Bariloche, Argentina, 26-28 May 2011

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South America » Argentina
May 30th 2011
Published: May 30th 2011
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We left Ancud at about 11.00am. After hopping on the bus which quickly drove onto the car ferry from Isle Cheloe and across to the mainland. We were about to travel on the most picturesque part of our journey – through the Argentina Lakes District. At Puerto Montt, we changed busses and set out across to Bariloche. I hope the photos give you some idea of the scenery. The area was so green, with dairy cows grazing, new vineyards planted, waterfalls and snow-capped mountains and volcanos. We were a bit disappointed when the sun set.

Arriving at around 9.30pm in Bariloche, we certainly felt an added nip in the air from the surrounding snow. We drove to our hotel by taxi to be met by a very friendly owner of Hotel Venize in a lovely warm lounge. Tom and I were on the 2nd floor and as we walked up the stairs we could feel it getting hotter. It was well heated and at night we found we had to open the window more and use our summer wear.

We all met down in the lounge and went out to a restaurant as several of our group were craving for a good Argentine steak again. It was nearly 11.00pm so Tom & I only felt like soup. In bed after midnight and I slept in the next morning while Tom did the city orientation walk with 4 of the others. He came back to the hotel with some plans on what we should do and see on our only full day in Bariloche.

But 1st, a bit about Bariloche!

San Carlos de Bariloche is a city in the province of Rio Negro, Argentina, situated on the foothills of the Andes, surrounded by lakes (Nahuel Huapi, Gutiérrez Lake, Moreno Lake and Mascardi Lake) and mountains (Tronador, Cerro Catedral, Cerro López). It is famous for skiing but also great for sight-seeing, water sports, trekking and climbing. Another claim to fame is its Swiss-like atmosphere and its chocolate boutiques. We even saw the St Bernard dogs on display for tourists in the main square.

The modern settlement of Bariloche developed from a shop established by Carlos Wiederhold, a German-Chilean immigrant that had settled in the area of Llanquihue in Chile. Carlos Weiderhold then crossed the Andes and established a little shop called "La Alemana" (The German) near the present city center after crossing the Andes from Chile.

A small settlement developed around the shop, and by 1895 the settlement was primarily settled by Ausrians, Germans, Slovenes, Chileans and Italians from the city of Belluno. It has been claimed that Bariloche got its name after the German-Chilean pioneer Carlos Wiederhold. In letters addressed to him, he was erroneously addressed as San Carlos instead of Don Carlos, which is why the city was called San Carlos de Bariloche. Most of the commerce in Bariloche went by the seaport of Peurto Montt in Chile. In 1896 Perito Moreno wrote that it took three days to reach Puerto Montt from Bariloche while traveling to Viedma in the Atlantic coast took "one month or more".
In the 1930s the centre of the city was built to have the appearance of an alpine town ("Little Switzerland") with many buildings made of wood and beautiful stone. In 1909 there were 1,250 inhabitants, telegraph, post office, and a road connecting the city with Neuquen. Commerce, however, continued to depend on Chile until the arrival of the railroad in 1934.

Between 1935 and 1940, the Directorate of National Parks carried out a number of urban public works, giving the city a distinctive architectural pattern; among them, perhaps the best-known is the Civic Center. Designed by Ernesto de Estrada, the tuff stone, slate and fitzroya structures include the Domingo Sarmiento Library, the Francisco Moreno Museum of Patagonia, a Museum, the City Hall, the Post Office, the Police Station and the Customs. Other works include a theatre, the Cathedral, and the renowned Lao Llao Hotel, the latter of which is about 24 kms from Centro Bariloche.
Museum of Patagonia was on the main plaza near the Tourist Info center. "Stuffed" native wildlife, pictures, and a great section covering the indigenous pre-Hispanic inhabitants of the region. Unfortunately, this was closed for renovations.

The current estimated population is 140,000.

Bariloche made headlines in the international press in 1995 when it became known as a haven for Nazi war criminals like the former high ranking official of the SS Hauptsturmfuhrer’ Erich Priebke who had been living there for years. Priebke had been the director of the German School of Bariloche. Besides him, more German war veterans were found here, such as Adolph Eichmann who lived in Bariloche for years in the open. Interesting!

We loved the ‘feel’ of Bariloche. It was neat, clean and well organised along the Lake. We learned that there was a 60 km track around the lake. We wouldn’t have time to ride a bike around it so we had to think of alternatives. That alternative was to catch a local bus to Cerro Campanario which had an open cable car going up to the summit. In winter, this was a sking opportunity. Seven of us decided to make this trip. One of our group members, Amy, was not good with heights so we were wondering how she would go with the chair life. We talked her through it and she made it up to the top no problems – as long as she didn’t look down!!

Up the top we found wonderful vantage points for photos and to soak up this new and amazing scenery. From this mountain point, we could see all the local lakes which was absolutely beautiful. After the photos and watching a hawk interacting with tourists, we then thought a hot drink was in order. The cafe was well supplied with different sorts of coffees and chocolate drinks. It was after midday so Tom and I ordered a Cafcognac (coffee and cognac), (almost as good as the Snaps on Mt Pilates Sheryl !!) a quiche and a mousse de chocolate slice to share. Wow, that was some lunch.
On the wall of the cafe were many paper currencies from many countries. We couldn’t help but notice how the Australian notes stood out as the most colourful.

We then got back onto the bus after catching the chair lift down the mountain but instead of going straight back to the city, we decided to see if we could do a loop around the mountain further out of town. We also knew there was Llao Llao Hotel which was a well known ski resort closer to other snow fields. We caught No. 10 bus until it stopped to turn around. Even though we asked the bus driver (with map in hand) about the next bus we had to catch, he didn’t indicate that we could not do a loop as the extra bus which did this circuit, only ran in winter time. We found a bus stop and got back to the city centre by about 3.00pm. Tom & I looked around the town to take our photos. It was certainly a lovely looking town, particularly the city centre. (see both day and night time photos)

We also visited Chocolate outlets which Bariloche is also famous for. The city hosts an amazing number of shops where they produce and sell all sorts of varieties of chocolate. Local fruits and licor make some of the fillings. The most renowned ones are Mamuschka, La Abuela Goye, Benroth, Fenoglio, R apa Nui, Del Turista, Bonifacio and Tante Frida. We visited 2 of the shops and had another magnificent Argentinean cappuccino. We also bought a variety of chocolates, including diet chocolates for Tom (yuck!).

Kerrie, we also came across some of the chocolate shop windows with cupcakes displayed, and we thought of you (as we do frequently!) – check out the photos.

After coffee we then decided to catch another bus back to a closed mountain (5 kms away), Cerro Otto. It was higher than Cerro Companario and had an enclosed cable car to go up to the summit and there was the only revolving restaurant in South America at the top. We wanted to be up the top of this mountain to watch the sunset. We made perfect timing to catch the sunset (what do you think of the photos?) and have a local beer, Prossit, in the restaurant.

We caught the cable car back down the mountain and there was a free bus waiting for us to take us back into the city.

From Cerro Otto, we could see Cerro Catedral which has the biggest ski centre in South America, with a skiable area of 2 km², over 100 km of ski runs, and a lift capacity of 22,200 skiers per hour. It is located 12 miles from Bariloche. If anyone enjoys hiking, there is trail to the Frey refugio which takes about 6.5 hours (4 up, 2.5 down).

Our guide Betzy organised a restaurant for our second night in Bariloche. We met at 8.30pm and had a magnificent (but typical) Argentinean steak meal. It was beautiful. We also took photos of the chief and waiters. Washed down with red wine, a good night was had by all. We then went to as local pub where Tom and Albert (one of our new group members from the USA) sampled 7 different locally brewed beers.
There was one trip I would have loved to have done but having only 1 full day in Bariloche prevented this. I will however include the info in this travel blog for anyone else who wants to come to this part of the world. Look for Cerro Tronador to visit the black glacier (ventisquero negro), see the Cerro Tronador and a waterfall over an overhanging cliff named Saltillo de las Nalcas, near the village of Pampa Linda. The bus ride apparently takes about two hours, and costs Ar$ 80 return or Ar$ 40 one-way – but you need to visit Bariloche before the end of March. With this bus, you have to hike the last 7 km to the glacier, which is a beautiful experience as there is a hiking trail and the road shows amazing landscape. Some tourist buses take you right to the sights. The black glacier is very different.

On Saturday 28 May, we woke up in Bariloche and it was raining. I think we were very lucky to get a dry day at this time of the year. We walked around the town to see a few more features; I went to a restaurant to have a coffee and use their Wi-Fi and then went back to our hotel in time to meet Sandra and Natasha to go for a cheese fondue lunch. Tom and Albert joined us for a short time.

We then walked around the local Artisan Markets before going back to the hotel for a 1.30pm departure. We are going by bus to Buenos Aires – IT TOOK 21 Hours!!!!!!!!! We had one of those amazingly comfy buses, the road was straight and flat as we left the Andes behind us, so sleeping was good. The scenery was also spectacular..... again!!!!

We cannot believe we have been travelling for 65 days!!! What a journey. And we have got Brazil to go. Oh it’s great to be alive. We have missed you all though. Thank you for your messages while we have been away.

So 3 days in Buenos Aires and its then goodbye to Argentina.
On reflection of Chile and Argentina, we have found the people of both countries very, very friendly and very helpful. Perhaps Chileans were a little more helpful and friendly and very willing to make us feel welcome. Argentineans are very open and straight forward people. We have thoroughly enjoyed our last few weeks.

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