Hola gang. Got to Bariloche on Friday the 1st of December...with another friend in tow. This time it is Larry from Hostel Lao in Mendoza. Larry is considering moving down here for a while...so Bariloche is somewhere he wanted to check out as a possible place to get an apartment for a few months. Came down on Andesmar buslines...in "cama" class which means another good nights sleep for me. And with a 20 hour bus ride...a good sleep was needed. The buses here really do rock...we watched a couple movies in English, had two hot meals and even played a game of bingo for a bottle of wine.
First impression of Bariloche, it looks like a Swiss ski lodge
. It is set on the southern shore of a beautiful blue lake with snow capped mountains in the background. The main square looks exactly like a Swiss chalet...and there are even chocolate shops and fondue restaurants. The months of December and January the town is full of Argentine high school students who flock here for their school holidays. Upon arrival...we hopped in a cab for the ride to Marco Polo Hostel. Unlike Hostel Lao in Mendoza, this is a large hostel with hundreds of people staying here, a bar, free breakfast and dinner each night and even a Thai masseuse on staff. Got assigned to a 6 bed dorm which was quite nice...there was a upper loft and lower section with 3 beds each and we had a private bathroom for the 6 of us in the room. Unfortunately, I was the last one to check in...so it is another upper bunk for me...shit. Two girls from England are in the upper section with me...Ria and Jennie from England. Cute girls...but in the end they were sort of flakey. I decide to book an excursion for the next day...which was awesome...more about that later. First day we just walk around town, check it out, get our bearings...and hang out in the hostel bar. There we meet Greg from Australia, and he, me, Larry and the two British girls have a few drinks before deciding to leave around midnight for a late Tex Mex dinner at Dias de Zappatas...which is owned by a local who grew up in Mexico. The guacamole was a little slice of heaven, the tacos were good, but the queso sucked. Margaritas sent the girls over the edge and as I had to get up early for an all day excursion, I left with them back towards the hostel while Larry and Greg went out for a couple more drinks at a local Irish pub
Up early on Saturday for my excursion with Extremo Sur...class 3 and 4 whitewater rafting down the Rio Manso...which according to most guidebooks...has some of the best rafting in all of Argentina. After an hour ride and some conversation in broken Spanish with Inez from Spain, we reach the departure point. We have some breakfast, I try tea de mate for the first time, get assigned our equipment and air up our rafts. Our list of gear included a full wetsuit, booties, waterproof jackets, helmets, life jackets and of course a paddle. We are assigned to our boats...6 people each...and as I need to be in an English speaking boat, I get assigned to a boat with 6 older, slightly boring Brits...but in ended up not being too bad. Our guide Martin runs down the rules of the river and some important safety tips including what to do in the extremely likely chance we tip over and how to ride the rapids and avoid the rocks in you are in the water and not in the boat. There are three rafts in total...two red ones and one blue one...thankfully we have the blue one as it made it easy to see in the photos we saw later which ones we were. The trip was great...about 2 hours of rafting, a lot of good rapids, a chance to swim in a section (which was freezing) and plenty of opportunities to goof around with the other boats. Both of the red boats flipped...but thanks to our awesome rowing skills, we kept from flipping
. Our guide was so impressed...he started allowing us to take the more aggressive runs in the river...the bastard was actually trying to flip us! But somehow we made it threw unscathed and the blue raft definitely had more fun than the others. We actually rafted all the way through to Chile...and at the end the photographer took pictures of all of us by the Chillean border sign. After a 40 minute ride back to the starting point, we had an argentine BBQ complete with all the cow you could eat and wine you could drink...it was an amazing experience, with amazing guides and incredible rafting and I highly recommend it. Somehow I mustered up the strength to go out once more with Larry and Greg for a night of debauchery. Unfortunately the girls decided that even though it was their last night in town...they were staying in...flakey. It's ok...I got even with them later that night. The evening was fairly tame with a few beers and some interesting conversation with an American who opened up a bar called the Map Room...then to a locals only spot called South Bar until about 4AM. I climbed into bed soon thereafter waking up the English girls in the process...and from what they tell me, I snored like a freight train all night long...serves them right for bailing on us.
The next day the everyone in my room except me checked out...which means all new roomates for me today. I changed beds to the best one in the dorm and spent the day exploring Bariloche and checking the town out
. Bought some chocolcate, spent some time on the beach of the lake, and booked my 3 day bus ride down to El Calafate on Rute (Route) 40.
Day 3 I took a bus to Kilometer 17 just outside of town and rented a bike to do the Circuito Chico...which is a popular route around a few lakes and ending with the postcard view of hotel Llao Llao. The ride itself wasn't too bad...just a few hard uphill segments. Right before starting the biggest uphill part, I found a little roadside cafe next to a waterfall and enjoyed a small meal and a couple really, really good local beers. There is a town close to Bariloche called El Bolson and it has some great small batch breweries...good stuff. The view of the hotel was indeed nice and after checking my bike back in, it was back to Bariloche for what I thought was my last night in town. Given my bus was leaving at 6:30 in the morning the next day, I thought it was a safer bet to try and stay up all night...bad call. We had a large group going out that night including Dallas (a chick...cute chick even) from San Francico, Jenny from NY, a girl from London, Larry and two Irish guys. We litteraly talked the London girl into coming at the last minute and she actually went out in her PJ bottoms. First stop was South Bar for some starters...then Wilkenny where everyone seems to end up. Good times and it was 4:30 by the time our group went home. I decided to just lay down for a second...next thing I know it is the next morning at 10AM...shit
. Missed my bus...first screw up of the trip and a big one potentially as that ticket and two nights accomodation cost me 500 pesos. Fortunately for me I am staying at one of the best hostels in town with a really, really good staff. I put my sad face on and walk down to the reception desk to cry and drown my sorrows on Anna and Angie (the two girls who work there)....they say not to worry and they will take care of it...sure enough they do. The next bus is two days later so they extend my stay at Marco Polo Inn and tell me where to go to pick up my new vouchers at no charge to me. Given I have two extra nights now I schedule another excursion. I spend the entire day lounging around...my first lazy day in a long, long time...we watch 3 movies and by the third we have a small crowd watching with us. During the last movie I do some serious blog updating on Larry's laptop...did I tell you the hostel has wireless internet? Cool stuff. Nothing much happened that night...just a good dinner and few drinks in the hostel with the same old crowd from the night before. It was Dallas' last night so we stayed up late to wish her a proper good bye.
The next day is my final excursion in the Bariloche area...hiking around Mt. Tronador. Get picked up early for the long bus ride...nearly 2 hours, the last part all gravel road. Mt. Tronador is about 3500 meters tall and has several active glaciers on it...we actually saw a huge chunk of one glacier fall off down the mountain
. Also nearby is the infamous Black Glacier and several beautiful waterfalls. Some of the water falls were dropping straight off the glacial shelf and looked like sifted sugar falling down the side of the mountain. There was a good group I was with and we all decided to meet for dinner that night at the best steakhouse in town El Boliche de Alberto. The place was indeed awesome and the portions were huge...I definitely do not want to step on a scale when I get back home. Back at the hostel I set three alarm clocks and have the guy on the night desk signed up to wake me up at 5:30 so I don't miss my bus the next day.
I got up fortunately and now have nearly 3 days on the infamous Rute (route) 40.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT THE PHOTOS FOR THIS ENTRY. I AM CURRENTLY IN EL CALAFATE AND THE ONLY INTERNET CONNECTION IS SATELITE BASED SO UPLOAD SPEEDS ARE SLOW. LOOK FOR MORE PHOTOS FROM THIS ENTRY ESPECIALLY OF MY RAFTING TRIP WHEN I GET TO BUENOS AIRES.