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Trip Start Sep 02, 2008
Trip End Dec 14, 2008

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

You often hear fellow travellers comment that the impression you are left of a place comes more from the people you meet and the place you stay rather than the place itself. Never has this been more true than El Bolson - the fact we ended up there at all was fortuitous as I had mistakenly asked for a bus ticket to El Banos (the toilets) however a toilet it wasn't, El Bolson is quite a pretty town surrounded by hills and as the typical Swiss feel of this part of Patagonia. Even so we had our doubts when we got to our hostel, there were a couple of firsts on the trip, we were greeted by Claudio with a kiss..slightly disconcerting when you go for a handshake and end up with a kiss on the cheek! Then he explained that due to a mix up in bookings our bed was actually going to be set up in the lounge as there were no free beds. As we considered looking elsewhere, something about the friendly atmosphere made us stay and luckily we did as it turned out to be one of our favourite hostels in the entire trip. A Dutch couple and English couple made our stay that more welcome and we stayed up late downing a few bottles of good cheap wine and deciding we were all going to head for the Cajon del Azul as a group the next day.

Having not done any exercise since our walks in Bahia, we were puffing and panting as we set off up the river valley that led to the canyon, even more so when a nice lady kindly told us that we were heading up the wrong track so we had to go back down the big hill, over an extremely rickety bridge with lots of missing slats, and up an entirely different big hill!  After that however, the walk was a pleasant 'woodsy' (a favourite adjective in our Lonely Planet bible) stroll up the valley, past a cute wooden house selling home-made beer that we promised ourselves a stop at on the way back, and after a couple of hours the river narrowed and the sides got crazily steep, until we were edging round cliffs and climbing up step-ladders.  Finally we got to a tiny log bridge about 2 metres wide, going from cliff to cliff of a canyon, way up at least 100 metres above a rushing turquoise river.  After a few vertiginous photos, we set off back for a well-earned beer and Claudio's famous asado.

The Asado was in full swing when we got back - a big fire blazing in the garden with the embers transferred to the BBQ grill to cook the massive supplies of meat. It wasn't a disappointment either with the meat and salad, along with the potato salad a great accompaniment to Claudio's banter. As he drunk more his English became worse, and although I was convinced my Spanish was getting better, we ended up communicating largely with a series of friendly punches - with Claudio being a big unit I was convinced I'd have a fair few bruises in the morning! The funniest moment was Claudio doing an impression of his experience of people from Chile. Not a big fan of the Chileans - apparently they reckon everything's better over the border - he regaled us with many examples of their rudeness, so much so that a couple from Chile happened to call at the hostel for a room and he told them to bugger off even though they had space!!

Next to Bariloche.....
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