Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nos vamos a Bariloche

Our first excursion outside Buenos Aires was to Bariloche, a small city surrounded by the Andes Mountains. Bariloche lies right along the border with Chile and was about 24 hours away by bus. It was recommended as one of the best places to visit in Argentina and a few of us wanted to ski. I didn't know much about it and haven't skied in years, but when else would I get to see the Andes?

Although the 24 hour busride was a bit daunting at first, (and it ended up taking 26 hours!) it actually wasn't too bad and we got to see what the rest of Argentina looked like. There were nine of us in total, four from BC and five others from our language course. We had a good laugh over the strange bootleg films the bus played and the really, really questionable food. It took us a while to get outside Buenos Aires as the city really is huge, but then there wasn't a whole lot of civilization to see. Landwise, Argentina is a very large country, but almost half its population lives in Buenos Aires. We drove by little towns here and there but mostly there were stretches of farms with the occasional gaucho on his horse. It was a strange feeling to wake up in the night on a dark bus with absolutely nothing outside.

Lucky for us, when we woke up in the morning, we were just entering the Patagonia region. No glaciers where we were, but lots of lakes and rock formations. Soon the Andes mountains appeared in the distance thus beginning the slow, winding trek through the mountains. Eventually, we made it to Bariloche. To me, it looked like a cross between a city and a ski village, with a few gingerbread-like cottages thrown in. We arrived at our hostel which turned out to be really nice, it was set on a hill overlooking the town, lake, and mountains.

Over the next few days we took a ferry through the lakes, saw some famous forests, hiked up an inactive volcano, and explored the town center. On the last day we took a chairlift to the top of a mountain and could see an entire rainbow stretched over the surrounding lakes. The town was also very cute and touristy. Bariloche is apparently the Chocolate capital of South America, and the hot cocoa did not disappoint. The shops sold lots of gnomes, which I guess Bariloche is known for and has to do with all of the forests around. We also saw many people walking around selling photo opportunities with St. Bernards. I didn't get a photo, but the puppies were very, very cute.

Also important, Bariloche was the location of the second of three "Kenny" Irish pubs I've found so far in Argentina. I'd been to the Kilkenny pub in Buenos Aires, but Bariloche then had the Wilkenny bar. In both bars the service was unpleasant and drinks overpriced, all a part of the Kenny charm!

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