Argentina Part 4 – Patagonia (Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes) – February 2009

Bariloche (February 26-March 2) – population 100,000

-After a long night out in BA, 3 hours of sleep, we were flying two hours south in Argentina to the city of Bariloche.  This is the main area for Argentina`s lake district and everything I have heard was so positive I knew I wanted to go there.  Bariloche is situated along the shoreline of Lake Nahuel Huapi and is also located within the National Park Huapi.  This has to be one of the most gorgeous locations I have been to on my trip…and I`ve been to many pretty places.

-Bariloche has a Swiss ski resort feel to the town with all the light alpine wood buildings, Swiss Chocolate stores (and Fondue at many restaurants) and even a few Saint Bernard`s with alcohol barrels around the necks.  It was just so fun to walk around the town and soak in the atmosphere (and smell and taste all the chocolate).  We even learned the chocolate stores have happy hours at night, so that was the best time to taste and get some discounts on purchases.

-After walking around the city a little, and finding odd trees with spiky “leaves??” we enjoyed a little time on the lake dipping our toes in.  At one point, Colin made me laugh as he asked if the water was clean to walk in.  I just started to laugh as all this nature is new for him and I had to tell him the water was cleaner than most of the ocean.

-Since we were so tired, we wanted a mellow day in town.  We read there was a great Mexican restaurant in town, and of course I had to go and it was amazing.  Bariloche is known to have great food from all over the world, and this Mexican was great as a Mexican family opened it.  So good, we had to go back a few days later!

-Big adventure was taking a local bus out and trying to find a chairlift to the top of Campanario for one of the best views in all of Bariloche and we were not disappointed!  Colin doesn`t really like heights, so trying to help the situation, I just kept talking to him to keep his mind off the chairlift the whole way up and it was all good.  Once at the top, the view was out of the world with lakes all around us, plus mountains and the sun was going down which made for even a more picturesque location.  We just climbed around and tried to soak it all in and even enjoyed a beer at the top to stay longer.

-We had to leave as we had reserved time in the jacuzzi at the hostel.  I couldn`t believe our hostel had a private jacuzzi room overlooking the lake, and once I heard this I knew we would have to book this (and bring a bottle of champagne).  We had to smuggle in the champagne in as we weren`t allowed outside alcohol, but that was easy!  As this was Colin`s third hostel on this trip (and they have all been really nice), I had to kept telling him this is not normal and don`t get used to this sort of jacuzzi as I`ve never seen this before.

-I love all this outdoor activity and nature, but most of it is new to Colin so its fun to introduce him to new experience.  The next day, we decided to go White Water Rafting on the River Manzo.  This river had class 3 and 4 rapids and was a great first river for Colin.  We had a two hour drive west towards Chile and spent a good two hours on the river.  The guide kept providing instructions to our group in both English and Spanish and was quite good at it.  This river was amazing as the water level was much lower now in the summer, but you could see how high it gets when the snow from the Andes melts.  Also, most of the gorge is solid granite and I kept looking at it as I haven`t seen that much granite since a really nice kitchen counter!

-Next day we were off for 4×4 safari adventure all over the lake region.  First stop was high up in the park at piedras blancas.  It was a little windy and we were led to climb a rock for a great view.  Some didn`t go as it was high, but I`m so glad I did as the views were amazing and I had to point down to Bariloche town for perspective of how high we were.  The driver took us into some crazy back roads which were bumpy but fun to drive fast in and loved to find all the big areas of water to plow through!  The highlight to the trip was the isolated forest he took us to along a river bed.  He asked me to take the lunch drinks and “put them in the freezer” – which I assumed was the river as it was very cold water.  It really did the trick to chill the beers!  He then cooked us an amazing lunch and it was so much food.  He made a huge choirzo sausage and even larger steak for everyone and even grilled me a chicken breast.  I have no idea what they do to feed the animals here, but my chicken breast was so huge.  On top of that, he pulled out some bananas and grilled them up and we topped them with Dulce de Leche (like caramel sauce) and crema.  So tasty and something I will have to make on the BBQ at home.

-Last stop of our tour was in a small but quaint village called Colonia Suiza.  This was even smaller and had all Swiss looking buildings and I loved the architecture of one chocolate store as it was all odd shapes and sizes and this was a tasty place to finally try to famous hot chocolate I had heard about.

San Martin de los Andes (March 2-3) – population 26,000

-I heard good things about the city of San Martin de los Andes (more of a mouth full for a name though) and we decided to stop for a couple nights on our way to Chile to break up the bus trip and I`m so glad we did.  It was a smaller Swiss inspired town and we heard it is now what Bariloche used to be before the tourist boom hit 20 years ago.  Colin and I stumbled into a wine bar and stayed for dinner and found out it just opened a month earlier.  So glad as we had another wonderful meal with super attentive and friendly service (which is rare for Argentina – rare to get any service now that I mention it!)

-Our full day in San Martin was relaxing and fun.  We took a boat cruise across lake Lake Lacar to a fun part of the national park.  We stopped on Quilla Quian beach for some lunch, beers, swimming and fun.  The fun part came when we were sitting on the beach relaxing and out of no where…three cows come running down right next to me and towards the water for a drink.  It startled us a little and was so odd to see cows on the beach.  I had to go into the water to get a closer look at the cows at the beach as it was so odd.

-The end to our day was trekking out to a waterfall.  We had a map, but it wasn`t the best as no dirt roads there had names and we just tried to find it.  After 15 minutes, we found a sign and paid a local a fee to open the gate (I think it was an unofficial tourist fee), but it was so low and we wanted to see the waterfall so we were off.  It was nice falling water and nice excursion to stretch the legs.

-Heading off to Chile on a 6am bus…not looking forward to that wake up call, but that`s the life of a traveler!

Logistics:

Bariloche

-TangoInn hostel (Downtown…not Soho) at www.tangoinn.com at 514 Salta or tel 40-0004

-Great Italian dinner with stuffed gnocci.  El Boliche “de Alberto” www.elbolichedealberto.com

-Fondue dinner at La Alpina at 98 Moreno tel 42-5693

-Amazing Mexican at Dias de Zapata at 362 Morales tel 42-3128

-4×4 safari at www.hindio4x4bariloche.com.ar – tel 43-0169 or 15638013 or hindio4x4@yahoo.com.ar

San Martin de los Andes

-Wine bar and dinner at Dama Juana at Tte. Cnel Perex 860 tel 41-1941

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