San Carlos de Bariloche, Patagonia
We were so excited about getting to Bariloche as everyone here raves about it. We were also looking forward to a change of scenery since the majority of our time so far has been spent in cities.
Bariloche is the main town in Argentina's Lake District and, being surrounded by mountains, it is a very popular ski resort in the winter. Our first glimpse of the area as we were approaching in the coach was overwhelming. We both agree it is the most naturally beautiful place we have ever visited and the views were only going to get better as the week went on. The chocolate box town was amazing too. With a big Swiss influence there are huge chocolatiers everywhere with the biggest array of chocolate products I've ever seen! Many a sample was had! The town sits right next to the biggest lake in the region, Lago Huapi, and the majority of their buildings are quaint little log or stone cabins. It really is a stunning place.
We had a slight scare in thinking we'd accidentally booked into a 'naturalist' hostel when we were greeted by one of our roommates, an older French guy who was wearing the tiniest of underpants that left very little to the imagination. He and his wife spoke neither Spanish nor English so Harry and I tried our best to recall the days of French classes. Contrary to what they have you believe at school, 'ou est la biblioteque?' only gets you so far.
We started the week off with a 6 hour hike up Cerro Otto. It was a pretty easy walk in comparison to some we came to do this week so it served as a nice warm up. We had two companions join us that day too. Yes, as is always the case with Harry (literally happens everywhere we go) we were followed by two dogs who escorted us all the way to the top of the mountain and back. I swear we didn't even feed them until we got to the top when we felt so guilty that they'd come so far we gave them half our spaghetti bolognese and mineral water! The views of the lakes were breathtaking and never ceased to amaze us.
The following day we caught a local bus out of the main town and hired bikes to explore the area at closer proximity. We were determined to stay on our bikes the whole 35km rather than push them up the steep hills but, towards the end, we had to succumb or else risk rolling backwards! The terrain was really tough so it was a pretty hard slog but totally worth it. We found hidden lakes, streams so fresh you can drink from them, waterfalls and loads more. The lure of one particularly gorgeous, turquoise water lake was so strong that Harry could not resist stripping off and jumping in.
After a days break, spent eating loads of the local chocolate, we conquered our second mountain of the week, Cerro Lopez. This was so steep that we often had to use all fours to pull ourselves up! We climbed above and beyond the clouds to a refuge on top of the mountain where we rewarded ourselves with a beer. The guy who worked up there seemed a little 'loco' and would have talked for hours had we not excused ourselves. Not surprising considering the remoteness of his job. (Just to give you an idea of how far we climbed, Cerro Lopez is approximately twice the size of the biggest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis)
With Harry being the avid fisherman that he is, we booked up a full day of fly fishing on our final day in Bariloche. It was a really personal experience, with just Harry, myself and the guide on the boat. We were taken to Rio Limay, a clear water river with brown trout, rainbow trout and perch to fish. All suited and booted in our waders we were rowed down the river by our guide, Julian. I've always had a silly fear of being fish hooked when I, or others, cast. Nothing was done to abate this fear since I was fish hooked in the back of the head 3 times within the first half hour, twice by Harry and once by Julian. My head must of had a magnet attached to the back of it since this was a recurring theme throughout the day. Harry's enthusiastic casting meant I was constantly ducking and diving.
Although immensely fun, fly fishing turned out to be really hard. Since you are constantly on the move, and with a very long line, casting the fly accurately takes some practice. Harry did amazingly well to catch two rainbow trout (my expertise were limited to catching Harry's on video) as Julian said many beginners often come away with nothing. The third catch of the day was rather more rare. Harry cast out only to catch my hat and fling it off into the water!
We were so sad to say goodbye to Bariloche. It was our best week yet! We are now on a 30hr bus journey to El Calafate (right down the bottom of Argentina). Love to everyone at home. Thanks for all of your comments and messages!
Nicola & Harry
Copa Del Sh*thead Scoreboard: NH 88 - 95 HF