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Biking around Bariloche

ARGENTINA | Friday, 9 January 2009 | Views [1031]

As it was high season we decided to book ahead in Bariloche and arranged to stay at a place a few km out of town (Alaska Hostel). We said our bon voyages to Aisling and Keith at the terminal and jumped on another bus and got off at km 7.5. The directions the lady in the tourist office gave us were a bit funny so we spent 40 minutes walking uphill in the sweltering heat only to walk 30 minutes back down. We had been sent round 3 and a half sides of a rectangle.

Javier and Nati who had just acquired the hostel gave us a very warm welcome, giving s a lift to the supermarket and arranging mountain bike rental for us the following day. They also introduced us to their little dog who had been horrifically injured in a car accident a few months previously. We had both thought the dog had some sort of communicable skin problem or was just scabby in the extreme so had been avoiding any contact but now we knew the real story were happy to say hello. I had forgotten to go to the bank so went for the 5km round trip with my walkman while Claire prepared dinner and we had an early night in preparation for mountainous exertion.

Just as we got off the bus near the bike rental place we bumped into Johann, a South African in our dorm. It seemed to make sense to stick together so we set off on our good quality American made bikes, which were a far cry from the ones we borrowed in El Bolson. Gears were a good start!

The beginning of the cycle (we were to do the circuito chico, or short circuit) was on a fairly busy road so not much fun but once we made it to the Parque Llao-Llao with its magnificent 5 star hotel and gorgeous Puerto Panuelo things got a lot better. The landscapes were stunning – the clear blue sky and green-purple mountains reflected perfectly in the placid lakes. We took an off road detour to visit Villa Tacul, again, beautiful lakeside scenery. Another detour to Lago Escondido – hidden lake for more of the same and the opportunity to swim, which we passed up on, mostly because cycling in wet pants is not the most fun.

Another 10km or so on the up and down road brought us to the halfway point of the circuit and the pictursque straits where the small Lago Moreno and the massive Lago Nahuel Huapi meet. We decided to have lunch there.

Johann, not the most prepared of fellows had neglected to bring either food or water and also had a curious habit of putting his helmet on backwards .. every time! Having 3 litres of water and a tupperware container full of pasta salad each we divided what we had in three and enjoyed a lovely picnic in the shade as kids messed about in the shallows. Onwards and quite a bit upwards we came to the Punto Panoramico. Johann and Claire had now started walking up the steeper bits of hills so it was clear we didn't have too much left in us. The viewing point shows a spectacular vista across one lake, over the hotel we passed by earlier and all the way to the shore of the larger lake with the mountains seemingly superimposed on to the background. Droves of tourists jostled for their ideal holiday snap, some not even leaving the car or coach. It gave us a sense of achievement knowing that we had cycled up some big hills to see it, and took our time.

A gravelly lakeside beach lay at the bottom of the long, fast hill after the viewpoint so we stopped there as well, paddling our sore smelly feet in the cool of the lake before carrying on to complete the circle. Nati from the hostel had told us about Cerro Campanario, a hill with great views the previous night. As it was only 2 km from the bike rental place I was keen to use the bikes to get there and have a look while we still had them. My fellow cyclists had somewhat less enthusiasm but I managed to persuade them along. Upon arrival we found that there were 2 options to get up to the top – a ski-lift costing 25 pesos return and the last one down was at 18.30 (it was 18.11 as we deliberated) or a 1 km walk straight up. Once again I was the most enthusiastic for the walk, reasoning that if we took the lift up we'd only have to come straight down again. And so the weary cyclists began a very steep ascent to the top.

Even Johann admitted it was worth the pain as the views were absolutely staggering. National Geographic calls it one of the top 10 views on the planet. It was a true 360° experience and it even had a the standard issue cafe on top, sitting in a building with a conical roof that I'm sure I saw in a Roger Moore James Bond years ago. The one where the evil henchmen chased him through the snow dressed all in black.

We clambered back down the dusty track to our bikes and brought them back to the rental place tired but content after about 35km in total. The owner of the rental shop offered us some alfajores and beers which we graciously accepted. The conversation turned to marketing and the potential synergies to be gained by joining forces with the local hostel to feed each other and feed off each others customers. There is definitely a business to be had in consulting to hostels. The only problem is they wouldn't be able to support consultancy fees so I would need to consult for room and board. Which could be fun, but not in the long term.

Johann was really keen to have an asado ... neither Claire nor I were after El Bolson but decided to oblige him as he had never had one before. Claire and I did the shopping and prepared everything. Javier showed me how to use his barrel based parrilla. Johann checked out Facebook and had to be asked to set the table. There wasn't much conversation over dinner – we had tired of his laziness, unawareness and especially his inability to acknowledge that we had fed and watered him all day. Ah well. Another early night beckoned – we were pooped after so much activity.

After we had packed I took the time to do some chores. Trying to sort out tax matters is really boring and especially tedious from another country. We walked the 10 minutes (as it should have been in the first place) to the bus stop and prepared for our last night bus in South America.

Tags: asado, biking, lakes


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