Two days in Bariloche ended up being 5 days. How did that happen?
There were two things in Bariloche that caught our attention and would need exploring:
1. Cerro Catedral (yes, yet another mountain to climb with its accompanying glacier and lagoon panoramic). Can’t get enough really!
2. Cerro Campanario viewpoint (National Geographic claims it to be one of the top 10 on the planet). Can’t let that go unchecked!
We reckoned two days would be sufficient to do both these things, but also leave ample time for chocolate shopping (and of course chocolate consumption). Bariloche apparently mirrors the Swiss Alps so convincingly Swiss people feel right at home here. The chocolate in both places is apparently excellent but having never been to the Swiss Alps can only comment on the Bariloche chocolate. It is indeed excellent. For the purposes of ‘research’ I had to sample quite a few to be able to say that with absolute conviction of course.
1. These are all for me, where are yours
Unfortunately ‘Mother Nature’ didn’t get the memo and denied us the good weather we needed for our two day trips. Our first day was spent in the hostel doing a few jobs and organising ourselves – it being way too wet outside for even the quickest trip into town for chocolate. Our second day dawned ever so slightly brighter (i.e. no rain but tons of cloud) so we decided to give the view point a try. By the time the bus dropped us off the cloud was even worse; and the rain settling in; the view point would have to wait.
Up until Bariloche we had been so incredibly lucky with the weather: chalking up 7 full days of walking in near perfect conditions all over Patagonia. A bit of cloud we can handle but with mist and rain added, no deal. We ended up walking around the Campanario Circuit in search for the ‘hidden lake’ and checking out some of the “short hikings” our bus driver had told us about in the area. The hidden lake is aptly named – we walked straight past it, took some photos of it, then sent some other tourists in the opposite direction without realising we had already been there. Haven’t they ever heard of a sign! The views around the area were lovely – I’m guessing quite spectacular without the layer of mist in the way. All in all we walked about 17km, snacking frequently on some excellent dark chocolate before returning to town for coffee and cupcakes. Really good ones too!
2. View obscured slightly on the Circuit Path by cloud and mist
There was no other option but to extend our stay! We booked another night, then another night and then yet another night. But we did get to do our walks eventually. Our third day in Bariloche dawned bright and sunny so no matter what we were going to tackle Cerro Catedral. Mike royally jinxed us by saying “can’t believe I brought my fleece” early on in the day. The morning was sunny, at one point we were both down to shorts and t-shirts. By mid-afternoon we were wearing every layer and glad for them too. Getting up to the refugio was easy enough; through forest and on a proper track. Getting up to the lagoon and over the mountain was infinitely more difficult. First up we had to contend with gale force winds - being quite light I actually thought I would get blown off the mountain. And secondly we had to contend with rock climbing. Equipment wasn’t necessary but both hands and feet (and in my case a helping hand from Mike a few times also) were definitely necessary. The “path” if one can call it that was marked by red dots. Every 10-30 meters a rock i painted with a red circle to point the way. Without these markers the walk would be literally impossible. It was almost like a ‘where’s Wally’ exercise; find the red dot, get to the red dot, find the next red dot, get to the red dot. I actually really enjoy this type of walk where the terrain changes often, but after 3 hours of this ‘rock climbing’ we were both over it. The scenery on the other side of the mountains was worth the climb though; green valleys, waterfalls, winding streams, lakes and small islands off in the distance. But also an ominous layer or cloud. The decent was easy enough – following dry ski trails underneath deserted chair lifts. Unfortunately ski trails don’t offer the most direct route down a mountain, so following these as they twisted and turned down the mountain literally took FOREVER, well 2 ½ hours is forever when it’s raining. Mike got a bit nostalgic for his former snowboarding days, imagining what it would be like in winter with a dusting of fresh powder and a board strapped to his feet. But when it’s pouring with rain and you’ve already been walking for 5 hours the last thing you need is the long way down. We were rewarded at the bottom by the chocolate shop still being open so treated ourselves with a milk chocolate log similar to a flake only heaps better.
3. Cerro Catedral, 1 day walk to lagoon etc
4. The path is off to the right somewhere.....
5. Cerro Catedral, 1 day walk. Lots of rain but a pretty rainbow on the way down
The day after that we didn’t achieve much. Party due to being dog tired and party due to more miserable weather; we were more than happy for a day doing nothing. By that stage we had done 9 full days of walking in 19 days, 5 bus trips and crossed from Argentina to Chile and back to Argentina again. A day of nothing (well washing, supermarket, chocolate, bus ticket buying etc) didn’t at all feel like a wasted day.
A significant decision was made on our day of nothing: to go to Pucon or not? We had been humming and haring for the best past of 3 days trying to decide whether to detour there on our way to Mendoza. We really needed to buy bus tickets to our next destination, which is pretty difficult when you don’t know where the next destination is. What sealed the deal was being able to get there in one day instead of overnighting somewhere random along the way. Bus tickets bought – Pucon here we come.
6. Typical Bariloche scene
7. St Bernard, earning his keep by posing for 'official' photos with tourists
Before that we had one more day in Bariloche. The forecast was ever promising (the sun dance must have worked then). All hopes for the viewpoint pinned on that one day but Mother Nature was on our side, finally. Yay – sunshine! Now I’ve spent a fair while on the National Geographic website searching for this list of top 10 best views on the planet. There are all sorts of top 10 lists: my favourites being “top 10 places to see holiday lights” or “top 10 places to eat ice cream”. Either Argentina needs to change its advertising, or I need to spend some more time on the National geographic website because not only is Cerro Campanario not on there, but “top 10 best views” isn’t even a category.
Having spent 45 minutes hiking up there, in near perfect weather (well can’t complain too loudly with a few clouds after days of rain) we can say without doubt and with utter conviction that the National geographic NEEDS a best view category because Cerro Campanario ought to be on it. I’ve said before that we need to master the panoramic setting on our camera so until we have figured out how to piece it all together on the computer you will have to be content with a small section of the view. Simply breath-taking; the best we’ve seen so far and 100% worth waiting for.
8. Worth waiting for
9. Top 10 view, Cerro Campanario
I’m sure everyone will be aware that the empanadas in South America are legendary but we were yet to sample any despite having spent 3 weeks here. On our way back from the bus station we saw a sign and ducked into the store. I always like it when locals choose the same places as us – means there’s a high chance the food will be good and sure enough a little old lady was sitting in the corner with a plate of 3 empanadas. Excellent stuff. I had a chicken one, Mike a meat one and they were pretty good. We both could have eaten about 10 through and at 4 pesos each (£0.55) could afford to as well. The hostel we were at had an “empanada night” whereby one of the guys working there buys all the ingredients and makes up the filling. The guests help to roll up the individual pastry parcels. We were all over that. The guy at the hostel was claiming that his empanadas were the best in all of Southern Argentina (only the South because he has never been to the Northern part so can’t boast all of Argentina). With 15 people signed up, and 124 pastry sheets to fill everyone got quite a bit of practice making the perfect empanada. We were thankfully aiming for open topped triangles not the classic closed and frilled edge variety. Trays and trays lined up for the oven and 40 minutes after the first batch went in dinner was served. Now these were delicious. I had 7, Mike had 6 (shocking I know, to out eat Mike). Straight from the oven though – as good as it gets. And for 15 pesos each (£2.10) a very cheap dinner.
10. These are also all for me
Next up: Climbing an active volcano in Pucon – how totally awesome is that? All fingers and toes crossed for some good weather (not looking so good at the moment however). First though another 12 hour bus trip crossing back into Chile where the highlight was seeing the Golden Labrador sniffer dog give all the bags a once over at the border. He found a few ‘illegal’ apples (definitely not in our bags) and got a treat for being such a good sniffer dog.