San Carlos de Bariloche, the ‘queen’ of the Lakes Dristict

By the time we got to Bariloche, the ‘queen’ of the Andean Lakes District, it was already dark and we had no idea where we were going to stay. We grabbed a few flyers from the bus terminal and, as we were about to get on a bus to the centre, a guy approached us: ‘The best hostel in Bariloche! Breakfast included and free dinner, all for 50 pesos’. It was an easy decision to make, so very soon we were on the way to Hostel Inn.

We made it in time for dinner, which was being served until 10pm (dinners in Argentina are really late affairs, usually starting aroun 9pm). We had asked the guy if they had vegetarian options and of course he told us they did. When we got there, starving as we were, the meal was rice and chicken. And the vegetarian version of that was… rice… with traces of melted cheese. We’re definitely not big fans of rice, but we emptied the plate anyway, and after that we were left asking: ‘So, where shall we go for dinner?’ We made sure we asked if this was always what they meant by vegetarian option and they said it happened that day only because they were not prepared, but they will certainly have proper vegetarian food from then on. And they indeed had it, until our last day, when on the menu there was rice (again!!) and sausage, so the vegetarian option of that was … rice. This time even without the cheese!! We were lucky that we had had a late and huge lunch that day, so we were ok with skipping dinner…

We had made big plans for Bariloche, but when we went around asking the next day it appeared that most things we wanted to do were either too expensive or not possible anymore because of the weather. Or we just did not find them attractive enough. We were especially looking forward to the paragliding, but the wind was not right in either of the 4 days we were there. Good news was the hostel we were staying in was indeed pretty cool and comfortable, we were somewhere high up on a hill and had a great view of the town and the Nahuel Huapi lake. It was very clean and warm too, we could sleep in T-shirts again and we always considered that a special treat! The place was pretty big, hence there were lots of backpackers around. We loved this, as for the past month or so we had stayed mostly in small places where, due to it being low season as well, there were almost no people besides us. So we enjoyed mingling and chatting to the awesome people we met there, taking time to read, write and simply relax.

We ended up relaxing this way for 3 days in a row, with only short walks around and then the nights at the pub nearby, where we had 2 for 1 vouchers from the hostel for beer and Marguerita. The marguerita was pretty unique, as they used sugar instead of salt. Even Boca, who is a sugarholic, had to switch to beer at some point because it was a bit too much to take. There were very few people there each evening and they were mostly from our hostel, so it was always very quiet. We tried to go dancing one of the nights but it was a total failure – we went searching for a club we never actually found, but instead we found 3 or 4 other ones that were either closed or empty. The low season in Bariloche is definitely not the right time for hard-core partying! We did hear that the peak season is though, so it all depends on what you’re looking for while there :-).

We very much enjoyed our walks around the city and we could definitely see ourselves even living there for a bit in case the opportunity ever arose. The city had a very fresh, relaxed and mountain like feel, and walking by the wooden and brick houses was a delight. The most common shops around were the chocolate shops, so if this is your thing you’ll find this place a small Paradise. Lots of other sweets and pastry shops as well, so plenty of variety. Also a very common sight around is the beautiful Saint Bernard; you can see it live or see its picture on clothing, mugs and all sorts of souvenirs. The Bariloche people have chosen this mountain animal as their symbol, and they seem very proud of it too. Well, if it makes them happy… :).

The day before we left Bariloche we finally made it on a bit of a longer trip, up the Cerro Campanero. We got to use a lift to go up there, a ‘transportation’ mean we were using for the first time on the trip – quite fun! A while ago the view from up there was declared by National Geographic one of the Top 10 views of the World; we were intrigued and when we got there we agreed the view was quite special. It was a cloudy day so we could not see the peaks of the surrounding mountains, but we were sure the view was that much more spectacular on a clear sunny day.

On the way home that day we stopped by a supermarket (and it was not easy to find one which was open, as apparently people do take their siesta very seriously in Argentina – everything is closed from 1 to 4pm) to buy the ingredients for the Chilean dish we had all missed so much– salmon a la pobre. The problems started when we couldn’t find the salmon (we had to settle for some breaded fish instead) and continued in the hostel’s kitchen, where we spent at least two hours burning pretty much every pot around, as they were all being just so difficult… they must have known we were making a Chilean dish in Argentina and decided make it hard for us to even fry an egg… We managed not to throw anything away though, so we called it a success. The food we put on the table at the end looked nothing like salmon a la pobre, but we were very proud of ourselves nevertheless. The taste was unique and we were happy! That was all that mattered in the end!:)

 

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