We stopped over briefly Puerto Montt as we couldn't get a connecting bus from Castro through to Bariloche. We stayed in a lovely guesthouse and after a walk around the busy but uninspiring port city we just had a quiet afternoon.
We found a place for dinner which was really busy with locals so we figured it must be good. That couldn't have been further from the truth! Sometimes we just manage to get it all wrong.
The drive to Bariloche was beautiful, though it took us past a lot of forest that appeared to be recovering from some substantial fires.
The town itself is really touristy with chocolate and ice cream shops everywhere, and all of it Artesian chocolate and ice cream, none of the regular garden variety stuff! The word artesenal before chocolate or helado makes it infinitely more enticing. We spent some time wandering town in the afternoon and stocking up on groceries for our stay.
The next day we desperately needed laundry done, but didn't realise all the laundries were only open on a Saturday until 1pm and not at all on Sunday, so we ended up having to wait around half the day in town so we could collect it. We walked around a bit more, puzzled by the local tourist attraction of St Bernard dogs with the barrels around their necks posing for photos, a reference to the German heritage of the town.
After collecting our laundry we were now free for the afternoon to explore. We took a bus to the nearby Lago Gutiérrez Area. A few walking trails begin there, and though we had run out of time to set off on the larger trails, we walked along one to a beautiful lookout point over the lake, and another trail to a small waterfall that seemed to be more popular than it deserved to be, perhaps as it was a short trail that seemed to cater for those that couldn't cope with the longer ones.
On the Sunday we went on a popular bike ride around the Circuito Chico. A local bus dropped us at the start of the circuit where we were able to rent bikes. We set off from there with a riding companion, a British girl Lucy who had been living in Australia. The circuit, mostly on a tarred road, was a seemingly leisurely 25kms.
The first section was fairly easy, an undulating 7kms to the apparently famous Llau Llau hotel. It looked pretty impressive so we had a brief look at the grounds then carried on to our next stop.
This was a quick trail that took us to some Arrayan trees within the forest. This small patch of trees had bizarre twisted trunks and a golden colour, standing out from the surrounding forest, and it was a nice 20 minute walk.
Back on the bikes and soon after we reached our lunch spot, down a 1km dirt road from the main road. It was lovely and warm here on the shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi. People were swimming in the crystal clear water, but we unfortunately hadn't brought our swimmers. It was a beautiful place to sit surrounded by mountains and lakes.
After lunch we walked up a hill to a beautiful lookout point at the top of Cerro Llao Llao. We had a panoramic view around the surrounding mountains and blue lakes below us. Stunning.
From here the ride was a bit more difficult with a lot of long steep uphills and fewer places to stop and rest. We passed a few other lookout points, then descended to bridge crossings over the blue waters, then back uphill again to another lookout point.
A few kms from the end we stopped at a great little brewery run by an Australian woman and her Argentino husband and the 3 of us had a pint each to celebrate almost completing the circuit. If only that last few kms after the pint hadn't been so uphill! But we made it even if the ride had been far more strenuous than we anticipated.
On the Monday morning we headed off to Esquel, a few hours south.