My trip to Bariloche was amazing. The town itself has a very touristy feel and the whole place tries to sell itself as the “Switzerland” of Argentina. They tout homemade chocolates, Swiss fondue, and there were even St. Bernards. Beyond this though, Bariloche was an awesome place to visit just because of the beautiful scenery. The beauty there is breathtaking and waking up everyday to such scenery was well worth it. I went with one of the guys that Jess knew from her study abroad program. During the trip to Colonia I mentioned that I would be interested in seeing southern Argentina, but that I couldn’t find anyone else who wanted to go. Greg, said he would also be interested in making the trip and would even teach me how to ski. Since I felt much safer traveling with a guy; I took him up on the offer. As luck would have it we were very good travel partners. We have a similar disposition (for example, Greg was happy as long as we were both quietly reading on the bus!) For those of you wondering; this travel partnership was purely platonic, since Greg has a very serious girlfriend back in Wisconsin. In fact we spent every night just chilling in the hostel so that he could chat with her online.
I learned how to ski! Unfortunately, the region hadn’t had much snow so only a very small part of the Cero Catedral was open to skiers. This also meant that all of the easy runs, located at the bottom of the hill, were closed! So, I had to get on the ski lift having never even tried out a bunny hill. At that point, I was thinking that maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew. Luckily, all of that time I spent in ice-skates when I was younger paid dividends here. I didn’t fall when I got off the ski-lift. I might have looked a little less than graceful, but I did just fine. I did spend a large part of the morning on my bum, but by the afternoon I was definitely getting the hang of things. Once, I started to get over the fear that someone was going to run into me (the whole place was pretty crowded) I had a really good time. Also, the views from the mountain were spectacular. At one point we just took off our skis and sat at the top of the mountain staring off into the distance, when an Argentine condor decided to grace us with its presence.
I was a little sore from skiing, but really overall, not too bad. We rented a car and drove to el Bolsón, a little town about two hours south of Bariloche. The town is nestled in between some pretty tall peaks and boasts quite the artisan’s fair as well as a beautiful national park just to the south of town. Just driving there was an adventure in itself. We had to stop about every ten minutes or so and take pictures. Once we finally reached the town; we walked through the fair. Afterwards we continued on to the lakeside national park, where we ate our sack lunches and listened to the waves roll in. Later we drove back to Bariloche and had another surprise waiting for us. Before, we could return the car we had to fill the tank, but we couldn’t find the right type of gasoline. It turns out that the whole town had missed their daily shipment. We ended up taking the car back without gas; and they drove us to a place outside of town where they knew we could find the right type of gas.
We went on a boat tour that took us to various points within the national park including isla Victoria. There we went on a guided nature hike and then spent the rest of the day exploring the island on our own. The weather was horrible and it rained heavily during our tour. We were cold and damp and ready for the boat ride back by early afternoon. Despite the bad weather the scenery was once again beyond words.
We took the morning off and slept in. After a late breakfast we took a bus to the edge of town and took a ski lift up to cero Campanario. The view from hear was absolutely breath taking. It was probably the best thing we did all week. To continue the lazy day we headed back to the hostel and read all afternoon. For supper we finally went out and had the fondue; which lived up to all of the hype.
For our last full day we went on a hiking excursion that lead us back into the national park. We rode in a van down a very windy gravel road for about an hour. Then we hiked for about an hour to a beautiful waterfall. (Cascada los cesares) Afterwards, we hiked back to the van and continued on to spot were we ate sacked lunches and played some Frisbee with the Brits that were also part of the tour group. After lunch we drove a little bit further and hiked to the black glacier. The hike was a little treacherous since the snow was packed down and in places was covered by some ice. Nevertheless, we all made it to the glacier safely. The glacier is black because it moves so fast that it picks up the dirt as it goes. The mountain (cero Tronador) has 8 glaciers. While we were close by we heard a large noise that sounded like thunder. Our guide explained that the ice had broken on the other side of the mountain. (Tronador means thunderer) The hike back was even more treacherous than the hike to the glacier. Most of us slipped or fell at some point. I lost my footing going up a steep incline and slid backwards on my stomach for about 10 feet. Somehow I managed to scratch my stomach on a rock. (I would’ve thought that skiing was the most dangerous thing that I did, but it turn out that hiking was the more dangerous activity this time around!) I was a little sore on Saturday from the fall, but it wasn’t anything too terribly overwhelming.
Overall the trip was breathtaking; the pictures cannot do this place justice.