock coming from the homely atmosphere from El Bolson to the full on backpacker central of 1004..we were thankful that we had decided on the double room rather than the dorm.

Our mates from El Bolson, Rach and Jamie, had recommended a 2 day hike up to a 'refugio' in the mountains, which for some reason Nige agreed to (he must have forgiven me for the Oxfam Trailwalker at last!) and given that the weather forecast was only fine for the next 2 days, we didn't hang around long to check out the views, but headed straight off into the hills the next day.

The walk started as a 5 hour trek along a beautiful river valley, on a mainly easy, sandy path, interspersed with logs and stepping stones to balance across bogs and streams plus a very wobbly bridge across the river to keep us interested!  At the end of the valley, there was a steep windy path up to the top of the ridge, and almost at the top of the hill, just as our lungs were bursting and brains numb from lack of oxygen, we came across a crazy river crossing which involved paddling barefoot across the top of an ice-cold waterfall, hanging for dear life onto a rope strung across from bank to bank to stop ourselves being washed away!  Very scary but awesome fun!  Finally we had a 20 minute rock climb before reaching the top...and snow!  As I've missed out on snow for the last 2 winters due to playing footie through the ski season, it was fab just to be able to crunch through snow again, dodging Nige's snowball-throwing!  Then we crested the last rise and saw the refugio, our little wooden home for the night, nestled in the snow next to a frozen lake surrounded by snowy peaks - awesome!

The refugio was similar to mountain huts in New Zealand - a dorm/bunk room, a living area and kitchen, plus a toilet block off in the woods, although here reaching the toilet block meant a 10 minute trudge through the snow, but as a reward they were flush toilets instead of the classic NZ long-drop!

We reached the hut about 3pm, so had a lovely relaxing afternoon lounging on a big rock overlooking the lake in the gorgeous sunshine, chatting to our fellow refugees, an English and a Dutch couple who we'd seen on the way up, as they overtook us!!  By dinnertime there were 10 of us at the hut and we had a cosy evening eating soup and home-made gnocchi by candlelight and swapping travel stories before a starlit trip to the toilet and then retiring to listen to each other snore the night away in our bunks.

The following day we strolled back down as a group with our new friends, taking it easy and revelling in the fact it was all downhill!  I went for a paddle in the river on the way back, but it was unfortunately way too cold for a dip, even for me!

We hung out in the Lake District for another few days, the highlight being a beautiful drive called the Siete Lagos (7 lakes) in our wee red hire car Rocky (we named it after its colour - red in Spanish = rojo), which took us through some beautiful mountain scenery and past lots of lovely crystal clear lakes - we counted 9!

But soon enough it was time to leave and head back up north - 'Patagonia - done!'
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