Bariloche, El Bolson, Esquel

Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
Trip End Feb 18, 2007

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Where I stayed
Tango Inn HI Hostel

Flag of Argentina  ,
Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Eating Lots of Chocolate in Bariloche

We've experienced the Chilean lake district, now it's time to see if the Argentinian side of this area of outstanding natural beauty can impress us as much. We base ourselves in Bariloche, Argentina's Chocolate capital, what a great place! Nearly every second shop is a chocolate shop on Bariloche's main drag, and we gave our best attempt at trying all of them. In case you are ever in Bariloche, our Gold star goes to Benroth, our Silver star to Mamuschka and Del Turista gets the wooden spoon.

Argentinians, the Night Owls of Latin America

After all the hard work trekking and cycling around Pucon, it's now Saturday night and we're in the mood to party, so we made a point of staying at the party hostel, Tango Inn. The place is miles out of town, the reception staff are less than useless, but if you want to meet people and party, it's the place to be.
That night we head out from the hostel to an Irish bar with a multi-national group, including some Spaniards, an Austrian guy, and a couple of very unstereotypical Israelis. As we sit there drinking and chatting, at about 2am, just as we think nothing else is going to happen, the locals "begin" to come out. Yes, this is Argentina, the only place in the world which we've found where people go out as late as in Spain. At about 3am the place was positively buzzing, the DJ started playing some Latin songs, and people started to dance. We lasted till around 4:30am, and as we left, local people were still arriving. This is ridiculous, as down here in cool bariloche, they don't even have the excuse of the climate for needing to go out so late!.

Los Siete Lagos

After our two days of recovery from our Saturday night out, we're getting old:-) we take a bus tour to the Seven Lakes. The lakes themselves were nice enough, though we wouldn't recommend seeing them on a bus tour. As a return on our investment of 10 hours sitting on a bus, all we got was 1 hour in the town of San Martin de Los Andes, and a quick 5 minute photo stop by the side of each of the lakes, not really worth it.

A Climb to See Some Summer Snow at Cerro Lopez

Our final day in Bariloche, and we decide to do the steep hike up to Cerro Lopez, a surrounding mountain peak with great views over the lake. The first hour of the walk was so steep and we'd climbed so high, that before we knew it we were walking over snow. It seemed weird to be walking over snow when the air temperature was so warm, and the sun so strong. Heavy snow falls over the winter meant that the snow was still really thick, though it seemed to be melting faster than the Antarctic Ice Cap. After a further 30 minute hike through snow, we arrive at Refugio Lopez for a great view over the lake and surrounding mountains.

Trevelin, our First Welsh Village

We were really sad to leave Bariloche, and especially the chocolate shops, but we've been here for a week and must really start to make tracks. We make a brief stop at El Bolson before carrying on to Esquel, a town on the northern edge of Patagonia.
On our first day in Esquel we decide to hire two bicycles and ride 20km to the town of Trevelin, a small town founded by Welsh settlers around 1860. However, it's clear that the Italian blood dominates in Argentina when it comes to driving, and we found that being overtaken by cars at speeds normally only reached by aircraft on takeoff, and by drivers who left us a gap of no more than half a metre, kind of ruined our cycle ride out into the country. So after just half an hour of cycling, we decided to turn back to town and catch the bus. You don't really see much Welsh culture in Trevelin nowadays, apparently that is much more prevalent in the East Coast settlement of Gaiman which we will visit on our way back up. However, we still enjoyed afternoon tea and cakes at a Welsh Tea shop, and visited the very first house which the Welsh built. There, the granddaughter of one of the first settlers showed us around the house and museum and called Marc a plastic Welshman for not being able to understand a word she said when she spoke to him in Welsh:-)

Whitewater Rafting

Finally, before we leave Esquel on our long trek down to the south of Patagonia, we decided to take advantage of the bargain prices to go Whitewater rafting here in Argentina. In New Zealand we paid around 100 US for half a day's rafting. Here in Argentina you get a whole day for 40 dollars. However, as we start out trip, it's immediately clear to us that the Kiwi operation is about 5 times more professional. Here they didn't even give us boots or a towel, though we at least got a life-jacket:-) After spending both the morning and afternoon on an exhilarating ride down the Corcovado river, we realized that rafting is also a great way to enjoy the scenery, you get to places that you can't possibly reach by car or even by foot.
Next, we've been told to expect the weather to get colder, cloudier and windier as we head down the Ruta 40 to the south of Patagonia.
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