Yay, the ash cloud cleared!

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Sunday, October 30, 2011

Approaching Bariloche was like driving into some post-apocalyptic world. The town has been heavily affected by the recent eruptions from a nearby volcano in Chile and regularly gets covered in a cloud of ash. Looking out the windows of the bus we could see the ground was covered in ash even though we were still over an hour from town. When we did get there visibility was very low, you could only see a few meters out into the lake and lots of people were walking around with masks on to avoid breathing it in. Very weird. We found our hostel and checked into our lovely upgraded double en-suite. We'd booked a dorm but they hadn’t updated the website so our luck was in. The hostel turned out to be really good. It’s called Achalay and Pablo the owner is really friendly and helpful, it’s a nice size of a place and does a pretty good free breakfast.

We did a bit of shopping around town to pick up some stuff for our drive down Ruta 40 and of course stopped into some the numerous chocolate shops. We bought a fair bit of stuff from Rapa Nui and on Pablo’s recommendation tried the Fra Nui. It’s a raspberry coated in white and milk chocolate. Amazing! As he said it is a mouth explosion. We also randomly bumped into Sara one of the girls from our Salt Flats tour in Bolivia. That night we went to another Pablo recommendation for dinner. A bit of a hike out of town but you know it’s good when it’s packed with locals. Thankfully the waiter advised me to order the half portion Chicken Milanese as it was still massive. It was about 3 huge breaded chicken breast covered in ham and smothered in cheese and tomato sauce. Liz had the same and we had no chance of finishing the lot.  It’s called La Fonda and worth a trip!

The next day we picked up our hire car from Hertz packed it up and set out to drive the Circuito Chico west of town. We had wanted to do this on bikes but due to a fair bit of messing about with the hire car and buying a bit more stuff we were a late leaving. The scenery on the drive was amazing and we were really lucky that the ash cloud had cleared that day and we had some really good views over the lakes in the surrounding area.  In the afternoon we did the short hike up Cerro Campanario which was totally worth the uphill struggle for the panorama at the top, and also interesting seeing how much ash has accumulated on the path making it very slidy to walk on.  We also visited the Colonia Suiza for lunch and although a little tacky had an amazing lunch, mostly because it wasn’t steak, pasta or chips! Apparently it comes and goes and they even have and ash forecast in town now! On the drive I talked to Cillian, younger brother of Donnchadh who we met in Cusco, and as he was in town we decided to stay and meet up. So we checked back into Achalay, same room but at full price this time (L), and had Cillian and his girlfriend Collete come up as Pablo was putting on a BBQ that night. We had some amazing steaks and a few pints as we filled them in on our travels. They are heading north on a 3 month South America trip so we had a few tips for them.  Hopefully we’re of some use!
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