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Sube Sube Stephen Hey all, hoping that you'll follow my journey along the way and that we'll be able to stay in touch as much as possible. Hopefully some of you will join me along the way!


ARGENTINA | Wednesday, 7 March 2018 | Views [231]

Ah crap, I'm beginning to get pretty bad with writing timely updates. That's a good sign, yes? Anyways...

Lush green forests, deep blue lakes, unreal vistas, good beer and an overpriced Main Street designed specifically for tourists. Five days in Bariloche was the beginning of the next four weeks of my Patagonia. After narrowly surviving and making the flight from Mendoza, the first day in town was used to conduct a self guided walking tour to get our bearings. The hikes and outdoor activities are west and south of downtown, culminating with an amazing 25 kilometer loop with hiking, biking and the renowned Cerveceria Patagonia. The lone noteworthy occurence on the first night was the big ole family feast at the hostel, where everyone made food, native to their country. There were Americans, French, German, English and of course Argentian. I’m not really sure what “American” food is so I just made chicken fajitas as best I could. Felt good to do some cooking since it hasn’t been a regular thing during this trip beyond some breakfasts and salads. Beyond that we had empanadas, meatballs and rice, some german potato dish, guacamole, etc. Quite the good and varied spread!

Day 2 meant time for some serious hiking so instead of doing an easy one first, I just dove right in. After waiting a little longer than expected for the not so “regular” local bus, Norma and I arrived at the trailhead for the Refugio Frey hike with a couple other people who had been waiting for the bus. I don’t recall the exact roundtrip distance, but we took our sweet time enjoying the hike on a beautiful sunny day. We started at about 11 and barely caught the 8 PM bus back into town. The first hour plus of the hike follows the western edge of Lago Gutierrez, which like the rest of the lakes in Bariloche, is a brilliant royal blue, providing an amazing contrast to the green trees of the forest. After this portion, the trail cut into the forest on dirt trails flanked with tall trees, yellow wild flowers and a stream from the mountain top. Then we hit the hard part. The last 30 minutes or so were uphill, climbing over rocks and sections of shale to get to the Refugio Frey base camp. After the cool air in the forest, this bit was a sweltering mess in the cloudless sky. Thank goodness a refreshing swim awaited. Past the little hostel/campsite sat the small, shallow Alpine Lake. I unfortunately didn’t have my trunks on, so I only went knee deep but the girls; however, went ahead and dove all the way under. Lucky bastards!. After a good chicken, cheese, avocado and tomato sandwich, two hours of lounge time and countless photos, we headed back. After logging all those kilometers and being in the sun for the majority of the day, we needed a rest day.

After the rest day, it was time for more activity! One of the most popular day trips to do in Bariloche is to rent bicycles and do the Circuito Chico Loop, the 25 kilometer loop around several of the lakes in northwest Bariloche. For us; however, the roundtrip was closer to 40 kilometers as we were a little east of the starting point. Also unfortunately for us, the bikes at the hostel were mountain bikes and not road bikes, making some of the uphill parts ridiculously difficult; as in we needed to walk the bikes up the hill difficult. We did benefit from not being charged for the rental; 20 bucks well saved!

The ride was unbelievably fun and beautiful. You go past forests, lakes and beaches with numerous viewpoints along the way as well as downhill sections where you can whip around bends in the road. While the mountain bikes weren’t ideal for the road, at least the brakes worked quite well! It was good practice for the Death Road in Bolivia! After four plus hours of riding around, walking to viewpoints and eating lunch, we had to cap of the day with a few pints at Cerveceria Patagonia, possibly the best located bar I’ve ever been to. And if it’s not, than it definitely has the best beer garden in the world. The back of the brewpub looked out onto a lake, with the whole scene covered in the late afternoon sun. We grabbed a couple of pints and plopped down on a couple bean bags. Nothing could beat the view and good ales in that moment and with an atmosphere like that it was impossible to not make friends. Tommy and Eddie, an Irish and a British lad, respectively, were a couple of good blokes to have a beer and an empanada with. Tommy ended up joining Norma and myself on further travels to El Chalten and El Calafate. Seems we’re all going to the same places in Patagonia, just potentially in different directions.

On the last day I did one last minor hike, only about three hours total called Cerro Loma. It was supposed to just be a solo thing before going back to town to meet up with Norma, Tommy and Eddie, but of course I met people at the top also enjoying the amazing views and lunch. In the end, the four of us rode the bus back to town to go to this good brewpub called Manush. There were so many cervecerias in Bariloche but this one was a favorite: twice in five days. Just like Tommy did, one of the newbies, Eleanor from San Fran ended up joining along on additional travel destinations as well. Our party just keeps on growing.

Next day, Tommy, Norma and I caught the 6 am bus to El Chalten, just your average, run of the mill 24-hour bus ride. It sounds terrible and while it wasn’t great, between sleeping, watching Netflix, podcasts, the scenery and movies in Spanish on the bus, it was somehow tolerable. I must say that Bridesmaids in Spanish without subtitles wasn’t too hard to understand and is still hilarious. Ted not so much; and two of the Twilight movies? No chance I was watching that garbage, hot young co-eds and all.

The journey was absolutely worth it. Tiny El Chalten and its 2,000 person population is the mecca for amazing hikes five to ten minutes outside of town. And best of all, the parks are free, you can drink the water straight from the stream and there are good happy hours starting as early as 3:00 PM. This is where the might and epic beauty of Patagonia was experienced for the first time.


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