A Travellerspoint blog

El Bolson

Beer fair, snow capped mountains and hiking

sunny 5 °C
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On the 18th, we woke up and checked out of the hostel in Bariloche. We had decided to head for El Bolson, a smaller town two hours to the South, where they have a crafts fair with homemade jams and micro brews. Curtis and Caroline, an English couple we had met in the hostel, were coming with us. In the morning, Jay and Milena decided to coem as well, and so we all set off. We went to the busstation, and caught a bus down there.
In El Bolson, we went to the tourist office, who were really helpful. They had pricelists and pictures from all the hostels and hotels in town. We found a little cabin which could sleep all six of us with no problem, and with a kitchen and living room, all for 100 pesos. Cheap. It even had a view of snowcapped mountains, what more can you ask for.

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We got settled in the cabin, shopped for some food, and then went to the little fair to see what was on offer. Sampled the local cakes and micro brewery beers.

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September 19th, we decided to go for a walk around the area. Again, the tourist office was very helpful, and they gave us several suggestions for hikes, and a map of the area. We ended up hiking up to a rock formation called Cabeza del Indio - the Indian head. The trip took about one and a half hours, up to a mirador where you could see the shape that gave the rock its name.

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From there, we went on to a waterfall called Cascada Escondida. Took another couple of hours to get to, but it was well worth it, as the waterfall was amazing - much larger than I expected.

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All in all we had some great hiking, with fantastic views over the valley and the surrounding mountains, and we passed through great nature.

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On the 20th, we booked some bus and plane tickets, for the travelling we will be doing over the next week or so. We did some laundry and went to the bank. All the practicalities out of the way, we hung around the cabin, and took a walk around town again. We then made a huge stack of empanadas (60 - it took ages!), to take with us as travel snacks. They turned out pretty good.

The 21st, we checked out of the cabin. We had booked an evening bus to Puerto Madryn, and instead of staying in El Bolson, we went down to Esquel with Jay and Milena, to kill time till the bus left. Esquel was totally dead, so we all walked around bored most of the day. At 10 pm we went to the bus station and caught the bus to Puerto Madryn, while Jay and Milena stayed on to do some snowboarding in Esquel.

Posted by monkyhands 13:52 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Bariloche

Lakes, snow covered mountains and pine forests.

rain 5 °C
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On September the 7th, we woke up on the Andesmar bus, and still had around six hours to go to our destination. There were some movies, and then they decided to have a bingo game on the bus. We all got little bingo plates, and the bus guy called out numbers. To my great amusement, Alan won! The price was a bottle of Andesmar bus wine - and the steward then asked Alan if he would say a few words - hilarious! Alan responded with his best Elvis imitation voice: "Thank you very much". Really made me laugh.
We arrived in Bariloche, and checked into Albergue El Gaucho.

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We then realised we had left our fishing rods in Mendoza - typical. So we went to a tackle shop and bought some new ones - really cheap actually, and this time we got telescopic ones, so they fit in the bag.

September 8th, we went on a trip up to the top of the nearest mountain to Bariloche, called Cerro Otto. The altitude at the top is 1405 meters. We took a free bus from town to the base of the mountain, and then took the cable lift up to the top, for 35 pesos. Not cheap, but the ride was cool.

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The weather was slightly cloudy, but still, the views from the top were spectacular.

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There was snow at the top of the mountain, and people were skiing and toboganning right there. There was a revolving restaurant at the top, and we had a cup of hot chocolate there, and took in the views.

September 9th, we got up late and went down to the living room in the hostel to watch the Ireland-Namibia rugby game. Then we walked around and had a look at the town. Its a very charming, tranquil town to just stroll around in. Most of the architecture is in an alpine style, with logs and stone as the main materials.

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September 10th, the weather was miserable - grey skies, light drizzling rain all day, and the sun never showed its face. It felt like a mid-November day in Denmark. We didn't feel much like going out, so we just cozied up in a warm room.

September 11th was a brilliant contrast to the day before - warm, sparkling sunshine, tall blue sky and clean, crisp mountain air. We went out for a walk out of town along the lake shore. An hour or so in, we flagged down a bus and rode out further, to an area called the Llao Llao peninsula. There's a little town there called Puerto Panuelo, where they have boats across the lake Lago Nahuel Huapi to Chile. We had the fishing rods with us, and were trying to find an access to Lago Moreno, where you are allowed to fish this time of year. But the whole lake shore was private property, with fences and "keep out" signs. Guess we were on the wrong side of the lake - we'll have to take a different bus next time. But we had a nice walk around the area anyway, and the views of the Lago Nahuel Huapi were nice.

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After a while, we took the bus back to town. When we got back to the hostel, Jay and Milena, whom we had met in Roatan, had arrived.

September 12th, we had a lazy day. Read a crappy book, and then we swapped movies with Jay and Milena, and looked at eachothers pictures on the laptops.

On the 13th, we went toboganning on Cerro Otto mountain, with Jay and Milena, at a spot called Piedras Blancas. A van picked us up at the hostel, and took us to a rental place where we got some gloves and waterproof pants. Then he took us up to the mountain, where they rent out little sleighs and have lifts and runs. Its coming in to spring now, and the snow was quite wet. But it was still great fun, flying down the mountain side on this little bum-sleigh. The runs were around 800 meters long,

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At 3pm, the van took us back to the hostel - wet, cold and tired.

September 14th was another grey day in Bariloche.

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We were sore from all the falling over the day before, and just chilled out and relaxed at the hostel.

On the 15th, we went in search of bus tickets out of Bariloche. We walked all over town, but we had forgotten about the Argentinian siesta - most shops are closed from 1pm to 5pm - annoying. We waited around for the offices to open, but then we couldn't find a company that went to Puerto Madryn. We will have to just go to the bus station.

On the 16th, we took a long walk around town, just enjoying the air and relaxing. Found some funny phonebooths, in keeping with the town's alpine theme.

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They even have Saint Bernard dogs around town, with little barrels of booze, that you can have your picture taken with.

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We also spotted a hilariously named children's clothing shop, which made us laugh:

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In the evening, we had a traditional Argentinian sunday barbecue, and ate lots of meat.

September 17th, Alan and Jay went snowboarding at Cerro Catedral, Bariloche's main ski area. I was feeling lousy, and stayed at the hostel. Al said he enjoyed the snowboarding to en enxtent, and had fun - but its not his kind of thing (no surprise really).

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Posted by monkyhands 09:34 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Mendoza

Quick stop for a wine tour

sunny 22 °C
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Woke up on the bus to find we were nearly in Mendoza already. Even though we had slept OK, we were still dazed and tired - travelling just takes it out of you. A girl and her father approached us about their hostel, and as they were cheaper than anyone we had found online, we went with them. They wanted 15 pesos per dorm bed, or 20 per person in a double room, so we went with the double. We checked in, then walked around town for several hours, just taking it in. Mendoza has 130.000 inhabitants, and the centre is very charming - like Salta it is full of colonial buildings and open squares. We had some cheap food in the market - empanadas and choripan. Then we shopped around for some warm clothes, and found ourselves a couple of nice fleeces. The climate here in Mendoza is extremely comfortable, with sunny days of around 22 degrees - perfect really. But our next destinations are all in the far South, in Patagonia, and we are going to need something warm to wear.
That night, the family that runs the hostel organised an Argentinian barbecue, which was great fun. Lots of wine, and lots and lots of steak.

On September 5th, we spent the morning walking around town again. Then in the afternoon we went on a winetour. A minibus picked us up at the hotel, and then took us to two wineries and an olive oil factory. The first winery was big, and though there were some interesting sights, the tour was disappointing. They gave us one little taste of a crappy wine, with no accompanying explanations or descriptions. In the olive oil factory, the tour was more interesting, and we got to taste their oil, as well as the raisins and dried tomatoes they produce, and also sampled an olive oil moisturiser they produce. In the last winery, the tour was also great - very informative - and they let us taste a couple of wines, a malbec, which the area is famous for, and a cabernet. The guide was very good at explaning how to taste and what to taste for - good for me, who knows nada about wine. Alan bought a bottle of the cabernet.

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As a last stop on the tour, we visited a church, where they have a virgin statue which is considered miraculous. She is known as the virgin of the grapes. The most interesting thing about the church, at least in my opinion, was a hugely tall pine tree growing in the courtyard. It is apparantly 150 years old, and was there before the church.

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After this, we returned to Medoza, and cooked ourselves some great steaks from the supermarket. They were tender as butter, and we got a huge steak each for $3 all together.

The 6th of September, we hung around Mendoza. Had an ice cream on the square and enjoyed the sunshine. Then we waited in the hostel till our bus left at 8pm, heading for Bariloche. On the bus, we watched a movie and went to sleep.

Posted by monkyhands 21:45 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Salta

Short stopover

sunny 20 °C
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On September 2nd, we spent the day relaxing in Salta. It is quite a large city, with 500.000 inhabitants, but it feels smaller and very chilled, and the centre is lovely with colonial buildings and beautiful squares with sidewalk cafes. We bought some great cold cuts and cheeses from the supermarket and had a picnic in the square. Then we had some coffee at a side walk cafe, and watched people walking past. We walked around an artisan's market and looked at the goods, and samples some of the homemade cookies. They do these cookie sandwiches here in Argentina - alfajores - and they stuff them with dulce de leche, a sort of thick caramel - extremely rich, you can only eat one or two, but quite good. Went back to the square, and watched as it got dark and the lights came on at the cathedral across the street.

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We met some fun kiwis, and had drinks and later dinner with them. Steak dinner with wine worked out at around $20 for both of us - not so cheap, but not bad for a great steak.

September third, we were once again on the move. We hung around Salta again during the day, waiting for an evening bus to Mendoza. The bus turned out great - the seats reclined all the way to horizontal, and the service onboard was excellent - no one sitting in the aisles here. Definetely a huge step up from the Bolivian busses, although the prices also take a leap up. We managed to get some decent sleep.

Posted by monkyhands 18:34 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

From La Paz to Salta in Argentina

1326 kilometers in two days

sunny 6 °C
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On the 31st of August, we caught a plane from La Paz to Sucre, Bolivia, at 1pm. We landed in Sucre airport at 2pm. Happy to be on the move again, we decided to head straight to Potosi from there. We took a "flota" (s kind of fast, shared taxi) from downtown Sucre to Potosi - we had to wait almost an hour for them to fill the car, but after that the ride only took two and a half hours, through some amazing mountain landscape, and we were in Potosi by 5pm.
Potosi being the highest city in the world (whereas La Paz is the highest capital), at 4090 meters elevation, it did not exactly provide the repreive from La Paz's altitude that we were looking for. So, we booked a bus for the same evening at 8pm, furhter south to the town of Villazon on the Bolivian/Argentinian border. The bus initially seemed decent for Bolivian standards, with soft seats and decent leg space. The denomination of sleeper bus is random here though, and in this case the seats reclined about an inch. It got worse, as we soon realised they had overbooked the bus, so people were sitting in the aisle (gets quite annoying when some guy keeps falling asleep on your legs). And then we saw that there was no toilet on board - on a 10 hour bus ride! But, these things turned out to be the least of our problems on this bus ride... About an hour out of Potosi, the bus his something - something big enough, and hit it hard enough, that the bus very nearly toppled over, and this is a big, heavy double decker bus we are talking about. We were sitting downstairs, with no view out the front, so we have no idea what it was (- the driver later claimed it was a cow). The impact shook everyone around a bit, but noone was hurt. Several people wanted to get out to see what had happened, but the driver refused to open the door, and after a couple of minutes, he drove on. The impact however, has smashed the whole front of the bus, and had broken the windscreen. But this is not enough to stop a Bolivian bus driver, so we continued through the night with the icy mountain air streeming in through the broken front end of the bus - it was like a freezer inside the bus, and we had nothing to keep us warm but our silk sheet bags and thin rain jackets - it was a complete nightmare!! To top it all off, a drunken man sitting on the steps had been woken up by the crash, and for much of the way he was singing drunken, incomprehensible songs in a loud voice.

This continued into the next morning of September 1st. Naturally, we got no sleep at all, and by the time we got to Villazon at 6am, we were stiff from the cold, and extremely tired. This ride definetely makes it to my top three of the worst bus rides of all time!
In Villazon, we had some croissants and cups of hot tea, to thaw our frozen bodies. Then we crossed the border with no problems, and were now in Argentina! The Argentinian border town of La Quiaca was small and dusty, although visibly more ordered and clean than the Bolivian side. As we were feeling better from the tea, and there was little of anything to do in La Quiaca, we caught a 9 am bus to Salta. The ride took seven hours through some amazing desert landscape. We saw some beautiful mountains at the town of Humahuaca, which had an amazing array of colours in the stone - apparantly they are known as the mountains of seven colours. We got stopped and had our bags searched at one checkpoint, but it is routine for busses coming from the Bolivian border. By 4pm we arrived in Salta, and checked into a hotel to get cleaned up from our marathon plane-taxi-bus-bus tour.

Posted by monkyhands 20:25 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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