Falling in love with Patagonia
My travels around Argentina have taken me to a town called San Carlos de Bariloche. Bariloche is located in the foothills of the Andes in the Rio Negro Province, and it is generally considered to be the “gateway” to Argentinian Patagonia. The town is relatively small, but famous for its chocolate and hiking. As I am very much a city girl, I figured two days would be more than enough to get a feel for the location, try a chocolate or two and send me off on my merry way deeper south into Patagonia.
I flew into Bariloche from Mendoza on the new low cost airline, flybondi. One hour and forty-five minutes after boarding the plane, I got off on the Bariloche tarmac. The last part of this flight is breathtakingly spectacular with beautiful mountain and lake views, which provides a small sneak peak into what this city has to offer.
Along the way, I met a fellow traveller with an infectious passion for hiking. She informed me of all the wonderful hikes she was planning to do in this place. It starteds to dawn on me that perhaps I should have done a bit more research and booked a couple of days extra.
Stepping off the bus from the airport, I instantly fell in love with Bariloche. Mountain ranges as far as you can see, a big blue lake in which those same mountains are reflected and a town made up of cute wooden houses. The town for some reason makes me think of Queenstown NZ, a place I visited many years ago.
I met up with my couchsurfing host who informed me we are going to see the sights. As mentioned above, my research for this location was seriously lacking, therefore I nodded knowingly all the while wondering to myself why I am getting in the car with an unknown man to go and see locations that I cannot point out on the map. I wanted adventure and it was presenting itself to me so I decided to trust my gut and go with it.
It turned out to be a lovely afternoon of chilling by various lakesides sipping Maté (we are in Argentina after all) and a stop at the local waterhole in a small place called Colonia Suiza, which happens to have a beautiful viewpoint. It is odd, the houses here are all built in a certain style that can also be found in the Swiss alps. Along the way I spot a sign advertising “manzana strudel”. I half expect to see local gauchos (farmers) walking around in lederhosen singing drinking songs.
I end up spending eight days in Bariloche instead of the two I had planned. During these eight days, there is a bit of indulging in the local chocolate. At the risk of sounding like a snob, nothing beats good old Belgian chocolate. To my utmost surprise, most of my time was actually spent either in the mountains or preparing for the next outing to the mountains. On the last hike, I even ventured sleeping in a tent, which I am proud to say I carried on my back all the way up the mountain. For those of you who know me, this is pretty much as far out of my comfort zone as it gets.
What keeps me going back for more hiking is the beautiful scenery and that great feeling of accomplishment when reaching the top. “ Yes, conquered another mountain despite the laboured breathing, the sore legs and the blisters on my feet. Mind over matter”. On top of the feeling of accomplishment, I find I actually enjoy the tranquillity of not being connected to the internet and the profound sound of silence all around. It helps that I have a great hiking companion, and a backpack full of delicious homemade granola bars to keep both my belly and spirits lifted.
Bariloche is well worth spending at least a week in. The town is a veritable playground for those who like outdoor activities: mountain biking, camping, hiking, and rafting. If you are like me and not ready to turn your back completely on modern day comforts, do not fret! The town also has plenty of bars which offer a selection of good wines and beers and there are many restaurants around. These are things that become more scarce to find the further down south in Patagonia you venture.
I am not ready to permanently switch my sneakers and jeans for hiking wear just yet but hiking will definitely take a more prominent role in life when I get home. Belgian Ardennes, hope you are ready to be explored by this new hiking novice!
For more info on the hikes I partook in have a look at my post dedicated to Bariloche hiking.
At the time of writing 1 Euro is 24,96 Argentinian Pesos
Getting into town from the airport:
- Take the city bus
- Take a minivan for around 100 pesos. The minivan will drop you off outside the centro civico
- The bus system in Bariloche is very straightforward. Check out the routes and schedules here: http://www.mibus.com.ar/bariloche/
- Payment of the bus ride is done via a sube card. Go to any local kiosk to buy the card and to put credit on the card. This card can also be used in Buenos Aires and Ushuai