The Argentinian Lake District

Trip Start Jan 10, 2008
Trip End Jun 03, 2008

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

So we caught the bus from Puerto Varas eventually, past the over zealous Chilean/Argentinean border control post, and over to the tourist centre of the Argentinean Lake District, Bariloche.

Our first impressions were not good, as the streets were choked with traffic and the pavements with people. The faux-Swiss architecture also failed to impress this pair of word-weary travelers and we retired to our cramped dorm room with heavy hearts.

Speaking to people around the hostel it soon became apparent that the true charm of the area lay beyond the confines of the town in the surrounding mountains. It sounds pretty obvious now, but so many people had told us how nice the town itself was that we expected this to be the main attraction.
So our first full day was spent mountain biking around the Circuito Chico, a 26km lap around the mountains and lakes nearest to Bariloche. As the photos show, the scenery is dramatic. The drama of the scenery however, contributed to the drama felt by our muscles as we pushed on up the mountains and coasted down the hills. Very soon it got to the point that going down the hill was hated as much as going up, because it meant that at some point we would have to reclimb those easy metres! Unfortunately after about half way Lola had a minor fall off her bike and we decided that it wasn't safe (or fun) to continue. After a bit of a struggle we managed to get a taxi to come and pick us up and take us home, via the mirador. We hadn't really earned the view, but it didn't detract from it's stunning beauty when we were up there.

Other than fantastic scenery, Bariloche's other claim to fame is it's chocolate production. There are numerous chocolate houses who hand-make their own chocolate within the centrally located premises where they also sell the chocs. It seemed that there was an architectural war on between the chocolate barons, each keen to produce the most ostentatious facade for his shop. Amongst our favourites were Mamushka (with Russian doll theme) and Rapa Nui (with Easter Island theme).
The lakeside beaches were also very attractive so we decided to spend the following day beside Lago Gutierrez, one of the smaller lakes in the area. Despite the 'adventure' on the previous day, Lola was unperturbed by the prospect of getting into a 2 person kayak and hitting the lake. Fortunately, and thanks to the intensive training that we received prior to departure, our excursion onto the water passed off without incident. In fact, we had a great time and found that the peace and tranquility at the centre of the lake was welcome respite from the hastles of Bariloche.

You might have picked up from the previous few paragraphs that Bariloche wasn't exactly our favourite place. It was very easy then for us to decide to visit St Martin de los Andes for a few days before we travelled north to the heat of Mendoza. We were very pleased that we did, since in SMdlA we found the peace and quiet that was so conspicuously absent in Bariloche. We spent a few non-eventful days relaxing here before moving on again.
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