Hikey days were ahead of us. Better to forget partying in Buenos Aires or playing the waiting game at Peninsula Valdes. Now it was time to get active again and for Richie to dust those (walking) hiking sticks as we started to wander deeper into the legendary outdoor opportunities of Patagonia.
If you have ever looked at Argentina on the map you probably know it is huge. I do not know what had happened to my geography knowledge when I uttered the words “it’s kinda like Finland”. Yeah, times four.
Thus we embarked to another 20 hour bus to get to the Switzerland of Argentina - Bariloche! We had been spoiled by our first longhaul bus from Iguazu Falls to Buenos Aires that included blanket, pillow, and a proper dinner with wine. The wine was quite shite as the Irish would put it but it was the type we like - free - so of course we finished the tiny bottles. The buses to Puerto Madryn and now to Bariloche were disappointments after that, you had to bring your sleeping bag inside to get some cover from the blasting AC and prepare your own foods in order to avoid starving.
Bariloche looks like a little mountain village in the Alps or at least tries hard. And as a good Switzerland- wannabe, they offer chocolate on each corner and each shop between the corners. Not thinking about the fact that we were already about $1,200 over budget, I happily spent exactly $52 USD on chocolate during seven days. Breaking my own chocolate eating records here.
Bariloche is about chocolate, microbreweries, hiking, snow activities and lakes. Exactly seven lakes. One of the most popular activities is to rent a car and drive the route of the seven lakes, stopping on each “mirador” (viewpoint) to look at these aformentioned lakes.
Can I tell a secret? They all look pretty much the same.
Also we discovered an Argentinian recipe for how to construct a mirador:
1) Find the spot for the most beautiful views towards the lake
2) Now move about 100m -200m to the left or same to the right and find a spot with tall trees and bushes
3) Voilá, you have a mirador!
It was challenging to peek through the obstacles at some places to get a glimpse of that blue water reservoir but then we just ditched the car and walked to the better unmarked places.
All that driving for a full day made us (me) grave for a day out walking. Bariloche is not short of hikes and one could do amazing multi-day treks over the mountains. The refugio (hut) - network is good and it’s free to spend the night there. The only problem can be the fast-changing weather, all the walks in the National Park were closed on the day we arrived due to high winds and falling trees.
Out of the two hikes we did, Refugio Frey was a perfect one, not only because of the clear blue sky weather we got. There’s two ways to reach the hut; the adventurous way of scrambling on rocks and over mountain tops or through peaceful strolling in the woods with a moderate climb at the end. Adventorous one was the one I wanted to do but to begin it you need to take a skiing chairlift up (or add extra 4 hours of walking - no thanks). And guess what they charge for this chairlift?
$25 USD. One ticket. One person. One way.
Easy forest-route then.
At the top we encountered some seventy army men and we learned they were there for the yearly climbing training. Apparently the area around Refugio Frey is bursting with routes and during summer time you have a hundred people pitching their tent around the premises. I have to say I’ve become more and more happy about our timing in Patagonia. Even now when it’s the shoulder season (fall), there are a lot of people everywhere - in hostels, trails, viewpoints.. I can’t even think how crowded it is during summer time!
I can think of only one more thing worth mentioning of; we ate spaghetti bolognese for dinner seven days in a row. Welcome to budget-traveling.