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Published: June 12th 2013
Saturday 11 May to Saturday 18 May
Taking the early morning bus from Sierra de la Ventaña to Bahía Blanca I was treated to a beautiful sunrise passing Parque Nacional Ernesto Tornquist. The mountainsides took on a deep orangery-red glow as the morning sun hit them, creating a sense of "otherworldliness" to the views I had seen there the previous day.
After the sun had completely risen it was time for more shut eye.
My plan once in Bahía Blanca, was to have the day in the town before boarding another overnight bus to Bariloche. All the best laid plans, hey?! On arriving in Bahía Blanca it transpired there was no luggage store. So, with my plan scuppered I began my 13 hour wait at the bus terminal. Oh joy!
I surprised myself, keeping entertained for around 9 hours. This was achieved with a mixture of watching a Rafa (Nadal) match at the Madrid Open on ESPN, drinking coffee, doing Spanish practice, finishing my book, doing puzzles and eating ice cream. After all that, I decided the only solution now was a glass of wine. This was followed by dinner, accompanied by Nanny McPhee in Spanish (I
Arrival at Bariloche
Wind, choppy waters and stunning mountains
know, but I was desparate!!!).
The bus ended up being an hour late on top of all this, so I pretty much fell straight to sleep when finally getting in my seat.
I again awoke to the most beautiful views at sunrise. The landscape at this point was much more barren, yet the mountainsides, as before, took on the orangery-red hue of the early morning sun. There was the added spectacle here, of the sharp contrast between the mountains and the neighbouring lakes - a calm piercing blue. It made me feel like I was looking out at the surface of another planet. I was transfixed!
The closer we got to Bariloche the landscape began to change - with the appearance of more trees, both green and autumnal yellow. It was overcast and windy on arrival into the town - the water in Lago Nahuel Huapi being very choppy. This was backed by the towering mountains; "almost" silhouetted against the sky.
I checked into Hostal 41 Below at Bariloche, where I was blessed with a really great group of mostly solo travellers. There was a real mix of personailties with a variety of travel adventures planned,
Down the Road
Graffiti adorning the walls of a cultural centre near the hostel
which made getting to know everyone fascinating. This may go to explaining how my initial two night booking turned into five nights - as I heard myself asking "please can I stay one more night?" on multiple occassions.
The first of my bumping into people you've previously met happened here. When searching out cash machines in Colonia, Uruguay I had briefly chatted with a couple of British guys (Nav and Jay) asking if they'd managed to get American Dollars for taking back to Argentina (you get a good exchange rate on the blue market). It turned out they were staying at 41 Below and also transpired we'd passed each other in the street in Sierra de la Ventaña.
Along with another guy from the UK (Rikin) we were taught an Argentine card game by Xander. Xander was an 18 year old guy from Holland who had embraced all things Argentine. He became the "Little Argentine", as he constantly had his flask of hot water and Mate (a bitter Argentine tea) with him. The card game was called Truco and resulted in much hilarity, having the most bizarre set of rules. After a few rounds of playing, however, we
Cerro Llao Llao
View from the summit
seemed to get the hang of it and it became ultra competitive.
After dinner that night we headed out on the town, only to find most places shut with it being a Sunday. The stray dog that had taken ownership of the sofa outside the hostel accompanied us on our trail, sitting guard outside each place we went into. It became quite endearing in the end.
We finished up at a pool club, unlike any other I had been to before - it's sticky dancefloor a reminder of my days clubbing in York's more classy establishments.
The following day I met more of the travellers I was to befriend here, as we all took a trip to one of Bariloche's many German Bierhouse's. There was Lisa from Canada, a paramedic, who was so much fun and really easy to talk to; AJ, a writer from New Zealand now living in Australia; and Steffan from Germany who was working at the hostel and is travelling the world with his amazing project 'Show Me the World' (https://showmetheworld.de/lang_en). We were later joined by Tom and Sam, both from Bournemouth, who were travelling South America by bike; Xander; Rikin; and Alina,
a German girl working at the hostel and the most amazing cook! We also adopted another traveller from Barcelona called Ivan, who was couch surfing in the area.
After drinks, another heavenly steak moment ensued at a restaurant called El Fuego (The Fire). We were joined by one of my roomies, Lorenzo, a really lovely and extremely handsome Italian who myself and Lisa were slightly guilty of lusting after over the next few days. AJ's fear his steak wouldn't be as big as the one he enjoyed elsewhere the previous day was put to rest - he was presented with a rib eye that was about the size of half a cow. A truly delicious meal once again!
The next few days were spent out and about, indulging in the spectacular secenery of the surrounding Lake District.
First up was a 27km bike ride called Chicho Circuito. Lisa, Alina, Lorenzo and I were joined on this by a few newbies - Pawan from India, who has been living many years in Australia and was full of fun, happiness and jokes; Mark from Germany, who became our star driver of the week; and a Brazilian couple.
The hidden lake of our bike tour
and Mark were to lead the charge up front, whilst myself and Lorenzo slowly died at the back of the group in the last third of the circuit.
Our first main stop was the beach at Bahía Llao Llao where we shared a cobbled together lunch in the most idyllic setting. It consisted of crackers, mandarines, biscuits and chocolates (basically whatever random food items each of us happened to have). We all proceeded to split our sides laughing when Lorenzo announced he had a couple of sandwiches he could share, whilst removing a small bakery's worth of bread from his backpack. The fact he couldn't understand why we found this funny made it even more hilarious.
Moving on from here we pretty soon parked the bikes up and climbed for about 20-30 minutes to enjoy the views from Cerro Llao Llao. Yet again my breath was taken away as mountains strecthed out into the distance, surrounded by the lakes and green pines - all doused in beautiful sunshine. I couldn't help thinking to myself, "This is what I came here for!"
Further visual treats were offered along the route, including the pier and Lago Escondido hidden away
Cerro Llao Llao
View from the summit
in the trees, which we reached via some off-road cycling.
Along the route we tackled endless hills - the downs being a great adrenline rush and so much fun (but way too short). The ups were hard and the further we went the harder they got. Towards the end it seemed we were all having the same thought when turning the corner to see another uphill - "Not another f$!king hill!"
We all gave up the ghost at the microbrewery, sadly not having time for a drink before the bus came.
Pawan very sweetly cooked dinner for all us cyclists that night, creating a delicious spiced chicken and red wine curry.
Next up was the route of the Siete Lagos (or Seven Lakes). Lisa, Mark, Pawan and I decided to hire a car to drive this famous route between Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes, another beautiful town situated next to a lake at the base of the mountains.
It was a four hour drive to San Martin and we were rewarded with stunning lake views as we drove the winding mountain raods, stopping at viewpoints along the way to grab photos and take
Siete Lagos Crew
Me, Lisa and Mark
it all in. A couple of hours in we hit the gravel road that we had been warned about, which Mark managed brilliantly. Along this part of the route there wasn't many lakes to see. Instead we saw forests of trees, their leaves yellowed with the arrival of autumn, with the mountain tops lining the sky behind.
We stopped for lunch in San Martin before starting the journey to Juanin de los Andes where we would begin our journey back. As we began driving out of the town we put on the radio, just as the Macarena came on. We couldn't resist pumping up the volume, winding down the windows and hand jiving our way out of the town, our laughter accompanying us all the way.
The journey back was of the more barren mountainsides and striking blue lakes that I had previously enjoyed on my bus journey into Bariloche. The difference in landscape from one side of the route to the other was marked.
My last outing in Bariloche was a solo climb up Cerro Otto, passing through the ski resorts that in a month's time would be opening to skiers and snowboarders. The higher I
Caught Up Cloud
View from Cerro Otto of a cloud caught in the mountainside
got on the walk, the quieter it got. The air was so fresh and clean and the sun shining strongly in a cloudless sky.
From here the views of the surrounding lakes was again different, with islands and mountains filling the water to the horizon. I could smell the pine trees so strongly and condor like birds (only smaller) were saoring above me, casting shadows on the ground.
The only sound was of my footsteps on the path.
At the top I sat down to enjoy my lunch and take in the views before heading back to the hostel.
Lisa, Alina, AJ and I then headed out for ice cream at Jauja - reportedly Argentina's best ice cream. I may be in trouble for saying this but, although lovely, it in no way measured up to the ice cream I had in Buenos Aries at Freddo.
For my final day I spent some time with Lisa and we then teamed up with Grace, an American girl who had been at the hostel for the previous couple of days. She had been out and about on some other adventures, but we'd had enough time to get
View from my solo climb
to know what a great personailty she was. So we bought in supplies and all cooked together in the evening. Dinner was accompanied with slightly too much red wine!
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