Driving the Seven Lakes to Bariloche

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

We pick up Claudio and Isa from their hostel just after breakfast and head off down through the Seven Lakes through Angostura to Bariloche.  We know is it a long way but the map is very small and sketchy.  Hey ho - off we go.....  Poor Claudio and Isa are squashed in the back with the bags that would not fit in the boot. 

The Argentine Lake District is spectacularly beautiful and, as we drive through the lakes we stop of at each one to get out have a better look and take some photographs.  The weather starts off bright and sunny but gradually gets worse.  First the rain starts and then the snow.   All this when I am still coming to terms with driving on the wrong side of the road.  It is not so much driving on the wrong side of the road that gets me, but more the controls being on the wrong side as I continually try to change gear with the window winder! 

Even though the road from San Martin to Bariloche is a pretty major road (and one of the most scenic drives in the world), the tarmac quickly runs out and we are soon onto gravel except that, because of the rain and snow, it is now more like mud than gravel. This is a small car although there are four of us in the car complete with heavy luggage etc.  the car continually slides all over the road and the wheels have trouble gripping when going up and going down the many, many hills (I later notice that one of the front tyres is almost bald!).  Anyway, after about 60-70 kilometres of driving on what could only loosely be described as a road (possibly the worst I have driven on outside of Africa), we make it to the very swish lakeside resort town of Angostura, about midway through the route (and the only town we end up passing, the whole day). 

We find a place for lunch and guided by Claudio (the Italian chef) we go for the pasta and chicken in Neapolitana Sauce (Naples is his home town). Isa had already questioned the locals to find the best place in town and when we got there, it was full to busting with people wanting lunch.  The reason it was full?  - big portions and good food, but this is not enough for Claudio who then orders a (very large) omelet. Why is this man so skinny??

After lunch we continue our journey onwards along the shores of the last and biggest lake, to Bariloche, one of the most visited cities in Argentina. We finally arrive and drive around this very spread out town, trying to find a place to stay for the night. Eventually, we park in the town and I stay with the car to guard the bags whilst Carolyn, Isa and Claudio go off in search of a hostel to stay.  After about an hour, during which time I have watched literally hundreds of hormonally challenged and, soon to be pissed, students wander by,  the the three of them return having searched around town and found some of the most appalling places imaginable which are both dirty and full of students (we later discover that it is a bank Holiday AND Bariloche is THE place where students come on their spring break). 

The best of the bunch is in what appears to be, not so much a youth hostel, but more of an old peoples home (think the film Cocoon and you will get the picture). Anyway, this is the first place where we have stayed where we have actually reduced the average age of the guest population.

Isa and Claudio are really nice people and we enjoy their company.  It is lovely to meet like minded people. 
We unanimously decide that Bariloche is not a place we want to stay for another day, at least not during "student-spring-bankholiday weekend". 

We do have a look around the tpwn centre and find that it is designed in the style of Switzerland as Argentinians imagine it to be.  There are lots of chocolate shops  (about every other shop!), lots of log cabin style buildings (especially in the main square) and even St Bernard dogs walking around with barrels around their necks.      The main square has a lot of students standing around  -  there are a few bands playing, one of which came complete with a head-banging dread-locked lead singer.  The are stands for students to display their art and of course, the obligatory hippie craft market. 

After wandering around, we all head off on a 3k hike to find the bus station to sort out some onward tickets to Puerto Madryn which is on the Atlantic coast of Patagonia, in order to see the whales that this area of Patagonia is so well known for.

Bus tickets secured, the next day we deliver the car back to Hertz and catch a local bus out to the cable car for a ride to the top of the mountain which allegedly has spectacular views over the Patagonian lake. The rumours are true.  This was one of the most amazing views we have ever witnessed 360 degrees - lakes and woods and the town of Bariloche.  Absolutely fantastic and unfortunately, the photos simply do not do it justice!  It was the best bit of our Bariloche visit.  

This success of this trip was thanks to Isa & Claudio.  They found out how to get here using local transport so we were able to escape the student crowds and head off independently out of town.  Had it been down to us I am sure we would have ended up at the cable car in the town along with the bus loads of students riding & yodelling up the small hill for a much less interesting view.   

After lunch at a sort of Argentine cum Chinese buffet restaurant (which was a little strange, but we all managed to eat a vast amount of food regardless), we walk back to the bus station to catch the overnight bus to Puerto Madryn. Yip-pee! Another 14 hours on a bus to look forward to!
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