Bienvenidos a Bariloche and Universal Travel Hostel

So to Bariloche, gloriously touristic heart of the lake district. We arrived at Universal Travel Hostel (terrible name but nice place), a new hostel we had been in contact with in order to get free beds and do a bit of work in exchange. It turns out it is only volunteersFoto 10-12-2013 12 01 09 and the owners as they can’t quite afford other staff yet. Interesting owners, very chilled out place, and in exchange for our help at breakfast and washing some sheets were had free beds in the, otherwise very pricey, city.

And we made the scones ourselves

And we made the scones ourselves

Bariloche is a town that looks a lot like how I imagine a Swiss ski resort town does, and the as the main tourist drag is almost exclusively chocolate shops (painfully expensive but there were free samples plus I looked sad if people didn’t let me eat some chocolate animals each day) the feeling is exaggerated. It is based around many lakes, the largest, lago nahuel huapi has a nice pebble beach that you can go and nap on. It is best for skiing in the winter and waterspouts or trekking in the summer. It was here that we discovered that despite our hatred of camping, we really enjoy a good hike.

But first we started our physical exertion with circuito chico, or the small circuit, which is a 27k bike ride around some spectacular scenery, culminating in an incredible view over the lakes. Not that I enjoyed it that much as it is frickin STEEP! Oh it hurt, it hurt so much. That said I enjoyed it and we had a really nice picnic lunch by the river. Only real downside was these really annoying big bug things. They are pretty harmless, they do bite but it isn’t so bad, they just buzz all around your head and face and they are big and fuzzy and bothersome. I have no idea what they are called but they travel in groups! More on them later.Foto 13-12-2013 11 52 34

We then went up Cerro Cathedral to refugio Frey, it is a 3-5 hour climb up and then you are rewarded by a beautiful lake at the top where we lunched and then 4 hours back down. More of those big flies attacked us constantly and i think our combined kill was around 100 for the day. All our time in Bariloche was super hot, so even the gentlest incline felt punishing but overall this was a really good climb, not to strenuous, very beautiful, and a friendly cat joined us at the top to cheer us on the only scrambly bit.

Shortly after we heard that the best view was from cerro campanario, and it is only a half hour climb. So this we did too, obviously.wpid-Foto-17-12-2013-16-23-16.jpg

As well, we were lucky to see a watersports competition on the lake for a few days, so we sat and drank terere (cold mate with orange juice and lots of ice) and watched people do very impressive things with surf boards.

The people staying in the hostel were very nice indeed and on our final day everyone in the hostel made a big asado and some salads and bread and we sat down to a big meal. The owner said they would do secret Santa on Christmas day, and as I had an excess of wool I made an extra present for anyone who lacked one. I hope my name your own beanie plus instructions was well received and they weren’t too confused.

One thing I nearly forgot to mention about Bariloche is that they have many, many St Bernards around to charge you for photos. This made me dad add the dogs looked more sad than StBernards often do, and it seemed to got to keep then in the sun all day without exercise.

During our time here we statuses squeezed in a visit to nearby renowned hippy town El Bolson. Honestly we were a bit disappointed by its conventional appearance and the market which it is famous for was only so-so. Only the mates were something I have seen before and many were beautiful. And I didn’t like the hostel. They actually shshed you after eleven is you spoke at all, like a library. That being said I would have lied to spend more time there because there are some amazing walks but almost all require at least one night on the task and we didn’t have the time. Instead we went on a comfortable day trip to lago puelo and spent the day on the beach. Which was nice. And there was a pizzeria that had a coeliac pizza! Not as good as mine but certainly less effort. And another (!) Incredible ice cream place, jauja. The peanut butter, dark chocolate and candied orange and fig and walnut will take a lot of beating.

All in all, nice place, nice time, nice people but we move on looking for something less full of tourists.

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Best Workaway experience so far! Neuquen

From Pucon a quick hop across the border lands you in Neuquen province Argentina, and we were headed for the capital, funnily enough, named Neuquen.

We were to stay with Daniel and Gisela and help then with their English, so we didn’t know what to expect and frankly we had both assumed that they would be very good indeed and we wouldn’t get to practice our Spanish much. As it happens they weren’t bad at all, but preferred speaking in English only in “lessons” so it was a very Spanish week! They were very patient with us and I loved being so immersed in the language, certainly this was the least English environment we had been in ever.

Daniel and Gisela are THE NICEST PEOPLE we could have hoped to stay with (they are so nice that they merited what I believe to be my first use of capitals!). They made us feel so at home and were so friendly and warm that when they said we could stay longer I really wished we had more time.
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This is us on the balcony of their beautiful apartment overlooking the river. So I should now mention Sofia, my favourite dog in all of Argentina. That’s her, there on the right, refusing to look at the camera. She is such a cool dog, face of a chiuaua, body of a terrier, and equally fond of belly rubs and running in sprinklers. When I said I was going to sneak her into my back pack I was only half joking.
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So, our ten days here passed really quickly, too quickly, what can I tell you…. It was hot. Consistently over 30. And my leg finally healed enough to stop going to the doctor. Nearly every day we took Sofi for a walk along the river, we explored the city a bit- there’s a really nice craft market at the weekend and lots of musicians and dancers perform around the central part of town in the summer. We went kayaking for free thanks to the neighbouring town’s tourism event. We watched Daniel perform at a classical concert and at a gig in town- he plays cello and guitar and it was really fantastic to go and hear him play. He also started teaching egg how to play guitar, which he really enjoyed. So much so that I considered getting him a guitar for Christmas but we really can’t carry one. I think he may take it up at home though.
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I enjoyed watching a bit of Argentinian TV and seeing how much I had progressed in understanding since the last time I had access to foreign channels. A little bit. Also did some more gf baking- polenta chocolate brownies, lemon sponge and a creme Catalan, my first custard.
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Speaking of gluten free, Gisela and Daniel were the first couple who really got what being coeliac meant, and I was so grateful to feel safe with their delicious food and not have to explain everything a hundred times. It really made me feel normal as we didn’t really talk about it at all. And we had some very good food here, the highlight probably being the mountain lamb we had cooked on a grill in the park after our kayaking adventure.
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Incidentally, egg and I did not enjoy sharing a kayak, it seems we would have much preferred racing than cooperating. (Photo thanks to the Cipolletti tourism people).

We also went on a trip to a nearby lake which amazed both egg and I by being so massive, both easily agreeing it was the biggest we have seen. This amused and surprised our hosts, and now we are in Bariloche I can see why. Never the less it was very relaxing way to pass an afternoon and an excellent mate drinking spot.

When we left we gave them a hat with a flower that I had adjusted for Gisela, and they gave us our own mate, which is now amongst our most treasured possessions. We drink from it, and think back on our amazing week.

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Oh, and this turtle can flyyyyyyyy…….,

Spider bite….now I’m spiderwoman 25/11-28\11

So as we leave the Lodge and arrive in San Fernando we book our bus to Pucon, leaving in three hours time. To fill the time I decide to go to the chemist and get some anti histamines for a rather big bite on my leg that had happened a few days earlier and I ignored, as you do. And now I was having trouble walking.

Unfortunately upon seeing my leg they said this was not a bad reaction to a mosquitoe bite as I had assumed, but more likely a spider bite and that I had to go to the emergency room immediately and put us straight in a collectivo (like a taxi but with fixed routes).

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Hospital in chile is cheap and, for me at least, very fast so we made our bus. But our bus was destined to Pucon, adventure capital with hiking, biking, volcano climbing, rafting, hydrospeed and hot springs and I had just been told I could do nothing, nor get my leg wet for three days when I had to return to a hospital. It was to say the least disappointing but we remained optimistic that after the third day I would be given the all clear so we decided to stick around.

So we had three days in Pucon, I could barely walk as my ankle was so painful and swollen, I couldn’t drink because of the antibiotics I was on, and the internet in the hostel didn’t work. So what did we do? Well I decided that as we are entering the summer here the best thing would be to make myself a thick winter cardigan. wpid-Foto-28-11-2013-12-34-19.jpgI quite like it and it was a good use of time but now I have to carry it around whilst it’s 30 degrees plus. Egg for his part did an awesome job of looking after me, juggling and relaxing with a book. And the hostel (El refugio) was really really nice- great atmosphere, people and hammock chairs so that helped.

On returning to a new hospital, they looked changed the dressing and told me I had to return every three days until they were happy and I still could not do anything. This was a bit upsetting and I inwardly debated going hydrospeeding anyway, but really not wanting to see how much worse it could get if infected we gave up, packed up and moved on.

The end

OK so not quite the end. We did manage to get out for a very impressive and indulgent chocolate fondue at Cassis, a beautiful little cafe.wpid-Foto-26-11-2013-16-58-15.jpg And I invented peanut butter, double cream hot chocolate, which was also indulgent now I think about it. We were in need of some treats. On the plus side, I handled all my hospital visits in Spanish with no confusion, yay me!

And for those who are interested Pucon is beautiful. The volcano climb is said to be one of the most incredible things to do in south america, and you can slide down on your bum! I’m desperate to do it. Maybe we’ll try to swing back.

wpid-Foto-27-11-2013-14-51-13.jpgAnd we liked this fox dog.