This week started with a 21 hour bus ride from Buenos Aries to 4 days in the post card perfect Bariloche. Now you might be thinking, well that’s a waste of ones life spending a day in a bus, but these long journeys will become a frequent occasion for us as the normal means of transport in South America, with little or no train options and expensive flights since we are booking as we go. The Via Bariloche bus was actually real comfy as we went for the executive option the seats pretty much lean right back, had a little kitchenette on board and included some average Kai that even the glutard could eat.
📍San Carlos Bariloche, Rio Negro
Our first impression of Bariloche was definitely summed up by the view from our hostel, Penthouse 1004. This is the recommended accomodation in both lonely planet and rough guides, and did not disappoint. Bariloche is kind of like an Argentine married a Swiss and set up shop at a bigger version Queenstown, with outdoor centric town complete with cheese fondue and parrillas.
Backpacker central, you definitely fitted in wearing tramping boots and those heinously practical zip off trousers which I refuse to let Phill buy. Bariloche is the gateway to the Nahuel Huapi National park, hosting some awesome hikes in summer and the lagest ski field in the Southern Hemisphere in winter.
Our first mission was out to the head of Nahuel Huapi Lago. Jumping on the public bus literally jammed under someone’s armpit appeared the completely normal way to ride. The hike started at the lush Hotel Llao Llao, and headed out the headland up to the lookout. The walk was pretty mild with the exception of the 30min straight uphill to the lookout, but well worth it at the top for view accompanied by our crackers with cheese and salami for lunch.
After sussing some bus admin in the morning, we spent the next afternoon up Cerro Otto. The gondola up was way overpriced but we had already bussed out and hoped the view at the top would be worth it. The revolving restaurant at the top was super weird so we just hiked off to the unpatrolled area to the highest point looking out over the lake.
Our last full day in Bariloche we caught the bus out to Lago Gutierrez. Walking a few k’s along the gravel road beside the lake led us up the forest area to a sweet waterfall, and a further sweaty 40min climb uphill took us to another lookout across the lake. We are quickly getting use to waiting being the norm here, after waiting an hour for our initial bus out we had to wait another hour for the bus back on the side of the gravel road seemingly in the middle of no where, and hope it’s not full when it eventually turns up. It’s even making Auckland public transport look good in comparison.
Our favourite restaurant so far was recommended by a local, and I’m going to rave about it a bit here. Huacho is only a month old, but the smoking meat house was delicious. Now I’m not one to usually go back to a place twice when travelling since there are so many new eateries to try, but this was an exception between our home cooked meals. Set up by two young guys, their home made pallet furniture and Fat Freddy’s Drop background tunes set the place up for success. Our fav was sharing the grilled cheese entree, the 500g befe de chorizo (sirloin), grilled veges and the white chocolate mousse for dessert. They had also partnered with a local winery, sampling a delicious bottle of Melbec for $17 NZD which in comparison to home is cheap as chips.
The local pub Manush was also a good time, with happy hour between 6-8. They have a huge range of craft beers we had a fun night here sampling honey beer and different pale ales with two Brisbane locals Nina and Tristan we met at the hostel.
Next stop 25 hour bus ride to El Calafate, Patagonia
Now there had been a few negative reviews of the bus to El Calafate, but with limited options we had to grin our teeth and roll with it. The run down buses only go every second day and are around $200 NZD, and made our first bus to Bariloche seem like business class. A significant part of the trip down Ruta 40 is on gravel roads, with a super barren landscape broken up by herds of random wild Llamas.
📍El Calafate, Patagonia
Set on the side of Lago Argentina dotted with flamingos, El Calafate and its neighbour El Chalten are the hiking capitals of Argentina with their proximity to the Andes. We arrived pretty dead after the bus, but luckily had a super nice B&B called Nau which was really modern in a recently renovated warehouse. We only had one night here before moving to American Del Sur hostel which was the recommended one in Lonley planet etc. but for the same price having a way nicer private room would have rather stayed put at the B&B.
El Calafate has heaps of outdoor adventure activities, but with the W trek coming up we weren’t keen to shell out $90 to go zip lining or horse trekking. The highlight of our time here was definitely Glaciar Perito Moreno. Taking an early morning bus out, we wandered around the boardwalks feeling insignificantly small next to the 5km wide, 70m tall glacier. It was constantly creaking and we even got to see some big ice hunks carving off the side to join the iceberg river beneath. We were pretty lucky with the weather, it just started to rain as we were leaving and other friends had been here the week before and could barely see the glacier for fog. In total the glacier trip cost us $78 NZD each for bus and park entry, but is definitely one of those activities you just have to fork out for.
Bargain food of the trip so far (aside from my $2 empanadas everywhere) was definitely the random mix of ham, provolone cheese, olives and dried prosciutto we picked up at the supo . Basically 1kg of everything delicious you could think of, for $7! So far we definitely haven’t been eating like peasants for our home cooked hostel feeds and this lasted us for dinner and lunch.
Next stop 🔜 over to Chile for the W trek!