Northernmost Patagonia (part 2)

Published: February 25th 2016
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C: We've really enjoyed our time in Bariloche and surrounding area and once we extended our stay by two days it was the longest stop of the trip so far. This was good as it allowed us to explore the area properly as well as having a bit of a rest which we needed as the last few weeks had been really hectic and at times frustrating!

We'd read lots of recommendations of the Circuito Chico, a scenic drive just out of town through woodland and past lakes and attractive scenery. We decided to do this on the Thursday. Keen cyclists were encouraged to hire bikes to do it but as neither of have really cycled much recently we weren't sure this was the best option especially when there were lots of hills involved! Rather than doing an organised tour we decided it would be more fun to hire a car (R: a FIAT - great!) so we could do the trip at our own pace and when we saw the first stop crammed with tour buses we were pleased we did, we went back there later, the joy of a circular route! The scenery was incredibly pretty, it did feel very alpine, lots of the buildings had clearly been designed to mimic the Swiss/Austrian style including a very smart looking hotel that held the perfect position between two lakes surrounded by mountains. Unfortunately non residents weren't allowed in though I don't think our budget would have extended to lunch there anyway! Because of having a kitchen in our apartment we'd been able to eat in and prepare packed lunches most days in Bariloche so we treated ourselves to a lunch out at a sweet restaurant overlooking a lakeside beach. It was a fairly windy but as we'd chosen the place for the view we were determined to sit outside and enjoy it. Most Argentinians looked at us as if we were crazy and the waitress kept asking if we weren't too cold. We assured her that this is what Brits did - determinedly braving the elements especially when it's supposed to be a summer day - and she laughed as we put on extra coats and refused to let go of our drinks in case they blew over. It was a good lunch though and then we continued our sightseeing. I also had my first ever opportunity to try driving on the wrong side of the road. Usually you have to pay extra for two drivers but here it was included so I was keen to have a go. It's really weird and definitely takes a while to get used to but after a few minutes of veering slightly too close to the edge of the road I was fine. The controls didn't bother me, it was just the feeling that you were sitting in the wrong side of the car. Well, I ended up driving all the way back and we all got there in one piece, the car included, so I obviously did alright. My first drive included the 10km, unpaved road and over a little wooden plank bridge to Colonia Suiza, a strange little town, founded by Swiss people, which is now full of tourists and "Swiss-style" chalets. Rog wasn't keen on this place at all.

R: I said in my last blog that I might be back to Cerro Catredal, so while Cate enjoyed perusing a few shops, I tried to head to the mountain for more explorations. I started out at 11 for the bus to the base camp, the same bus as I took before. Only this time, they refused to take my money. I got kicked off, and told to go buy a plastic SUBE card. Actually, he wasn't that helpful but I figured this out. Cate had our SUBE so I had to wait till she was back in the appartment. I finally got my SUBE and headed for the 13:20 bus. At 14:30(!!) it showed up and I was on my way. When at the top, I headed directly to the same view point and just sat and enjoyed. The view was clearer this time and I got a better view of the nearest volcano. It also appeared to have more snow on the top - given it had rained a lot the night before - perhaps not that surprising. After waiting another hour or so for the every-40 minute bus, I met Cate and we headed out to the Kunstmann brewery which had some great outside seating, on KM 7 of the Circuito Chico. We took a bus that we thought was going that way. It wasn't, but he took us anyway. Not thinking to mention his bus took a back road, we ended up getting off and scrambling down to the sea. By the time we had done all this, the sun had gone, so we sat inside with all the kids! Aggh! one beer and Rabas (calamari) quickly became more beers and steak / fish! So much for our eat-in pasta surprise!

C: The next day we booked a boat tour out onto the huge lake - Nahuel Huapi. The trip would take us through a fjord to a little place called Puerto Blest which was very pretty. It was slightly complicated as we had to get a bus to the departure port which was 20km out of Bariloche. We had been told that the buses would either be 'great' or 'abysmal'. We had already experienced the abysmal earlier in the week so gave ourselves loads of time to get to the port. Naturally that meant that this time they were great so we got there with plenty of time to spare. We stopped in a cafe at the port and there was a man singing kareoke versions of love songs to go with your morning coffee. A bizarre way to spend the day. The boat itself was a kind of catamaran with
Lakeside lunch spotLakeside lunch spotLakeside lunch spot

Braving the elements (before it rained)
the whole hull perched on stilts above the water! We thought it would be nice to sit outside but it became less good when dozens of Argentinian children decided to hold out all manner of food in the hope of attracting seagulls to take it out of their hands. They were fairly successful so we spent the time dodging both the seagulls and the official photographers determined to capture their child doing that rather than taking in any of the stunning scenery, priorities are weird here. We were the only English speaking people on the boat so the tour guide decided to talk to us separately rather than translate his main speeches every time, he was really sweet and we appreciated the effort.

When we got to Puerto Blest, there was a great waterfall to walk up to - lots of steps and viewpoints along the way, it was really lovely. You could also walk through some nice forest and along a beach for a while which was pretty too. We then took another boat up to a second lake which, due to pulverised rock from the glacier above, was a shimmering pearly green colour. Not seen anything quite like that before.

The return journey was much busier as we were joined by a large group who had crossed the Chilean border and we're making their way to Bariloche by a combinations of buses and boats. We'd considered doing this but it was very expensive and, on sighting the clientele, clearly the domain of expensive tours. Suddenly there were loads more English people! We met an older couple from Buckinghamshire who were on a whistle stop tour of the continent, this was the step between Santiago and Argentina. Their tour sounded nice but crazily fast. When we docked we were lucky again with the bus and headed home for our final night in Bariloche.

Additional photos below
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Lago FriasLago Frias
Lago Frias

(Made green by the particles of rock)

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