It's been on my 'list' for a long, long time: Patagonia, and although we aren't able to head into the deep south (Tierra Del Fuego) we had the small town of Bariloche locked in our sights. The bus ride through the mountains from Puerto Varas, Chile was spectacular: snow covered mountains crashed into crystal clear lakes. Thankfully the border crossing was a breeze and we pulled into the bus station at Bariloche right on time. A quick cab across town dropped us at our hostel: 41 Below which refers to our being 41 degrees South of the equator, and as far South as we are going to make it on the trip.
We got settled and then headed out for a jog along the lakefront to stretch the legs and lungs before cleaning up and wandering the town briefly. We finally ducked into a local micro brewery for a happy hour session and snack. The beer was pretty damn good too; apparently literally brewed at the owners house. For dinner we treated ourselves to nice Mexican dinner and enjoyed each other's good company over a final glass of wine for the evening.
Before tucking into bed we chatted for an hour or so with the guy working the hostel who became immediately chatty when we told him we were from California. He had spent many years in Tahoe snowboarding and bumming around the Bay and LA and loved to rap about his affinity for the Golden State.
In the morning we had breakfast at the hostel. For the record; when was the last time you ate Frosted Flakes?! It had been years for us...God they really are like little sugary crack rock morsels. I felt my blood sugar spike to dangerous levels with every bowl; I just couldn't help myself!!)
After breakfast we headed out to run one errand at the post office before cruising over to the rental car agency to pick up our wheels for the day. Yup, we'd decided to take on Bariloche and the surrounding countryside on 4 wheels. We pulled in for a quick stop at the grocery store for supplies for a picnic lunch and then we were off.
The plan was to drive the "Seven Lakes drive" which would take us for a couple hundred kilometer loop through the country side, around the mountains and, of course, past many a lake.
It's hard to describe the beauty in this part of the world. All I can say is that it effects you deeply in it's majesty and grandeur. Mountains spike into the sky and rivers meander through valleys while stunning lakes dot the map. As we putted our tiny car along I felt a deep sense of contentment, unlike any I've had on the trip...and without coming off as a pretentious traveling hippie I have to say this was a place my soul felt at home.
Anyway...the drive was great. We enjoyed our picnic over looking a picturesque stretch of river that would make any fly fisherman get all hot and bothered. We continued and stopped off at a number of view points and lake sides to take in the views and snap some photos.
Eventually it was late in the afternoon and we pulled into the quaint ski town of San Martin de los Andes where we paused for a cup of coffee before hopping back into the car for the several hour drive back to Bariloche. The vast countryside turned all manner of pink, red, and orange as the sun set and we drove on. At last we made it back into town and found our way back to the hostel where we parked our wheels and headed in to crash out. A long day on the road had left us spent.
Day 3 and we headed down for breakfast. Thankfully they had rotated to another cereal from Frosted Flakes (Zucaritas in Spanish) but I won't lie, I was craving the Frosted Flakes...like I said, I'm convinced it's not just sugar on those little morsels! Soon after that we headed for the local gym where we were sort of duped into joining in for a Spin class. We got worked.
That afternoon we headed out looking for an Internet cafe to do some blogging and kill some time. Being a Sunday, everything was closed so after a frustrating walk around we headed back to the hostel where we managed to get a little done on the iPad and their computer. While hanging in the hostel we ended up chatting with a few of the other guests; one very friendly old Aussie bloke, James, and another kid from California, who it turned out went to CAL.
The afternoon turned into evening and after G and I bought our 24 hour bus tickets back to Buenos Aires for the next day, we collected our new friend's and headed over to the micro brewery for a few pints. It was over these beers that I discovered that the kid from CAL, Scott, actually knows my brother. Turns out they have a mutual friend and have gone on a number of ski trips together. Holy Random!!
From the micro brewery we followed James to the Irish pub where our group increased in size. As I mentioned James is a very friendly guy and he'd invited just about everyone he'd met at the hostel out to watch the evening Rugby match: Argentina vs. Australia. The Aussies whipped the Argentines while we had a few drinks and some food. After the match some people headed home, but we kicked on for one more with a few other bar patrons. It was a fun night out swapping travel stories, discussing travel plans and all the rest of the nonsense.
The morning came a little earlier then I would have liked...but we dutifully dragged ourselves up, showered, packed and ate breakfast before we scarfed some breakfast and grabbed a cab to the bus station. A 24 hour bus journey (!!!) lay ahead of us and I'll just say that I probably could have done without that last cerveza...because I wasn't feeling tip top. Oh well, that's the price you pay...bring on the pain.