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 volunteers 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.
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.
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.
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.