Tuesday, December 17, 2013

San Carlos de Bariloche and its surroundings (October 30th - November 11th, 2013)

San Carlos de Bariloche was our first encounter with beautiful Patagonian nature and I immediately fell in love with it. Many beautiful lakes in which we could see reflection of the surrounding mountains made me even want to retire here one day.

October 30th - Arrival 
We were already amazed by the sceneries when approaching Bariloche on the long bus ride from Buenos Aires. A black road in the middle of beautiful nature, with many lakes and colorful mountains. At around 4 P.M. we arrived at the bus station of Bariloche, seemingly designed just to fit the surrounding scenery. A taxi then took us to Universal Traveler Lodge Hostel. This place with a bit of a weird name is run by quirky Ruben. Quickly this became our favourite hostel in South America. Ruben opened this hostel just recently and the whole hostel felt more like a large house and home than a hostel.

October 31st - Town
The weather prediction for this day was just so-so, and thus we did not make many plans. In the end, the weather turned out to be better than expected. We stopped at the information center to get more info about hiking in Bariloche's surroundings, wandered a bit around the lake and visited the cathedral.

It turned out to be a beautiful day

November 1st - Circuito Chico
Ruben from our hostel booked us bikes for Circuito Chico. Additionally, he lent us the hostel's card for public transportation. Once we'd arrived by bus to the start of Circuito Chico, we rented the bikes and started biking. The weather was absolutely amazing and this turned out to be the best day of our stay in Bariloche.

Laura with our bikes

Beautiful lakes

And beautiful channels connecting them

This lake is called Lago Escondido - Hidden Lake, as it is not directly connected to any other lake

One more picture from this fairy tale land

November 2nd - Hike to Refugio Frey
The next day we planned to go to Refugio Lopez - we'd seen the start of the trail head the day before on our bike trip. Unfortunately, we hadn't studied the bus schedule beforehand, and realized that the next bus was supposed to go in two hours. We thus changed our plans and went to Refugio Frey instead. Thanks to cheap mobile Internet I quickly managed to research the route to Frey. As we were there still too early in the year, the most spectacular route (Frey por el Filo) was out of the question due to too much snow and non-operational chairlifts. Thus, we settled for the standard route up and down. We met two girls from the U.S. and chatted the whole way up and down. The scenery was not as impressive as during the biking trip, because we could not see any cool reflections in the lake. The Refugio Frey is a nice hut with a lake next to it, which was completely covered by snow. We asked about possibilities of doing hut-to-hut hiking, but were discouraged because of too much snow everywhere. On the way down I started to feel a bit weak and was blowing my nose constantly.

Refugio Frey

It was almost winter anywhere above Refugio Frey

November 3rd and 4th - Being Sick
The next two days we spent in bed with a cold and fever. The first day I was the one who needed to be taken care of, and the day after it was more Laura whom I was looking after. Unfortunately, these were the last two days of sunny weather for a while.

November 5th and 6th - Bad Weather
We had not completely recovered, so we did not mind much that the weather was bad. The first day we just used Internet, the second day in addition to using Internet we got tested for Chagas disease. We were a bit scared as I got one strange bite on my face while sleeping in an adobe building in Humahuaca, and we'd spent over two months in Bolivia, where this disease is very common. We went to a private lab. The woman working there was very friendly and we paid just seven euros per person for the test.

November 7th - Cerro Campanario
The weather was slightly better, so we decided to visit Cerro Campanario with a Spanish couple staying at our hostel. Cerro Campanario should have one of the best 360-degree views in the world. It was a nice and easy hike up, but the view from the top was not as impressive as we'd hoped for. We could only see something in the direction of Bariloche, everywhere else it was quite cloudy. We promptly returned to town, continued working on our blog and in the evening picked up the results for the Chagas test, which were fortunately negative.

Only views in this direction were good

November 8th - Swiss Colony
The weather prediction was again not good so we went to see the Swiss Colony. It was definitely not the right day of the week to go there (it should be more lively on weekends), and we were honestly quite underwhelmed.

The not-so-special Swiss Colony

November 9th - Cerro Campanario II
We had a car reserved for this day in order to go and see the Seven Lakes. However, the weather prediction was even slightly worse than for the previous day and one Belgian couple who had done the route gave us the impression that it is not worth it in this weather. We ended up cancelling the car already the previous evening. In the morning, the weather was surprisingly good, and we with no plans - but not for long. We quickly decided to go to Cerro Campanario once more and it was totally worth it. The views from the top were just excellent and this time in all directions.

Perfect views in all directions

This view was also great

On the top we had a good pizza in a small restaurant. We were soon discovered by a hungry cat. She was so hungry that she was even grateful for pizza crusts and we gave her almost all of them.

Radek and the pizza-eating cat

In the evening we found out that the five-day trip to El Chaltén via Carretera Austral that we had booked got cancelled as it did not have enough participants. A bit unhappy, we to a local restaurant to improve our moods with a great dinner.

Laura smiling because of the beautifully-designed  food at Manush

November 10th - Refugio Lopez
As our trip got cancelled we decided to do one more hike, this time to Refugio Lopez. Even though we had been told that the Frey hike is nicer, we got the impression that the hike to Refugio Lopez provides much better views. Unfortunately, we could not continue above the hut as everything was covered in deep snow.

Compared to Bolivia, trails in Argentina are perfectly marked

Refugio Lopez was still surrounded by snow

Laura and a funny tree

On the way back from Lopez we bought tickets for the next day to go to El Calafate.

November 11th - Departure
In the morning it was again raining a bit, so we took a taxi to the bus station and departed for our longest bus ride so far, lasting about 30 hours.

As usually, we have many more pictures and also contributed to OpenStreetMap.

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