We were not completely looking forward to the 20 hour bus ride to Bariloche with banging hangovers, but when we got on the bus we were pleasantly surprised. Huge comfy seats with leg rests and TVs were not what we had expected on a South American bus, and after watching the city suburbs melt into flat farmland 4 films, a three course meal we slept for a full 8 hours.
We woke up to the dramatic snow capped peaks of the Andes and an utterly breathtaking landscape. Lago Nahuel Haupi seemed to glow under the sun and the lush green pine trees covered the mountains like fur.
When we got off the bus the air was crisp and icy, and we realised that our bus clothes were really unsuitable for the Patagonian climate. Nick was only wearing shorts and flip flops and when the hostel told us that we couldn't check in for another 5 hours we spent a ridiculous amount of money hopping from one warm coffee shop to another drinking "chocolat con churros" which is the Argentinean version of hot chocolate and dough nut- type things.I considered buying some waterproof shoes from one of the million outdoor stores but yet again we realised the limitations of our tiny, miscalculated budget.
The next day we hiked up Cerro Otto, about 6 km one-way. Our mental images of Patagonia were totally blown away by the view from the top and we sat for a few hours just watching the condors swooping above the lake and the dotted green islands in the centre.We walked past a few deserted ski resorts and we concluded that October was a pretty good time to visit Southern Argentina, as it's not too crowded or cold.
We also decided to cycle the Circuito Chico (rather than take the bus like the "lazy Chileans" as the guy who rented us the bikes called them), which is about 30km around Lago Nahuel Haupi and Lago Moreno. Had another beautiful day, cold but completely clear.
The bikes were kitted out with everything, from shocks to bottles of water, maps and puncture repair kits. A stray dog, one of many we befriended in Argentina, followed us and the guy we were with around most of the track and a park ranger told us off when he followed us down to a secluded beach. The enormous, rugged mountains, transparent lakes and verdant islands kept us captivated for the uphills and downhills of the 4 hour ride. When we got back to the ranch to return the bikes, Dan at Bike Cordillera (best run bike rental place ever) had a drink and snack waiting for us and gave us some cycling tips for our next stop. The thought of getting my sore ass on a bike again in the immediate future was not appealing. Needless to say we were knackered afterwards and the prospect of trudging up the steps to our hostel made us take a taxi.