We met Walter, Deborah and Mateo in a coffee shop in Bariloche. They then invited us to dinner at their holiday place just down the road (well, 10 minutes by bus) We arrived and were greeted by Walters sister and her partner Damien. Damien was cooking for us, Pollo con Jamon et queso (Chicken with ham and cheese) He was actually Cuban and was part of a Cuban Salsa band so later in the evening he entertained us with some singing and music…he was good. We had an amazing time with Walter and Deborah, it was amazing how instantly we felt that we had made new friends and how very warm and welcome we felt from Walters family. We are so excited to see them again in Seattle or Canada, if they come to visit us. For Francis and I, this is what travel is about, meeting people and forging new friendships
Bariloche has some amazing attractions and if the weather is good, you have to get out there and see them. Bariloche’s climate can change rapidly in a day from being reasonably warm and calm in the morning to winds so strong in the afternoon that the lake is whipped up into sea sized waves and the foreboding clouds all but cover the surrounding mountains. So, when we saw it was going to be a good day we opted to go on a boat trip on the lake and visit Bosque de Arrayanes (Forest of Arrayanes) and Isla Victoria (Victoria Island) We set off and caught the bus to the jetty where the boat leaves from, which is set in one of the most picturesque areas in Bariloche. It is so picturesque that Bariloche’s premier hotel, Llao Llao Hotel perches on a nearby hill overlooking the mountains and lake, absolutely stunning…
When we booked out boat trip, there were two choices of boat, we could have booked on the modern catamaran or the older schooner type boat. We opted for the older boat, it had much more character and from what we could understand, had been running these trips since the 1940’s. The boat was beautiful, it was a true old maiden of the sea (or lake) she was brassed up and shiny and pretty much in excellent condition. She was slow, but you were able to really take in your surroundings while she took you to the destination.
The boat trip is beautiful, the lake water is amazingly blue and clear and you are completely surrounded by huge snow capped mountains, in the lake are the small islands which are covered in pine forests and we couldn’t help thinking of Canada. The boat trip was so reminiscent of taking the ferry from Victoria to Vancouver that for a minute we had to remind ourselves we were in South America.
Our first stop was Bosque de Arrayanes or Forest of Arrayanes. The Arrayanes is a shrub, although it looks like a tree. It has a reddish brown bark and it grows tall and thick, giving it a fairy tale effect. It is believed that Walt Disney wrote Bambi after visiting Bosque Arrayanes, being inspired by its absolute beauty and uniqueness. The forest is a natural forest and is unique to Bariloche, these bushes and forests don’t occur anywhere else in the world. It was amazing to spend some time walking through the forest. The park is protected, so you walk on a raised wooden deck and it is serene and inviting. We only were able to spend 45 minutes in the forest but we could have spent much more time there.
Next stop was Victoria Island. This is a large island in the middle of Lago Nahuel Huapi (Lake Nahuel Huapi) and has a few walking trails, a restaurant and a hotel on it. It is a large island, but very natural and very beautiful too. We got off and spent almost 3 hours on the island. We were a bit disappointed to not be able to do 2 of the 3 walks as they were closed off for some repairs or something, so we walked the only open route. This route took us through the natural pine forests and along the peninsula of the island which gave some great views of the surrounding islands and the lake. We then were back on our boat, really tired by now, and back to Bariloche. We had a long day, but stopped off at a coffee shop for something to eat and that is where we met Walter, Deborah and Matteo. We became instant friends and in fact, they live in Seattle in the USA, Walter is Argentinian and Deborah is American. They were on holiday in Bariloche and were having something to eat. So we chatted for a while and then swopped email addresses and said goodbye and hoped to visit them in Seattle one day. The next day we got an email from them inviting us to dinner with them and Walters family at their holiday place. So, we went, but that is a story for the next blog…
We arrived in Bariloche and were amazed at its incredible beauty. After being in the semi – desert area of Mendoza, Bariloche was the complete opposite. Officially known as San Carlos de Bariloche, it is a true gem in the Patagonia region of South America. It is a magnificent region and the town itself is nestled into the mountainside overlooking Lago Nahuel Huapi (Lake Nahuel Huapi) This lake is so big, that it actually looks like the sea, but of course it isn’t, it is fresh, clean and very clear mountain water. The lake itself is 529km square, so it’s a large lake and has been measured as 438m deep, but no sign of Nessie here, maybe it would have to be Jorge. Bariloche has an interesting history and even some Nazis were found to be hiding here as recently as 1995, so its an interesting place. The town is clean and the air is fresh. Right now, its summer, but its not warm (just ask Francis) and if the wind blows, woohoo, it is really cold. The wind blows off the mountains and across the lake and up into the town, if you happen to be in the crossfire when it hits the town, you freeze, good practice for Canada….
The buildings here in Bariloche seem to be influenced by European Alpine villages and look very much like Swiss or Austrian log homes. In many ways, Bariloche reminds us of Canada, on the west coast with the high mountains, huge lakes and stunning alpine scenery.
So, to make sure could see the view properly, Francis and I went up Cerro Otto, or Mount Otto. We had to go up via cableway, so once again Francis had to face her fear of heights and this one was quite steep and high. Once at the top though, the view was amazing. You could see a 360 degree view of the whole town and surrounding mountains. The larger mountains are still snow capped, but in winter, the whole area would be white and snow covered. We spent an hour at the top (there is a revolving restaurant there too) and then came down.
Bariloche is famous for its chocolate. There is a chocolate shop literally on ever block of the main streets and each one of them MAKES their own chocolate. No Cadburys here…only hand made stuff. So we visited the chocolate museum and it was really fantastic to see how it gets made, we wanted to buy some there, but it was really expensive. We walked a bit further down the road and went into another shop and you could see them making it there too, so we watched, caved in and bought some there, a little cheaper, but wow, really tasty stuff and very fresh. The amazing thing is, every chocolate shop is full of people, the Argentinians certainly have a sweet tooth and so each chocolate shop seems to be really busy. So we bought our first chocolate and we were hooked, each day since, we now go for a choccie run at about 4pm in the afternoon.
Also, on this same evening, we went to dinner at a local couchsurfer called Julie (pronounced Hoo – lee) She made a traditional Asado (similar to a braai) for us and prepared us some food. It was great, the meat, of course, was amazing. Argentinian beef is really good and she was a very interesting person. She is a scientist and is involved in researching the wildlife in Baricloche…so she was very interesting company to say the least.
After dinner we headed back to our Hosteria, but here is the interesting thing. We walked down about 500m of dirt road from her house at about 11:15pm and then got to a main road where we stood for about 10 minutes and waited for a bus back to town. We then got on that bus and were dropped off safely in town about 20 meters from out Hosteria. It is incredible to think that we could never attempt this in SA and that the infrastructure here works so well…buses here, even in a small place like Bariloche, run until midnight. The next day, we went out on a boat trip, but that will be my next post, so keep on looking…should go up soon.