Two mtn passes, an explosives team, and a queseria

Trip Start Mar 31, 2010
Trip End Jul 29, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hostel Inn
La Bolsa Hostel

Flag of Argentina  ,
Thursday, April 22, 2010

Foregoing a 33 hour bus ride, we opted for the 1.3 hour flight during which the most notable event was forgetting that we had Miss Swiss and Mr. Leatherman in our carry-ons. Yes, security found them both on the x-ray and we immediately fruck out thinking we had nowhere to mail them and had already checked our other baggage.  The woman working security saw the panic on our faces and thought we were crazy.  Apparently, it's no big deal to have the airline bag checker find your luggage and add items.  This is what airports in the States have done to us.

We arrived in Bariloche and shared a cab with some Americans (only the 3rd-5th Americans we have met; likely because they frequent airports due to limited travel time; everyone else seems to get a month or more per year).  Checked into Hostel Inn, which was a brief stay as it was full of 18-21 year olds partying and the "included" goulash dinner made us both feel queasy.  La Bolsa the next day was a much better choice, with duvets and real matresses, we got the best night sleep since home. We also got some mate lessons from one of the hostel hostesses and she filled our head with a dozen traditions about drinking the ever-popular, highly-caffeinated mate tea.

The following day we went trekking into the Nahuel Huapi National Park for Circuito Chico, a 3-day version of the 5-day Nahuel Huapi Traverse.  We will present the highlights in bullet form:

* Traveling 1403 km north made for a completely different landscape, even though we were still in Patagonia. (Haven't left yet. Love it here.) Bamboo everywhere! Well in the low-land valleys at least.

* First night put us at 1700m altitude, and although we'd been in t-shirts practically all day, when the sun went behind the valley the temperature dropped almost immediately and we put on all the clothes we owned, used our chemical hand- and foot-warmers, and still froze. We woke up to an icy layer of breath condensation in our tent's rain guard.

* Day two included two mountain passes; up to >2000 meters, down to the valley, back up to >2000 meters, back down to camp at 1650. Incredible views and climbing. Apparently we were lucky there was so much snow over the passes. Who knew that snow is an improvement to the rocky steep inclines? Putting your foot in previous footprints makes for snow stairs with more solid footing than you'd get with rock slides.

* We learned a few vocab terms, as used in our Trekking in the Patagonian Andes book.
1) Sidling is not related to its more connotatively pleasant relative, settling. Instead it means slide/skid/wade through pebbles and rocks directly down a steep embankment (see pebble surfing video).
2) Boggy can mean anything from the dictionary definition of damp ground to the author’s loose usage in the case of wading through mid-calf deep sludge.

* Upon leaving the park, our exit route included walking 1 1/2 - 2 hours on a road to get to the town of Colonia Suiza where we could catch a bus back to Bariloche. After walking just over an hour we hitched a ride in the back of a pickup. They stopped at a sign that translated to  "Danger, working on explosives. Do not enter." but they just moved the sign and kept driving. When we got to the second sign they let us out and pointed up a steep hill and told us the road was blasted and to just walk over the cliff and down to Colonia Suiza. We then realized that
they were the explosives team, and we were oh so thankful to have run into them, lest we might still be sitting at the first "Peligroso" sign wondering how in the world we'd get back to Bariloche.

* We found a quesos especiales shop (una queseria) in Bariloche and bought half a kilo of delicious cheeses, ate about a third of it on the trek, came back to La Bolsa to pack it up for our next bus ride, forgetting our next bus ride was taking us to Chile, where they don't allow the import of any plant or animal products. Long story short, we ate 2 weeks’ worth of cheese in 2 hours; they still took a big hunk at the Chilean border.

Bariloche has so much more to offer than we got to see. We didn't have time for the 27 km mountain bike ride, and it wasn't yet ski season. This little town reminded us of a less expensive version of Aspen, and we will likely return here sometime in our lives. For now, it's on to Pucon for volcanos and ice sledding!

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Dr.Dive on

Some great adventures there, reminds me that I need to put more of my Switzerland pics up on Facebook for brag value. Obviously we're not getting the huge scale of the mountains in the pictures, must be spectacular scenery. Unfortunately the videos are slow to load so I don't bother with them. I think maybe the icicle phenomenon is caused by ground water freezing rapidly when the temperature plummets at sundown. There is a similar thing happens on other high peaks around the world, and there are balls of moss on Kilimanjaro that get lifted up by icicles each night and dropped down again next morning when they melt, which explains why they are round. It'll be interesting to see the amazing sights yet to come in the high Andes as you approach the tropics.

Aunt Rikki on

So sad that you couldn't take snow pix of Bariloche! Guess you didn't mind not having it any colder!

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