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San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

After Pucon, we headed south through the Chilean Lakes District to the sleepy town of Puerto Varras where we planned to take a lake cruise of the Andes into Argentina. We had read about this cruise, about how beautiful it is, and Jesus had confirmed this in one of our Spanish lessons. However we had also been warned that there is no point forking out for it if the weather forecast isn´t great as the point of it all is to see the mountians and you won´t see them if it´s raining. We checked the forecast for the next few days and it was rain !!! So we abandoned the idea, stayed for one night in Puerto Varras then got the bus out the following morning over the Andes to Argentina. The journey was stunning, and we arrived in gorgeous lakeside Bariloche mid-afternoon. We headed to a hostel that apparently also offered camping. The campsite was basically the back garden of an 86 year old Slovenian immigrant and there was room for 3 tents, but it was cheap enough and the tent was pitched. We had a couple of days in Bariloch, sampling the most amazing chocolate and ice-cream you could ever hope to find !! Then packed up most of our things and headed off up into the hills for some more nights under canvas. We´d met a girl from the Czek Republic who had just got back from some trekking and she told us how amazing it was up in the mountains. We didn´t fancy the hike up their but she informed us we could get out of that bit by taking the chairlift all the way to the top....nice (we thought). So we got sorted and eventually got the bus out to Cerro Catedral. When we got there it soon became apparent that the lifts weren´t running that day, so a hike uphill it would be after all....

The first part was for the most part pretty easy, if not a tad warm. But after a couple of hours it started to get quite a bit steeper and the temperature started to plummit. Another hour or so later we arrived at the campsite, a gorgeous spot in the forest by a river. By this point is was bloody freezing, so the tent was quickly pitched and we set about getting some food on - a culinary treat of packet soup and savoury rice....not the best to eat but nice and light to carry. We were soon in the tent, wearing most of the clothes we had brought with us !! It wasn´t the best night´s sleep, definately one of the coldest nights either of us had spent under canvas but we made it through to daybreak, which occurs rather late in Argentina around 8am.

Whilst we were packing upo we spoke to 3 Argentinian hikers who had set off from the bottom that morning. They told us there had been frost on the ground earlier, we could well believe it !! We set off again toward Cerro Catedral, and the last bit was pretty steep indeed. The effort was worth it though as the views were fantastic when we arrived. The Slovenian lady had told us that it resembled The Dolomites and she wasn´t wrong. The mountains were stunning and perfect for climbing - Kev, Iain and Rich you would have loved it.

After pitching again and another rehydrated meal Nik spent the afternoon reading by the lake and Jon set off to explore the surrounding area. That night, given the extra altitude, we feared would be even colder than the previous but it was quite a bit warmer and we were able to get a bit more sleep.

The following day we packed up late morning and set off back down the mountain. We thought it would be easier on the way down but it was harder than we thought - must have been the lack of fod and the fact we did it all in one go. We rewarded ourselves with chips and George Bush juice (coca cola) at the bottom and, after catching the bus, were soon back in Bariloche. We headed back to see our Slovenian friend but decided against another night camping in her garden and checked into one of the rooms she had for rent. We were knackered and felt we´d definately earned it !! So we stayed in town for another couple of nights, feasted on more chocolate and ice-cream and booked our bus tickets to El Bolson, a couple of hours south.

permalink written by  jonnik on March 4, 2008 from San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
from the travel blog: Jon & Kenty's Grrrrrand Tour
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