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Published: January 16th 2016
We took the 21 hour bus between Mendoza and Bariloche for our first taste of Patagonia. As is now standard there is always an element of drama on our mode of transport! This time around: the bus was late turning up, the air conditioning stopped working first thing in the morning so the bus was a similar temperature to a sauna, the bus kept breaking down (overheated apparently) and finally the steward broke down in tears! However we did have a good game of bus bingo.
Once we arrived we popped straight down to the see the impressive Lago Nahuel Huapi, just a two minute walk from our hostel and found a very cool bar where I had my first Argentine beer!
Our first full morning was mainly spent catching up on sleep from the previous day’s bus journey and trying to find an electronic bus ticket as none of the local buses accept cash. We must have been in about 15 shops that advertised that they sold these tickets only to be told they didn’t or that they had none left! We were also followed around for a good hour by a couple of stray dogs - they
even waited for us outside the shops we went in.
After eventually finding a ticket we headed off to Cerro Campanario – we read somewhere that this view was ranked “7th best in the world” so we wanted to see what the fuss was about. We dodged paying a small fortune by walking up a steep, dusty path for 25mins rather than taking a chair lift. The view from the top was unbelievable. It had everything, lakes, islands, mountains, forests, etc. We must have spent a good hour near the summit taking in the views.
When we jumped off the bus in the centre of town we randomly bumped into a couple that we did the Inca Trail with back in November! We ended up exchanging stories over a few G&Ts a couple of days later with them which was pretty awesome. They also gave us a few tips of good hikes around the area including a scrambling walk up a mountain nearby called Cerro Catedral.
The following day we hired bikes to ride around the Circuito Chico. This was a 28km round route with a couple of extra stops and trails. The route was fairly hilly
but not overly demanding. We got to stop at some awesome viewpoints, little beaches and a secret lake. I took a dip in a couple of the lakes, which felt more like ice baths!
After our excursions on the bike we decided to have a fairly lazy day next up. We milled around the town looking in numerous chocolate shops and stopped for an amazing ice cream down by the lake.
Our last full day in Bariloche started in good fashion – after a 30min phone interview I managed to secure a job starting two weeks after we get back! Nice to have a little security for when the adventure comes to an end! After this we decided to do the Catedral hike. We needed to get the bus to the base of the mountain where there was a very hip looking ski resort. We thought it looked like the kind of place Argentina’s rich and famous would come to ski given the views from the surrounding peaks.
We started the walk fairly gently along yet another dusty path that contoured around the mountain through some pretty forest that had a river running through it. After a
couple of hours the path got steeper and eventually we got to see our first close up view of the snow-capped mountains that surrounded us. From there we hit Refugio Frey, a campsite for the hardy trekkers, which was right by a very pretty lake. The lake was surrounded by extremely steep sides covered in patches of snow and jagged rocks. We asked in the Refugio where the path continued to get to the summit of Catedral and were pointed in the way of one of the steep slopes that surrounded the lake. After a pretty tough scramble we came up to a second lake – a little smaller but equally impressive, again surrounded by steep sides covered in patches of snow. Again we had to scramble up one of these slopes (which included a brief slippery patch across some snow). After eventually getting to the top of this slope we were rewarded with jaw dropping views. One way a massive valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the other dark blue lakes surrounded by smaller green peaks. We spent a fair while here taking photos and marvelling at the views. We also managed to spot a Condor hovering high overhead! After
eventually tearing ourselves away we walked another 30mins to catch a (free) chair lift down the mountain. We both agreed that this was up there with the best walks we have done since being away.
In summary Bariloche is amazing, the scenery is up there with the best we have seen so far. Next up we are flying down further into Patagonia, bring on some more spectacular walks and scenery!
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