5 days in the Lakes & the Che Guevara Trail
San Carlos De Bariloche, Argentina
Day 1 - Decided to leave Puerto Montt for the much nicer German settlement of Puerto Varas, 20 minutes away by bus. Found our B & B, Hostal Erika (German for Heather), with no problems although it was up a hill - Heather has a habit of finding accommodation up high. After checking in we walked around the town, had lunch on the upstairs balcony of a busy café/restaurant/cake shop and then caught the bus to Frutillar Bajo which was another German town with wooden houses along the lake front, signs in German for kuchen (cake) etc. Nice couple of hours walking around in the sunshine before heading back to Puerto Varas and a pre-dinner climb up the hill Phillipi with a big cross at the top, although the view was impaired by too many trees. When we got back down we went to a café and sat outside with a big glass of red, plate of cheese and pisco sours to finish which were great - just like a liquid, alcoholic, lemon meringue pie! Puerto Varas is nicely situated on the big lake Llanquihue (Chile's largest) with 2 majestic, snow-capped volcanoes in the distance (Orsano and Calbuco).
Day 2 - A breakfast of nice bread, raspberry Kuchen and jam, cheese, ham etc. We then went to the supermarket for supplies for our picnic lunch and caught the bus to Petrohue about 60km away, and the Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosales. We booked in with Conaf (National parks board) and started on one of the walking trails with a constant view of snowcapped Volcan Orsano and glimpses of the emerald lake, Lago Todos Los Santos, through rainforest and over deep, dried out river beds. Route not totally clearly marked and we came back along the black sand beach next to the lake wondering if we were going the right way. But we did eventually find a path which took us back to the bus. The route we took was part of the Paso Desolacion and part of a bigger walk which we didn't have time to do. We went for another round of Pisco Sours at Café El Barrista and then walked to the Italian restaurant just outside of the main town, La Cucina d'Alessandro and had a huge pizza to share and a bottle of the wine of choice, Malbec.
Day 3 - Same German breakfast and we left Erika's at 7.30am to meet up for our full day onward trip to Bariloche in Argentina. Apparently braved by Che (as told in the Motorcyle Diaries), Cruce de Lagos is a 12 hour crossing through the Andes over a series of lakes by Catamaran with bus links between each lake (5 buses and 4 boats). Stopping off first at the Saltos del Petrohue waterfalls before boarding the Catamaran for the most beautiful 1.75 hour crossing of the Lagos Todos Los Santos (Emerald Lake) with views of the volcano's and mountains, finishing in Peulla on a gloriously sunny day.
We had a 3 hour stop here for lunch where we "splashed out" a little on Pisco Sours, bottle of wine and a salmon lunch with Marc from Australia. The 3 hours passed very quickly before we boarded another bus (passing the Chilean border on the way) for our drive uphill, through forests to the Argentinian border. We stopped off on the way to take photos of the amazing Monte Tronodor at 3554m marking the Andean crest and Chilean border. Customs was very quick and easy at the building next to another lake and where we boarded another boat to cross Lago Frias to Puerto Alegre, another bus and a final sail on lake Nahuel Huapi. We arrived in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi and were dropped off at the corner of out street, Salta, which was a very, very steep walk up to our hostel. Too tired to go out so had a bottle of wine and a beer in the hostel's bar before bed.
Day 4 Our hostel was closing for the season today, so we took a walk through town to find alternative accommodation recommended by a friend, El Nire, and booked in there. Walked back to the hostel to check out and then walked back across town with our rucksacks and checked in to our new home - 3 hours later. The walking continued around the town for the day seeing the numerous chocolate shops, for which it is famous, and stopping off for a hot chocolate. The centre has been built to have the appearance of an alpine town and looks like a mini Switzerland. It is also the largest ski-resort in the southern hemisphere although we were 3 months too early for the season. On the German theme, some historians claim that Hitler and Eva Braun escaped the bunker and lived in the area for many years after WW2.
Today was my Birthday and Dan was taking me out to a recommended restaurant out of town for a Birthday meal at the German owned Cassis. The Remise (type of taxi) picked us up at 7.30 and we arrived at a stunning location on another lake where we had a glass of champagne on the wooden veranda before dinner. We went the whole hog and had all 5 courses of the menu - pate, salad, trout, lamb in filo pastry and desert together with a bottle or red, a glass of white with the pate and a liqueur to finish. A lovely evening.
Day 5 - We took the local bus to Cerro Campanario together with Marc who was at the bus stop. We got the chair lift up to fantastic views of the surrounding lakes - apparently one of the top 10 views in the world as per National Geographic (need to find out what the other 9 are). We then walked a short distance to the bike hire but as it was already 1.00pm we decided to come back tomorrow and make a full day of doing the circuito Chico, a 27km ride around the lakes. So, bus back and had a look in to the lovely looking cathedral. After a couple of hours rest we went out to El Boliche de Alberto's, a Parrilla (grill), famous for its steak. The meat was prepared by the chefs in the middle of the restaurant in an open kitchen. A very good Bife de Chorizo (Rump) with (another) nice bottle of red wine.
Day 5 - Today was not a good day! It was very, very windy and when we got to the bike hire it was extremely overcast after staring off sunny in Bariloche. No sooner had we got on our bikes when it started to drizzle so taking some pit stops in a couple of bus shelters on the route, we decided to make a go of it. Wrong decision as the heaven's then decided to open half an hour in to the ride. We turned around and when we got back to the hire shop we looked like a couple of drowned rats. Such a shame that we didn't make the circuit but it was definitely meant to be done on a fair weather day. Went back to our B & B for a hot shower and dried off ourselves and our clothes. So, we spent the afternoon relaxing as weather remained wet and then went out for dinner at Alberto's again, but their pasta restaurant. Lovely cannelloni with spinach & ricotta and Dan had Lasagne with a bottle of wine, surprise, surprise - but it seems to keep the germs away. A nice end to our 5 days in the lakes and ready for our journey to El Bolson, heading further into the deep south of Patagonia.