Bariloche is a gateway town for the Argentinean lake district. We had taken a bus across the Andes to get here. The scenery on the drive was outstanding. The mountains are covered in grey gravel which I took to be volcanic fall out.
We have stayed in hostels and hotels on the trip. This time we decided to try something different and book a duplex apartment. These can be cheaper than hostels in Argentina. Our first experience has been a good one. Our apartment has a small lounge with a table, chairs and a tele. Off the lounge are a small well equipped kitchen and a bathroom with shower. Upstairs is a good sized bedroom. It has meant we have been able cook meals and save money. It is also quieter and more private than a hostel room.
Bariloche itself sits on a huge lake. It is full of walking/skiing shops, restaurants and lodgings. In the winter it is a skiing hub.
We had initially intended to stay 3 days but as the apartment is so cosy we extended it for a few extra days. Yesterday we took the bus out to Villa de Angostura. A strange town full of wooden shops selling chocolate. It looks as though it didn't exist a few years ago until someone said 'I know let's build a town'.
It is only a short distance from the Chilean border so gets visitors from both countries. We had a nice day walking around and exploring the lake.
Today we had planned to go out of town and take a ski lift up a mountain but it has turned very windy and wet. Mountain micro climates eh. Tomorrow we plan to go to El Bolson. This is described as a town full of hippies who came in the sixties and never left.
Ok we are in El Bolson. It's shut.
After 2 hours on the bus we got off and thought this looks quiet. Off to the tourist info office. Hello said the cheery chap. I wasn't sure if we had startled him. What is there to do? We asked. Do you have a car? He enquired. Nope.
Today he said is a workers holiday. Oh great we are in a hippy town where it's a public holiday. What chance finding anyone who has got out of bed? Not much.
Oh well back to the bus office to change to an earlier bus out. We still had a couple of hours to kill so we went for a short hike up a hill on the outskirts of town. Back in the town some of the local Che Guevara/ Bob Marley appreciation society had roused and put out their stalls. As I wasn't in the market for wind chimes or a woollen hat it didn't take long to browse.
We were soon back on the bus headed back to Bariloche. We arrived back and walked straight into a protest march. Lots of young people banging drums and waving their banners all over the place....singing 'we will we will rock you'.
When you are travelling it's hard enough to remember which day it is let alone the significance of it. Then the penny dropped. Of course it's May Day and it's a worldwide public holiday. Hoorah....not. Bariloche was also shut. Good job we had obtained our dinner yesterday.
Today we reluctantly left our little pad after a very windy night. We were heading into the Andes to San Martin de los Andes. A four hour drive.
When you come from a small over crowded island it's difficult to get your head round the vastness of these places and the distances people routinely travel. The bus stopped periodically and picked people up. An hour later we dropped them outside a camp site in the middle of nowhere. Another day at the office.
Two thirds of the planets water is in the southern hemisphere. A good puddle of that is clearly in the Argentinean Lake District. As we drove we passed lake after lake nestled beneath huge mountains. I say lakes. Some are like small oceans. So big you can't see the opposite bank. The wind was blowing and the grey dust was swirling across the plains. The landscape here is quite stunning. Nothing as far as the eye could see. Oh apart from a single cow stood eating scrub.
We jumped off the bus at San Martin terminal. It's not a big place and was only a short walk to the apartment. We are very impressed. 3 bedrooms a kitchen and dining area. 2 bathrooms. It's clearly off season and we've been given a room for 7 people. Its spagbol for dinner with a warming red.
Oh today's factoid. Everywhere in South America shuts between 1pm and 4pm. A w*** when you want a beer.