ARGENTINA: Bariloche>Junín>Buenos Aires>Rosario

Trip Start Mar 03, 2006
Trip End Aug 30, 2006

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Penultimate diary entry :S

4th Aug (cont'nd): ...First impressions of Bariloche (Argentinan PatagoniA) were all good.....This town home to 150,000 is surrounded by snow-dusted mountains and is beautifully situated on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi...It's a major tourist centre with chocolate, jam, cake, ice cream shops elbowing souvenir, sportwear, international cuisine restos along the busy main streets running parallel to the lake. Travellers arrive here to explore the National Park in which Bariloche itself is located...many popular activities include rafting, fishing, trekking and skiing in Winter.....

The town was bustling when I arrived in the aftee which was actually a pleasant surprise coming from the wilderness haha..Didn't do much other than nose around the main central blocks and chill in a minging hostel full of Argentinians to get first hand info and advice amongst other things...

5th: Leaving myself only one full day and a morning in this trendy, slightly expensive town, I thought I would follow the word of the Lonely Planet Book in terms of "must see and do's"... Managed to bus up to the Cerro La Catedral (skiing resort 20ks up the hills) but as a pedestrian only... The resort is one of the largest in the continent with 70k+ of all level runs.. Had satisfied myself with the little skiing I did in Chile so just went up on the chair lifts to the summit from where a panorama of the mountain range, the lake and lake islands with the town a faint cluster of dots in the background could all be seen clearly in full glory....Enjoyed just wondering around up there and amusing self watching others, taking photos and having warm drinks.

That activity saw me through half a day pretty much so what was left resulted in a stroll of the " Centro Civico" - a nice plaza enclosed by arches and wooden towers in which the town hall, post office, provincial government building were all found....all built of log and stone. One block forward was the lake...Strange how there is such a concentration of buildings, traffic & people surrounding the shores of the lake......Other than that, just toured the side streets and the lake with my camara....resisted any temptation to sit down in the dozens of adjacent chockie/pastry shops an have a deluxe coffee... couldn't be justified... ridiculous how many there are honestly... gourmet!
The Patagonia Museum was shut for the weekend unfortunately so couldnˇt see the only detailed and worthy museum in the area... Thought about leaving the other suggested trip for the following day before my next bus. The trip is a boat ride out across the lake to the Victoria Island...either that way or walk the length of the shores to a peninsula and back taking in the scenery. ......

Bariloche is also known for its party nature..... many nice little bars and pubs with discos asking hefty entrance fees....twice price for foreigner than national if you please... best to keep schtum and mutter Argentine slang whislt in queue.....Heard talk of a Mexican themed food/drink/entertainment party going on that night in the funky thriving hostel I had moved to - with nachos, fajitas, tacos, tequila + show & thought I would socialise in that respect. But when I got back, I instantly made friends with my solo Brazilian roomates and got on like house on fire...Hilgor and Gilmar were on vacation from Rio De J area...really sound. so we chatted in a mixutre of Spagnish and Portanglish and then they randomly asked me to join them in their group I tried normal Brazilian supper for free and in good company. Ended up bunking the party off in favour of smuggling in non-permitted alcoholic beverages from shop lol..real univeristy fresher like I know.
Drank away til 3am and then headed for the boliche zone (clubs)...... knew it would be banging but left it kinda too late.. the whole street seemed to be full of drunken rowdy teenagers or student folk coming out of clubs steaming etc.. loads of coaches for bar crawls etc. not our scene really. plus the cover charges were steep at 12-14 quid... half price for loals or nationals grr..... despite bargaining for cheaper entry and checking out the interior, we decided against and headed back to bed. Interesting.. didnt seem to be any tourist around for a sat night.... oh well.. knew I could hold out for Buenos Aires baby anyway!

6th: Rain, rain and more rain.. more like UK autumn weather man! not motivated to go outdoors, just chilled in the sociable hostel confines and read books etc until had to leave on coach at lunchtime. could have seen a little bit more of Bariloche but hey. Got to Junin de los Andes, 3 hrs north of Bariloche around 5:30pm, passing nice pastures and lakes on the way... This town of 15,000 inhabitants is a in the province of Neuquen (lake district capital in Patagonia), 3 hours north of Bariloche. Quiet, compact, nippy, exposed around the highway but in complete isolation surrounded by farmland and greenery/brown, it was a nice stop-off point.. easy going.... is pretty much in line with Pucon, that chique lake district winterwonderland town in middle chile I went to.... late in the afternoon, wasn't much to do so I just found my way around and treated self to a nice local caserole dish and retired to my pit early.

7th: Being winter and all, excursions and outdoor activities are limited in nature and frequency, so I decided to sack the proposed options off and avoid tour agencies completely.. for example, the imposing Volcan Lanin is 60ks outside the town and the national park of Lanin nearby but weather not ideal... Instead, I busied myself within the central perimeters.

The highlight was this wonderful spiritual artistic-religious-cultural "Via Christi".. this zone, a 2km circuit within the sparse alpine forest land is a fairly recent project still under development. It's basically dedicated to depicting the birth-work-miracles-sacrifices-death-resurrection of Jesus Christ in the form of 18 successive chronological biblical events made visual in the form of actute stone carvings of people and items.... raised on platforms..

these meaningful scenes have multiple conjunction with the christian displays are murals and wooden plaques devoted to the indigenous Mapuche people, repressed by the Spanish conquistadores.. and also general info on the repression of the Argentine people and culture.. mention of the 2001 economic strife (peso/economy crash)..... 2 local figureheads with numerous mentions are Laura Vicuna and Ceferino Namuncura..the first was blessed and made a saint by Pope John Paul II for her works. The Mapuche and Argentine history/conquest/culture and treatment is broadly depicted in juxtaposition with the strippping of clothes and dignity, burden carrying (cross/sins), crucifixion stage etc if you get the picture ...kinda morbid but an undeniable reality. Was touching.. very quiet and deserted.. really muddy but worth the trip... based high up in the woods.... can see the small town in its entirety so a bonus there for foto moments.

Rest of day entailed lazy promenades around.. didn't bother going insdie the museum, but the Church was rather modern and new.. evangelical in nature and kinda neutral embracing all religions in the surrounding land...called a "sanctuary" in which Laura Vicuna's name radiates. The Plaza del General San Martin (Argentina's most prominent figure, and liberator) is nice enough with trees and plants inside a park.. around that you have all the necessary buildings a community needs eg post office, church, town hall, hopsital, school, shops, pharmacy, restaurants, tourist office... quite cute. Day after I planned to walk along the riverside before my 19 hour journey to Buenos Aires.

8th: so indeed to pass a bit of time before my bus, I enjoyed a morning march along the shores of river Chimehuin making the most of the fresh country air.... Best part of the day was spent aboard my 20hour bed-class coach to Buenos Aires. The ride in terms of service, facilities and comfort just doesn't compare to any other before.... seriously, it's ridiculous.....the time passed so fast considering. throughout the journey we had like 4 films, radio stations, coffee and juice dispensers, air con...... soft comfy nearly 180 degree reclinable armchair like seats with reclinable foot rest with pillow and blanket.... I started out pretty much alone on the multistop transnational service but come 4pm, the luxuries and passengers flowed in.. afternoon tea of cake, croissant, bikki..................then a boiled sweet at 6pm with a complementary packet of natural tea (maté) probs to keep your custom.....then at 7:30 out comes the JD on the rocks with generous measures..... then at 8:30 we have our meal.... no ###### packet stuff you get given on plane.. oh no....salad, bread, cold sliced meat then rice and meatballs in gorgeous sauce for main.... peaches for desert.. 2 glasses of wine to wash it down...........then a t 10pm whislt watching last movie... a glass of tasty CHAMPAGNE if you please.....soooo lets reiterate.... 25quid for a 20 hour ride and all that food and service..... baaaaaaaaaaargain. slept kinda well as well which shocked me...

9th: after passing through many towns in patagonia and central Argentina, I eventually get to the amazing city of BUENOS AIRES at 9am in the huuuuuuuuuuuge single bus station. From there I eagerly zipped down to my hostel where I would be reunited with my fave 2 Peru-Bolivia tucan tour trip buddies aka irish clover sisters Michelle and Lisa Toner.... was so cool.. unfortunately the staff at the hostel were ###### and rooms were full up so my reservation made day before was lost by default.... so hunted for another party hostel across road and after 2 attempts, got one.... only planned to stay there for just the 1 night as wasnted to be living it up with their company and party atmosphere in the original Millhouse hostel.....

Got freshened up and then we all went to the Recoleta district, famous for its Ritzy look and feel with top restaurants and the such.... its most famous thing is the cemetery where the rich people have their dear deceased buried in mini sancutary sarcophagi buildings.... with marble altars, stone sculptures and trees honouring the deceased..... crazy costs and huge spaces dedicated to 1 individual or family.. be it a nobleman, public service person, ex president or famous celeb or rich family......... quite vain in areas through the expressions on the self-idol human statues.... very pretty stretching for metres.. the most famous person buried there inside a chapel type thing is Evita Peron, the highly esteemed and loved ex-Argentine president... her plot is of course no much better or unique than any of the other dozens of monuments/sarcophagi. Some were in very bad condition with rot and moss around the doors.... in others you could see the coffins on top of each other inside... in others you could see down the spiral staircase to the earth where the cofffins lay... others were immaculate with modern digial photos inside and altars with flwoers and gold decor..... very impressive cemetery with a lot of character and work put into it.... very interesting indeed...

Outside we coudl see many paseaperros ie professional group dog walkers...

they parade around with canines of all sizes, breeds and colours.. quite interesting passing by 12 dogs on leeshes...

Come late afternoon us 3 made a trip to the local supermarket to buy our nourishment for the evening ... that we would cook in the hostel... nice group effort and it tasted very nice for pittance... nocci with veg in arrabbiata sauce with veggie croquettes ....washed down with with whole litre of table wine each... oops.... just sat in the hostel communal area and chatted and drank until we decided to head for Opera Bay nightclub.. this prestigious huge club similar to the sydney opera house in appearance... with posh office workers in sutis on wednesday night ie strict dress code..... normal hours of 7pm-2am..... however me and an irish bloke were in jeans and trainers respectively which is not tolerated on this night only.. so we ended up returning to the millhouse to the fun instead.. oh well.... stumbled back to my hostel to spend the night.

10th: checked in to the Millhouse finally..... staff there a bit arrogant and condescending... purely a money-making scheme.... quite hi-tech in sense of gaining access to rooms via a thumb print sensor.... all the cool facilities a party hostel should have.. no need to same more..

Then as Michelle was feeling ill (combination of self-inflicted things really), me and lisa went out solo to the Palmero district where we went to the botanical garden, and cool zoo with all sorts of animals inside really nice and quaint encloures built around existing buildings.... in the middle was a pond and japanese garden.. skies cleared up and the sun was just enough to feel warm.. Afterwards we headed back and good old English Steve had checked into the hostel as well..... so again we cross paths for a brief period of time... also natalie espana from jersey is travelling around Argentina, Uruguay and northern Chile and since she was in Buenos Aires by pure coincidence, we tried to meet up but communication prevented our meeting... hoped to catch her in northwest Argentina in the next week.

That night me, the irish and steve went out to dine at an all you can eat chinese buffet around the corner.... was great.. mix of sea food, grill and chinky stuff and salad and desert all for 1.50!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! man.. stuffed self silly then had wonder round the pedestrian streets wich looked like las vegas (not that ben there)... then we saw a live tango show in street. amazing moves and very entertaining.... donated some money for their efforts.. then we drank and played drinking games in the hostel duringthe party night... was just a dj, lights, ######### and cards.... very cool..... at 1am though decided against going to a trannie club as thought should save self and dough for followign night.


11th: wen shopping and had lunch in TGI fridays before heading to the Evita Peron museum. this lady, whose grave we went to see a few days before has this museum dedicated to her... is like a chronological resumé of her life, background and feminist and political doings that made her so famous and loved. was nice... then came back to h ill inthe hostel before going out on our big night.. cooked risotto and had more wine smuggled in.... me the irish, steve and others headed first to some local pubs, one of which irish so carnage there..called clover bless...talked to this one weird he/she and had couple pints... then hit annother bar where most of us had a mini popcordn fight in front of everyone oops...

then hit the Opera Bay huge club at like 2am when the scene was just starting.... brilliant night.. huge open spaces..diff rooms. clear glass windows with view out to city.. this pond.... all good.... came home at 7 30 am and thought nothing of it.

12th: rough as ducks arse, got up at 11 and headed to Recoleta district to indulge in ice cream.. then went around alone to see cathedral and plaza de mayo...presidential house and that.. these guards were taking the flag down and marching proudly so watched that for a while. evening time was spent wining and dining in the chique resto area..... had my sirloin steak finally... was succulent, huge, cooked perfectly and only 4quid man... woohooo.... had a drink in a nearby trendy bar too but then retired to the hostel to get kip that had been deprived of....

13th: a second sad farewell to the irish "twin" sisters mich and lisa. they had ben travelling for 10 weeks and werent impressed with the fact they were going home and even less so with the news and effects of the transatlantic london-new york liquid bomb scare ####... Am definitely going over to visit them sometime in the future and to discover a bit or Ireland. Will be sorly missed. After they left I transferred stuff to the hostel next door so to have more privacy and scope for chilling as opposed to marathon drinking temptations.....
had quite a productive day sight seeing.... though the famous boca juniors footie squad were playing away that weekend, I decided to go down to the stadium and have a guided tour and look at museum and hall of fame. was def worth it and got to press room, conference room, changing rooms, tunnel, pitch, stands, media boxes..... was fab..... then i strolled around the Boca district which is famous for its colourful buildings, cafes and tango bars lining the dock the working class dodgy area but makes up for this with itts charm and character during day acts on streets.... skies were blue which was great also. whole differnt feel than santiago.

Was due to check out a huge market in the Recoleta area but sacked that one off in the end. Learnt it was Children's day so there was again some parade thing going on near cathedral. forgot to mention that there was this marathon thing with people dressed up as waitors etc the day befdore - no matter where you look, BA has original entertainment from all nooks n crannies. Decideded to take it easy and vegged out in the hostel for a while then met up wit Steve, Chad and Brett (US twins we met via Irish sisters) and we'z all went for an all you can eat buffed in a resto along the dock area. Was a little on the expensive side but ended up having many helpings from the grill and sald bar.....all types of steak and meats in abundance coming from all areas of different animals lol.. tasty. had unlimited free house wine and 1 desert also which was great....After went to Chad's pad and watched film and consumed more tinto wine before heading out one last time in BA by night.....He has been living in BA for the las month and a half you see and renting off locals.... cushty!
The whole city literally comes to a grinding halt ona Sunday as far as night life concerned but I just had to hold on to what I had left in the capital......think the poor nightlife was down to a mixture of weather, religion, recovering from thurs-sat nights out inclusive and money factors... but honestly... most bars shut completely in all neighbourhoods.... ended up playing team pool vs an Arentine trio and kicking ass.. headed to my pit at 5am as had to check out of hostel by 10am.

14th: last morning in the capital......all mates had gone or were leaving soon and was overcast so kinda glad leaving it behind. Still a hell of a lot of thinss i wanted to do and see but another time...another time..... won't be same without the familair faces on the positive side...was completely ready to come home after argentina/brazil until i got to buenos aires and fell for it...... then my good chums all abandoned me so again I felt nostalgic iel more ready to come home than stay... am SURE will change again once get to Iguazo Falls and Rio!!!!

So....yes folks enough whinging..... my last morning entailed a rushed japanese style walking tour of main historical and political buildings scattered throughout the huge city centre....went to another huge posh cemetery, the national congress, main square with the statue of liberator San Martin, visited the big ben clock tower lookalike.... kinda depressing leaving Buenos Aires.. if I hadn't bought my onward ticket to Rosario I soooooo would have stayed on a couple more days easily...

Bus ride to Rosario was pretty boring but once I got their I knew I had made the right decision... stumbled straight upon another party type hostel which was actually empty and from there planned my 24hour agenda....ended up walking round the city centre at night as was recommended by staff... pretty clean buildings lining the pedestran streets with effective illumination to enhance their beauty. liked the feel for the place instantly.

15th: Got out and about rather early so to fit all of it in... did a morning circuit of the centre and surroundings on foot...the huge Parque de la Independencia is a 150hectare complex of parks, gardens, mini lakes, stadiums, monuments, museums, theme park, horse-racing track and 2 stadiums..bordered by many avenues intersecting the greenery, it was a nice refreshing wake up.....many cyclists and joggers were doing circuits etc and learner drivers were practicing around. a real residential feel to the place... took me like 2hours to walk around the edges and see most of it. From there I headed south to the port area and bypassed the planetarium located in another nice segregated park space high up..... the view of the somewhat clean and very calm river Parana looked more like a coastal view from a Peninsula looking out to distant headland with housing on etc... A further few ks round at the edge of the centre and pedestrain high street was the colossal Monumento Nacional a la Bandera... a huge steep rectangular tower building dedicated to the country's national flag and designer General Manuel Belgrano..

the flag has a long history and the sky blue - white - sky blue horizontal stripes as we know them have an interesting history but basically ressemble the colours of Virgin Mary and her clothing but also it has military meaning.
belgrano's crypt was inside but unforunately the doors were closed when I got there, which also meant I couldn't go up the lift to the observatory point at the top from where a great view along the rive and inland to the city can be had....

Further down there was a little fountain and marble plaques honouring the "Forever Agrentine" claim to the Falkland Isles "Malvinas"... still a little sore point I believe through passing people on street and saying I'm British.

The monument is surrounded by huge sauring pillars with a flame lit on top of an altar thing inside. police guarded the confines like the buckingham palace. very patriotic. 2 mins up is the Plaza 25 de Mayo which houses the Cathedral just eclipsing the flag monument behind it. all very close and domineering.

The second half of the tour was a bus ride through the town and up the river banks as far as the "beach" zone and restaurants.... had lunch in a cafe overlooking the Parana river and the Isla Invernada opopsite....just didn't have enough time to take the short catamaran journey across to the Island and couldn't be doing with a mere bus journey over the impressive bridge and back without doing the place justice. Instead I sat down and watched the fishermen at work and dog walkers passing by... quite quiet but the sun was out and rahter strong yet not too hot... very peaceful and finally I could picture what summer would be like back home right now.. this huge cargo boat also passed along the river whilst consuming lunch so i got a nice photo of it passing under the not so high bridge... then walked along the sandy shores of Catalunya to Florida public beach (which one has to pay 56pence to enter lol) the water is cleanish and certainly not cold... weird it's so beach-like. flat.....ripples....

By the time I walked the broadwalks and had got a bus back to the centre, it was nearly time to leave... had one more thing on the agenda which was Che Guevara's first residence..This revolutionary and Arentine-Cuban independence oportunist, medic by profession was born here in Rosario in 1928 and his family currently lived there... so he grew up for while on banks of the Parana before moving to Cordoba and Buenos Aires....great writer and international travellers, he is known world wide as a figurehead and even recognised as a sex symbol by many, his name resounds in Argentina to the extent of Evita Peron..... His house just looked like a normal atypical ppartment on one main avenue in the centre from the plan to check out his museum in Alta Gracia, Cordoba next.

Come tea time, I was once again on a bus with my legs knackered and still not back on form from Buenos Aires gallavanting.... had another interesting journey as our bus had arrived but was faulty so the dirver went off for half an hour to fix whatever and we all boarded again. Other passengers getting off at intermediary destinations had already boarded another sister company's bus but us lot got on the same one again... 3 hours in, the driver comes to grinding halt on motorway and says "it's broken".. nothing seemed at all faulty but anyhow.. was drizlling and cold on the exposed barren highway......All had to get off and wait for a notehr service passing by shortly.. sure enough, 20mins later we were back on our way but had to get off at the terminating destination and wait for anotehr bus half an hour later, to take us all the way to Cordoba...a further 2 hours.... was rough and got here at 2am this morning... shall see what Argentina's second largest adn exceptionalyl cultural city has to offer for 2 days max.... the race against time is still on......

2 weeks to go so the anticipation and mixed/conflicting emotions are beginning to kick in.... am I ready, am I not?!

Hasta pronto ",)
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