After some gloriously lazy weeks in Punta del Este and a whirlwind tour of Bueno Aires with Elizabeth, Carlos and Delia, the desire to move became overwhelming. We were off – sans bikes and highly mobile.
First stop, Barbie’s apartment in Buenos Aires, we commandeered the house and stormed around the city in order to purchase all items necessary to become smelly backpackers; and so it was with thermal long johns in hand that we ran to the airport — destination Bariloche in the northern region of Patagonia.
Bariloche is a popular tourist destination, all wooden chalet-style accommodation and chocolate shops, located by the massive and sparkling sapphire-blue “Lago Nahuel Huapi” and embraced by forested mountains. After eating a revolting salad (consisting of equal quantities of salad and mayonnaise) we went back to our cosy room in Perikos Hostel to plan further adventures.
Our first trip took us by ferry northward through the lake, then on a short bus trip to another ferry ride where we arrived at the starting point for “Paso de las Nubes” trek which we planned to do in three days. After the first days hike we were rewarded with a completely deserted camping area that had a spectacular view of an enormous glacier which is incrementally being shoved off the edge of a cliff. All through the night, safe and cosy in our sleeping bags, we could hear the creaking and groaning of tortured ice threatening to come crashing down around us.
Our next trek took us through much more spectacular and mountainous landscapes, we trekked to Refugio Frey close to the ski-fields to the west of the town. We had a pretty terrible first night perched on a windy and dusty pile of rocks. Luckily our dinner was hot, cheesy and had ham in it, otherwise there may have been more of a breakdown on my part because the dust that was filling up our tent made me very sad.
The following day took us up and up past a lake that was every possible shade of blue and ultramarine, it was almost enticing enough to swim in — almost, but not quite.
After so much up, the afternoon took us down through a long, slippery and steep scree field, we ended up very tired and with shoes brimming with dust, rocks and dusty rocks. By the evening we were very glad to arrive at Refugio Jakob which offered us a campsite in a much more sheltered position among the trees.
During this trek we met a Swiss couple who mentioned an amazing place that they had been before Bariloche — apparently the best hostel in Argentina — how could we possibly not go to see for ourselves? This is why we found ourselves on a bus bound for El Bolson.
El Bolson is about an hour and a half by bus south of Bariloche, a hippy enclave since the eighties with a thrice-weekly market selling everything hand-made, from mittens to chopping boards and matés to hand puppets. The first two nights we spent in a family-owned-and-populated hostel in town and prepared for another three-day trek into the valley behind the town.
Thankfully we had our beloved Hubba Hubba tent, as it is a well known fact with backpackers throughout Argentina that Refugio “Hielo Azul”, the first stop on the trail has a bed bug infestation. Eeeeek!
The first day of hiking was initially quite steep but smoothed out to be a lovely day of walking and we arrived at the Refugio (which, despite its infamy is very cute) in the late afternoon. We set up our tent with the first snow of the season picturesquely falling upon us.
The following chilly morning we set out with the snow still falling, we made it up over and down into the next valley by late afternoon. And what a lovely warm reception from a clamorous family of cats, bleating sheep and a hot cup of tea compliments of Refugio “Cajon del Azul”. This place has to be one of our favorite places in Argentina thus far. The owner moved into this spectacular landscape during the late 70´s in order to create a self-sufficient lifestyle for himself, planting fruit trees and “una huerta” or vegetable garden. Possibly getting a bit lonely in such a remote place he gradually began to allow trekkers to stay on his property, thirty years later it is a comfortable and warm place to stay with wood-fired hot showers(!), home brewed beer and “pan casero”.
We were excited to return to El Bolson as we had reservations at the famed Casona del Odile, which is located on a beautiful piece of land outside the town, with lovely young owners and a very chilled vibe, perfect for relaxing and meeting other travellers. We loved it!
(Many) more photos to come!!!