Written 30 Dec/11 Jan/18 Jan
So. How did I come to be in Bariloche? From Puerto Madryn, I was initially going to go all the way south to the southernmost city of the world, Ushuaia, but Philippe, who had been there before he arrived in Puerto Madryn said that it was really cold and that there was nothing much to do there. As much as I wanted bragging (?) rights to say I had been to the southernmost city in the world, I am also deathly afraid of the cold, so it was off to Bariloche for me!
Getting to Bariloche from Puerto Madryn was an experience in itself. We couldn’t get the ticket directly to Bariloche, so we bought a ticket to Esquel, eleven hours from Puerto Madryn, instead.
At Esquel, we managed to get a cheap ticket to El Bolson, a small town a couple of hours away from Bariloche.
From El Bolson, we had to take another bus to Bariloche, but that didn’t leave for another three hours, so we wandered around the town for a bit. The Lonely Planet entry for El Bolson describes it as a hippie haven, and that’s exactly what it is. Very quaint, and we were lucky enough to catch the feria that happens twice a week so it was nice wandering around.
We finally arrived in Bariloche in the afternoon, where we met Johana, Philippe’s CouchSurfing host. We headed to her place to sort out a hostel for me, and went to the hostel to drop my stuff off.
After that, it was time for a tour of the city, made all the better by the fact that Johana is a tour guide for Bariloche! Obviously the centre of attraction was the Lake Nahuel Huapi, a massive lake that is only slightly smaller than Singapore, but the rest of the city was also very pretty.
We hung out by the beach at the lake for a bit, and made dinner back at Johana’s place with Zeb, her other CouchSurfer. This is why I love CouchSurfing so much – you get to meet so many cool people you wouldn’t ordinarily have met!
Anyway, the next day, Johana invited me to stay at her place so I met Marcel, Johana’s OTHER CouchSurfer (it was her first time hosting, and she had problems saying no to CS requests), before Philippe and I headed off to explore the area around Cerro Campanario. We rented bikes and off we went!
I didn’t realize how out of shape I was but man, I had a tough time keeping up with Philippe. He spent a lot of time waiting for me to catch up, but the views more than made up for it I think!
The next day was a lazy day spent by the beach, partially influenced by Johana waking us up singing “today I don’t feel like doing anything” (Bruno Mars). It was very nice hanging out with Johana and chatting about a whole bunch of things. She really is a wonderful girl and I’m so glad I got the chance to meet her. The beach was lovely, although the water was freezing cold.
After the much needed relaxation at the beach, it was off to do some shopping! I bought my first ever pair of hiking boots as a Christmas present to myself and my ankles. Besides, my Converse sneakers were kinda worn out already and I needed a replacement for them. That night, we had dinner and went to bed earlier so that we could get an early start for the trek up Cerro Catedral to Refugio Frey. Philippe, Marcel and I were supposed to catch the bus to the starting point of the trek at 8am (on the advice of Johana, who was convinced we wouldn’t be able to finish the hike if we left any later), but at the last minute, Philippe decided not to join us, so it was just Marcel and me doing the trek.
We got to Cerro Catedral with the plan of buying some food and water for the hike before trekking up, but when we got to the town at the foot of the mountain, everything was closed. Lesson learnt: check opening dates and times, and when in doubt, assume that everything in Argentina will be closed between 12pm and 5pm, after 2pm on Saturday and all day on Sunday.
So. We had no choice but to return back to Bariloche with the hopes of getting some food and water before retuning to Cerro Catedral to do the trek. By the time we made it back to Cerro Catedral with provisions, it was noon.
So we started off on the trek, and the view during the trek was amazing.
Poor Marcel had to keep waiting for me to take pictures (but actually hiking uphill was super tiring and I was just catching my breath).
The trek itself was still manageable, but I could not stand the horrid tabanos that kept biting me! They’re like a cross between a fly and a bee and they BITE. It’s a good thing they are quite daft, and by the end of the trek I had become quite adept at killing them.
Despite all of this, the view when we finally made it to Refugio Frey made it all worth it.
The trek back down was much more manageable (still plagued by tabanos), and when we got back to Bariloche, I discovered what I already knew – my shoes survived the hike a lot better than I did. I had giant blisters on both feet and it was awful (I have pictures, if any weirdo wants to see them).
Philippe, Johana and I went to Cerro Campanario the next day. It’s only a 30minute hike up a relatively steep uphill, but the view is just about one of the most amazing views I have ever seen in my life.
I could have stayed there all day, just looking at the amazing view.
Crazy beautiful stuff. The rest of the day was pretty much taking it easy and chilling out.
Christmas Eve! Johana, Philippe and I rented a car and set off for Cerro Tronador. The 90km drive to Cerro Tronador was also full of amazing views.
For some reason, the horrible tabanos decided to pick me a their target, and I spent a lot of time and energy swatting them off. I even had a little cemetery for them in the car, because that’s what I do to nasty bugs like them.
There was a really amazing view waiting for us when we finally reached Cerro Tronador. The mountain, a glacial lake, and black glaciers.
Cerro Tronador (literally, Thunder Mountain) got its name because of the thunderous sound it makes when calving glaciers. We didn’t get to see any glaciers calving, but it was incredible anyway.
Then, it was time to make a mad dash back to Bariloche before everything closed for the Christmas holidays. Thankfully, we had some luck on our side, and the supermarket near Johana’s place was still open so we managed to get some provisions for that evening and enough food to last us till the 26th. Another thing to be grateful for – in Singapore, things are always open, holiday or not.
Christmas Eve night was spent in a very typical Argentinian way – making an asado by the lake Nahuel Huapi. I had a lot of fun hanging out with Johana, Philippe and David (new CouchSurfer who arrived while we were at Cerro Tronador) – my first Christmas away from home, but with awesome people who were like my family there (:
So. When we were renting the car on Christmas Eve, we couldn’t return it on Christmas, so we ended up renting it for two days. Which was a good-ish thing, because David and I managed to take the car out to traverse Circuito Grande, but which also made it more expensive. Although forking out a chunk of cash for the car hurt at the time, I must say it was worth it for all the spectacular views.
Fricking amazing stuff. And I’m so glad I got to see these spectacular sights – I would not trade them for the world.
My last proper day in Bariloche I spent lounging around, getting my bus ticket to Puerto Montt and basically doing nothing because “(that) day I (didn’t) feel like doing anything” and I felt like I needed some time off to chill out. That’s the great thing about travelling indefinitely though- that if you feel like you need to just sit around and do nothing for a day or two, that’s perfectly fine.
Anyway, Bariloche would have been completely perfect, and the super highlight of my trip so far (well, it still is) if not for something really silly that happened just about 30minutes before I left Bariloche. So I was taking the morning bus, and was heading to the bus terminal with Johana. Being the lazy bum that I am, I didn’t tie the laces of my hiking boots properly, and less than ten minutes after we started out, I had a spectacular(ly embarrassing) fall. Stepped on my shoelace, and fell face flat on the ground. I haven’t fallen down like that since I was ten and I ripped my jeans as well. And scraped my knee and shoulder and bumped my jaw. Ridiculous stuff, really. I felt like an idiot, but now I’ve just decided that the scars from my scraped knee and shoulder will be good reminders of my awesome time in Bariloche. Always a silver lining (:
So. That was it for Bariloche, and Puerto Montt and my other adventures in Chile await in the new few posts!