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Bariloche part 2

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Here’s the continuation of our visit to Bariloche…

Day 4: We took a boat ride to Puerto Blest, a tiny port (one dock and one restaurant) at the western end of Lago Nahuel Huapi, the lake Bariloche looks upon. From this port it’s only 12km to Chile by car.  A fantastic jaunt on the narrow lake, surrounded on both sides by tall tree-covered mountains and waterfalls. We walked through a rainforest to a calm beach, then headed down a long dirt road to Lago Frias, a green lake tucked in the forest.

View from the boat

Seth on the boat

On the boat

Rainforest walk in Puerto Blest

Beach at Puerto Blest

Lago Frias - green lake

The boat made a quick path across the bay to the trailhead for Cascada Los Cantaros, a gushing waterfall in the woods.  There’s a path following up the side of the waterfall – 750 steps – with several viewpoints along the way.  At the top is a serene mountain lake.

Cascada de los Cantaros

Lago Cantaros, at the top of the waterfall

Post the boat ride, we walked from the port up the hill to the hotel Llao Llao – which was every bit as luxurious inside as it looked from the outside – for tea & coffee & very very thick hot chocolate. (I think Seth had hot chocolate every day in Bariloche.  which was probably an excellent decision.)

Llao Llao tea room

We rewarded our day of walking up and down and around with one of the best meals we had in Bariloche (and in all of Argentina, in fact): perfect perfect steaks and wine at El Boliche de Alberto, a place that was recommended by both our guidebooks and TripAdvisor.  Everything was perfect, down to my ice cream sundae (Patagonian style: with raspberries, dulce de leche, and cream).

Obligatory Argentina photo of tourist at the grill

Mmm, Patagonian ice cream sundae!

Day 5: Horses!  Milly & Herb love to ride horses, so with the help of our hotel we made a reservation at one of the local cabalgatas, Tom Wesley, for 2pm.  We arrived about 10 min late, nervous that we may have missed the ride.  After wandering the grounds for a bit, trying to figure out where we signed disclaimers, paid for the ride, or checked in at all, we were simply let into the corral by our guide Nelson – along with 2 British girls – and told to put on helmets.  Nelson led our horses over and helped us mount, one by one, and then off we went.  I’ve only been on horses a few times in my life, and this was the best ride yet.  Past apple orchards and farms shaded by autumnal trees, through the woods, and up a mountain; across a ski slope with incredible views of the lakes below.  Up and up to even better views (Herb singing the theme to “Ponderosa” as we ascended), then back down and through the trees and Nelson asked “Mas rapido?” and next thing I know my horse was off and running.  Trotting was fantastic.  Galloping was terrifying.  It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.  Nelson was incredibly mellow, alternating between leading and following on his cranky spotted horse, accompanied by a dog throughout.  Not caring how fast we went (despite one of the few signs at the corral that said “No galope”), or that we couldn’t speak much Spanish.  In fact, he could be a Spanish tutor – correcting Seth’s pronunciation as we rode (“Es tran-quill-o!” Seth announced, to which Nelson replied “Tran-KEEL-o”).  I like that idea – Spanish through horseback riding.

View on the horse ride

Seth, looking like a pro equestrian

With Nelson, our guide

Seth and I extended our stay longer than initially planned, so we switched hotels this day.  To our delight, our new hotel (the Villa Sofia) was having tango night – so after dinner, we came back to a full lobby with couples drinking wine and dancing.  This was the first “real” tango we’ve seen (I don’t think the showy kind on the streets of San Telmo counts).  I love how the woman leans completely into the man, cheeks pressed together, almost like she’s falling into him.  Watching the couples, young and old, I could see the appeal of this life down here.  Great food, great wine, great chocolate, dancing with your partner on a Friday night – what more do you need?

Day 6:  Milly & Herb took off to return to Chicago, and Seth & I decided to try a hike.  Following a dotted line drawn on a map by a lady at the national park office, we found ourselves on a trail to “Refugio Frey,” which I’m guessing is like the South American version of Appalachian Mountain huts.  The trail started at the base of a ski area and wound up and around a mountain.  A peaceful fall hike through bushes, over streams, on rickety bridges and into the forest.  After about 4 km we came to a side trail and decided that matched another dotted line the ranger had drawn on our map.  Following that down we ended up on a sandy path that wound down for about 5km to a waterfall in the woods.  Shortly after, we ended up on a dirt road next to Lago Gutierrez, another lake in the area, that led us back to a bus to Bariloche.  In all we hiked about 11km.  Not bad!  Add onto that the walking we did into town and back from our hotel that night, and we did at least 15 km this day.  Great training for Machu Picchu.

Frey trailhead, and a local sculpture we've seen a couple times in the area

Autumn hike on the Rufugio Frey trail

"One person at a time" over the crazy bridge!

Refugio Frey trail

Waterfall near Lago Gutierrez

At the base of the trail

Lago Gutierrez

Bus stop at the town next to Lago Gutierrez

It was my birthday so we had another great dinner out:  pork loin in a malbec sauce with candied apples, plantain chips and a pototo for me, and marnated chicken skewers for Seth.  And chocolate fondue for dessert (naturally), though served with all fruit.  It was Seth’s idea to just drink it when we found ourselves left with more chocolate than fruit.  Best idea of the day.

Birthday dinner restaurant; example of fun architecture in Bariloche

Day 7: Breakfast at the hotel, Skype calls to our families, and now here we are, heading back to B.A.

More thoughts on Bariloche:

  • There are a LOT of stray dogs.  We saw some in B.A. but in Bariloche they are everywhere.  It’s strange, most of them look really friendly and cute and calm, but everyone ignores them.  I don’t understand if they just don’t have an animal control program or what, but if I lived here I would probably end up taking in one or two of them.
  • It was a bigger city than we’d expected. There are supposedly some other small, cute towns around the lakes, but since there was so much to do near Bariloche we didn’t get out to the other towns.  It was a strange mix of ski resorts, Swiss-style architecture, and all those chocolate shops; but yet, for a tourist town, there was an appalling lack of good sidewalks and easily navigable public transportation, and about 50% of the businesses were cash only.
  • It surprised me how much it looked like any mountainous area.  It was beautiful, and worth a visit, but not too different from other alpine areas I’ve seen in New England, California, British Colombia, and so on.  What did make this area different, though, is the price and the value if you’re coming from the US or Europe.  With the current exchange rate, it’s a very affordable destination – once you get there (either a 2-hr flight from B.A. or a 20-hr bus ride).  And the multitude of lakes, that is unique.  Everywhere you turn is another lake, small, big, green, blue, secluded, or populated. Every view has water.

One of many strays in Bariloche

We didn’t hear any other Americans the whole week.  Some French people, some British, some Australians, a friendly Israeli family, and lots of other S. American tourists, but no one else from the U.S.  I really liked that, finding a place where we could be the minority.

Bariloche whet my appetite to go further south in Argentina. Someday I’d love to do a trip of the southern half of the continent: Ushauia, at the bottom; Tierra del Fuego; Puerto Madryn, one of the best whale-watching places in the world; and down to Antartica.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Dana Wilson permalink
    Wednesday, May 4, 2011 3:46 pm

    It’s so cool to see fall! I want to go to there.

  2. Friday, May 6, 2011 6:20 pm

    Wow…the beach…wow…. and the adorable puppy.
    SO glad you guys are having such an amazing time! 🙂
    ~S

  3. Bob Trudeau permalink
    Monday, May 9, 2011 7:15 pm

    Pat and I have not been to Bariloche, but we have been to Ushuaia and Puerto Madryn, the two places you mention in the blog. Definitely worth visiting, and neither is quite as chichi as Bariloche seems to be. Someday we’ll tell you about whale watching near Puerto Madryn!

    • Kristen permalink*
      Saturday, May 14, 2011 11:01 am

      We definitely would like to hear your tales of visiting that part of Argentina!

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