Chocolate, Parilla and Wine
01.02.2007 - 03.02.2007 22 °C
We pulled up in Bariloche Station the following morning at about 12 having spent 17 hours on the bus from Trelew, via esquel (and unfortunately bypassing Trevelin... the furthest West of the Welsh settlements)
The bus station was nice so rather than pay for a taxi to the hostel we jumped on a bus and headed for the centre of Bariloche. This was easily done and cheap compared to the taxi... $1.20 pesos each.
We got off in the centre, got our bearings and headed for our hostel. We´d checked into the Ruca Hueney hostel and were greeted with a coffee whilst they cleaned the room (a 4 bed dorm) It was nice enough and we dropped our bags and headed in Bariloche proper.
Bariloche sits perched on the hillside overlooking a rather Picturesque lake with the snow capped mountains in the background. It´s very much like little Switzerland... or so they like to think (looked more like Austria to me!) with log cabins and loads of tourists ambling around the streets. Have found out since that (apparently) a few Nazi´s may (or indeed may not) have settled down here in the late 30´s so maybe that´s where the look and the money´s come from.... well... that was what I heard anyway
It´s the peak time of the year and all the tourists were walking around browsing in the shops and eating Ice cream and chocolate... poor Steph was drooling most of the time we passed one of the shops... but to her credit... managed to refrain til the last day
We went to the El Chalten travel office to see about the "Ruta Nacional 40", after yet another not so nice or helpful woman in the tourist office said there was only the one company that did the route, and then popped into the supermarket to buy 2 litres of Quilmes and some food for tea.
Local brew and it costs about $3.50 for a litre in the supermarket. If you take an empty bottle with you, you get $1.50 back... so it works out at $2.50 a litre of beer... 35 pence !!!! and surprisingly, alcoholism doesn´t seem to be too much of a problem here!!!!
So... hangover in tow we booked our bus down to El Chalten for three days later and our hostels etc.... after some wrangling and pigeon spanish conversations on the phone (I´ll explain Chalten travel and the Ruta later...... grrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!!)
We also arranged to hire a bike each the following day to do the "Chico route" which is a cycling (and subsequently we were to find our car based) journey around the lakes and some beautiful scenery.
We were up bright and early and went to the bike rental shop for 9am as arranged.... we left three quarters of an hour later having been waiting for the guys to firstly arrive at work and then faff about with the bikes (i.e. pumping the tyres up... which was nice of them!) but they were cheap at $30 for the days hire! Manyana... manyana !
We´d arranged to not cycle the entire chico route (60k´s) and had arranged to drop the bikes off in Colonia Suiza later that night which cut off 15 k´s (thank god!)
So we set off... along the main road and headed towards the Chico route....
Now... to say that the roads were narrow in Bariloche, and especially on the chico route.... was an understatement!
Trucks... articulated lorries... buses... all zoomed past us at top speed literally skimming our elbows as we struggled with the roads... until eventually we gave up and decided to ride on the dirt track on the side of the road... which is where, evidentally, cyclists should cycle.... so an apparently easy 45k jaunt on a sealed road turned suddenly into a 45k off road moutain marathon!!!
Having spent two hours (and some 18k´s) trying our hardest not to get squashed we pulled off the main road and onto the Chico curcuit proper. Here the traffic did improve.. however... we still stayed on the dirt hard shoulder for periods.
We stopped off at a charir lift up one of the mountains and having arranged with the guy at the bottom that he´d watch our bikes for us... had our lunch at the top of the mountain... surrounded by fantastic mountains, beautiful lakes and even the odd tourist!
We picked our bikes up at the bottom of the chairlift (surprised that they were still there!) and set off in the direction of the Llao Llao hotel (which is fantastic and ridiculously expensive... $750 US dollars a night!)
This is where the ferries that tour the surrounding lakes set off from and having noted this for another day, we headed off along the remainder of the Route.
Colonia Suiza is like a little hippy town in the middle of the mountains. It´s much smaller than Bariloche and far...far... more relaxed. It looked like a great place to stay also and most of the walking routes start from around here, so highly recommended for a couple of nights stay if we return!
After an hour of bouncing down a dirt track, we pulled into the place. Dropped our bikes off and promptly downed two litres of Quilmes in the hour before the bus back to Bariloche arrived! We got back to the hostel which was nice and quiet, had a quick tea in the kitchen and went to bed.... shattered!
OK.... we´ve had a bike ride in Argentina now..... no more !!!!