Bariloche & El Bolson - Lake District


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Published: May 14th 2008
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A View from our walk to Cerro OttoA View from our walk to Cerro OttoA View from our walk to Cerro Otto

The best photo of the blogs so far...Karen took this one
Tony & Karen say: Bariloche has established itself as a popular destination for outdoor activity fanatics in Argentina, however the season is now winding down and many of these activities such as white water rafting, rock climbing and kayaking were unavailable for us. This did not really annoy us too much, though we did fancy a wee kayaking excursion so now plan to fit in some while visiting some other yet to be confirmed destination.

We spent our first few days there getting to know the town and the various hikes and walks in the area that we could do. Bariloche is again very alpine like other towns in the region though bigger and busier and touristy. Bariloche is famed for its chocolate and there are many shops to sample these delights!

Over the weekend we took a cable car up to the top of a near by mountain which provided some stunning views of the surrounding landscape, well worth the trip and Karen was particularly excited by the cable car! Before you think we were being lazy, we then set off from here for a day of hiking further along the Cerro Otto mountain. We were headed for another view point higher up which allows views of different lakes and mountains. It was a really enjoyable trek and we found ourselves wondering through a seemingly enchanted forest with huge Ent like trees (Lord of the Rings) surrounding us. These trees were more often than not clad in a green beard like growth hanging all around them, and high up they were covered with glistening ice which had formed over night. As we walked the ice fell to the forest floor making it look like it was snowing. It was lovely and we felt we could spend all day wondering in the woods. Eventually we left the forest and the hike ended with a steep rocky climb to the summit, again providing wonderful views of the surrounding countryside, and a great place for lunch! It was then a rather grueling and tiresome walk all the way back to town, yep, we did not bother with the cable car this time, but at least it was down hill now and we really enjoyed the day out.

Tony says: I have been thinking about taking some Spanish classes to help improve my understanding of the many conversations Karen has on our travels, and hopefully allow me to contribute a wee bit more. So after some shopping around we picked Patagonia Spanish School for a week long intensive course. 6 hours a day! Compared to back home this course was extremely cheap. My classes started on the Monday and I was with a small group in the mornings before having private lessons in the afternoons. I found my class mates were all really good fun particularly an Isreali couple, Idan and Sivan, who Karen and I got on really well with. There isn't really much to tell about the following week, Monday to Friday was spent attending lessons and in the evenings I had mucho homework to complete, with Karen on hand to help! Writing retrospectively I can assure you all that the course was well worthwhile, I am now speaking Spanish in some situations with far more confidence and a greater vocabulary, and I can understand more of the Spanish being spoken around me. The school offered Karen a deal on courses too, so she decided to take a few hours of one-on-one lessons to brush up her speaking skills.

Tony & Karen say: After the Spanish classes were
Autumnal Bliss in El BolsonAutumnal Bliss in El BolsonAutumnal Bliss in El Bolson

The view from our campsite
finished we had the weekend to get back to some outdoor activity so we set off for a walk round one of the nearby lakes and once again headed up into the hills through some beautiful ancient forest. We reached a wee waterfall at which someone had carved a rather nice wee seat out of a tree trunk, so we had a pew for a while before heading higher up the mountain to another look out point. On our way we encountered a strange area of forest where all the trees were silver in colour and seemed to be dead, we have no idea why, but it certainy made for an erie few minutes. It was another great day out walking and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

We almost forgot to mention that we think we have now found the best steak so far! On our last night we treated outselves to a meal out at a well recommended restaurant and were served a huge tasty perfectly cooked steak with mashed potato. It was devine. Having said that we still fail to see what all the fuss is about, an Aberdeen Angus steak back home will do us anyday.

By this time we have to agree that Bariloche had run it's course and it was time to move on. El Bolson was our next destination and this proved to be one of our favorite towns so far. It is only a few hours south of Bariloche and is far smaller and much less developed in terms of tourism etc. It is set in the mountains with very high peaks surrounding it which makes for some spectacular scenery that we found ourselves gazing at in awe throughout our stay. Also as it is Autumn in Argentina the trees here are absolutely fantastic colours, we could not quite believe how golden they were. The town has a really good vibe to it, very relaxed and everyone we met was extremely friendly and easy to get along with. It comes as no surprise that the town attracts what many would call "hippy" types and "new age" folk. It is said that El Bolson lies on strong energy lines which is one reason such people make it their home and make the atmosphere so good. We liked it so much we stayed for a week.

We decided to camp again as the
La Cabeza del IndioLa Cabeza del IndioLa Cabeza del Indio

Can you tell what it is yet?
weather seemed favorable and spent several nights on a great campsite on the edge of town surrounded by trees with great views of the mountain ridges high above. We had a good roaring fire to keep us warm and cosy each night, though once in the tent the cold was a bit of a pain to deal with so half way through the week we swapped camping for the hostel next door. This was one of the best hostels so far. We met a group of Irish travellers and spent the evenings supping wine and enjoying their company in the cosy sitting room by the fire.

El Bolson is famous for its Feria Artesanal (crafts market) which takes place three times a week, people come here to sell their hand-made crafts and organic fruit and veg. Not for the first time and we are sure it won't be the last we found ourselves wishing we could buy all manner of wonderful items for ourselves and our future flat. Karen loved the hand knitted jumpers while Tony loved the famous El Bolson honey. It's another place we thought everyone would love to spend some time. We visited the market all three times it arrived in town and particularly enjoyed the sweet waffles sold by a friendly English chap who had moved to El Bolson with his family some years ago. The best topping combo was calorific dulce de leche (caramel sauce), melted chocolate and cream, so good!

Over the course of the week we managed a couple of nice days out in the countryside, one in particular proved a memorable adventure. We hired mountain bikes and set off for a nearby waterfall, it was a pleasant change to swap walking for cycling again. We found the waterfall and after lunch then headed yet higher into the hills along trails which often proved too steep and difficult to cycle up. It was tiring but fun. We managed to get lost in the warren of trails through the forested hills but after speaking to a local gaucho who happened by on his horse we were soon back on track. At one point as we were panting uphill we heard bells tinkling nearby, not thinking much of it we struggled onwards Tony leading the way. But soon after we had to leap into the bushes as a herd of bulls charged down
La lunaLa lunaLa luna

Tony snaps the full moon over our campsite in El Bolson.
the hill towards us! It was a close call but another funny cow encounter.

We finished up at the Cabeza de Indio which is a rock formation high above El Bolson in the shape of an Indian's head, judge for yourself... It was certainly interesting and had great views. The miles that we sped downhill back to El Bolson were shear joy after all the uphill we had endured during the day. Weeeeeee!

El Bolson for us seemed the type of place we could live happily if we could make a living, which I think is as good a recommendation as we can give it. We found ourselves dreaming of what we would do and how, ideas for camp grounds, hostels, cafes or ideas of what we would sell at our market stall! It was soon time to move on though, and an all to familiar sad goodbye to somewhere we enjoyed a huge amount.



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Cerro OttoCerro Otto
Cerro Otto

View overlooking Bariloche
Mountain BikingMountain Biking
Mountain Biking

Karen competes for the Yellow Jersey


15th May 2008

Stunning
Guys, I keep telling myself your pictures can't get better but you've done it again. It is spectacular, nice touch with the LOTR reference very similar. Looking forward to your next "Travel Report".
15th May 2008

Luv Meh!!?
priceless photos guys. thinkin of u both, glad u two are having an AMAZING time. Uber jealous... luv tha beard. k
15th May 2008

Magical
Wow, each and every pic stunningly beautiful, esp the two faces warming mothers hearts! xxxx
17th May 2008

Twinkle in the eye
Luvvin the pics. Luvvin yer beard tony. Luv the pic o kaz racin on the bike. Inspiring shtuff. Just aboot to read yer next blog.
29th November 2012

Spanish Lessons
Hi Tony & Karen I am heading to Bariloche next week and was beginning to think heading straight for El Bolson might be a better idea. I was mainly wondering where Tony did his Spanish course we have been looking around and they are quite pricy. Also did you notice if there were any spanish schools in El Bolson? I have looked around but can't find any information. I love the blog by the way ;o)

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