Hola from Argentina
Yes I´m finally in the country everyone raves about. I think I´ll be here for around 6 weeks which should include Argentinian Patagonia. From the Chilean border we had to drive for quite a few miles through no man´s land, which just happened to be in a national park. The roads had turned very misty, it was quite spooky really. Then suddenly we turned a corner and there was snow. Where had that come from ? (Answers on a postcard if you can find me !!) The temperature has dropped and we stopped at the immigration office for a search of the bus and to get out stamps. I´d actually lost one of my Chilean ones but feigned ignorance and the process was really pretty quick. Although they did scrutinise the Russians in front of me for ages. The comical thing was while in the queue I noticed a wanted poster up on the wall with a US$100,000 reward. Was I in the wild west again ? I wanted to take a picture but at the same time I wanted to be allowed in to the country so thought better of it.
My initial impressions are, the country is huge. Better prepare myself for some more long journeys. The men have suddenly improved considerably. Yes the scenery is rather nice. They drive like maniacs. In Chile it´s pretty civilised, here it´s cross the road at your peril and how they don´t crash at the many crossroads I´ll never know. In general they are a lot fairer, there are even ginger Argentinians – imagine that !! There are a few people that still look tribal but in general I could be in Europe.
We arrived in Bariloche and I caught a taxi to my hostel. By a small miracle I managed to get the last bed in the place. I´m staying at Penthouse 1004, it is on the top floor of an office building and the views are stunning(the picture shows it). If Pucon is Wanaka mixed with a Swiss alpine village then this is Queenstown mixed with a Swiss alpine town only twice the size and without the bungys. 100,000 people live here. Although it´s definitely set up for tourists you can see a lot of locals live here.
I went to the tourist information to see what I wanted to do. I haven´t decided how long I´m going to be here. The tourist office is in the main square which is very picturesque. In the centre are a few St. Bernard dogs with little red cross barrels around their necks. You´re supposed to pay to have your photo taken with them. Bit naff but the puppies were cute. Bariloche is also full of chocolate shops. Good looking men and chocolate what more could a girl ask for ? I went to eat in a place called “Family Weiss” and had an absolutely stunning meal. Wild boar with raspberry sauce, mashed apples, spatzels and a side order of creamed spinach. I feel like a queen !! The presentation was amazing, and vegetables finally, it´s been a while. I´m getting a bit sick of bread, it´s served with everything and when you´re hungry you just can´t help yourself. I went for a walk and on the way back to the hostel came across a man drumming on upside down plastic buckets. I´m not sure if he wanted money….yes, I´m liking Argentina already !!
Today is a day of organisation. The boilers broken at home, my Skype needs topping up, the internet banking has locked me out (no doubt as I´m in South America), I need to get flights organised for when my friend Jane arrives and accomodation. I want to book a tour, update the blog and get a bit of culture. Amazingly, I´ve managed to do everything. I went to the Museum of Patagonia first which had a lot of history about the original tribes and some great stuffed animals. The man is coming to fix the boiler, skype is topped up, my banking is working again, I´m going on a tour tomorrow and I´ve booked and paid for all flights. I even managed to pack in some food (no surprises there). I went back to the hostel and bumped in to Kaat, a really nice Belgian girl who´s in my dorm. She had some wine open so we chatted and drunk it. I then got a bottle from the hostel. It cost UKP 2. We then drank that. She went out to meet some people she´d been travelling with in Argentina but I said I´d stay in as it was midnight (got to get in to these Argentinian habits of not going out until then) and I had a long day tomorrow. I went out on the balcony for one last look at the glorious view. Then before I knew it I felt sick. I wasn´t sure if I could make it to the bathroom and someone was cleaning the kitchen. Then without barely any prior notice I threw up. It went all over the floor and table. Mortified, I crept in past the staff and grabbed my food bag which contains my emergency toilet roll. I mopped everything up and then skulked to bed. At least I wouldn´t feel bad in the morning !! The moral of that story is always spend more than UKP 2 on a bottle of wine !! Could anyone who finds my alcohol tolerance please send it back to me – thanks !!
I did indeed feel okay the next morning. Which was a relief as I had a 2 hour journey for my trip I´d booked. Bariloche is freezing cold but after 2 hours in the bus we alight to boiling hot sunshine. I pack my extra layers in my bag and start trekking with my group. We have come deep in to Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. I have come to see Mount Tronador and the black glaciers. My guide thinks she´s a mountain goat and is off on a blistering pace. We keep up but there´s a lot of huffing and puffing. We come to a waterfall with views of the mountain in the background. The clouds around the mountain look like cotton wool balls quite strange !! There are yellow flowers on bushes everywhere, they´re not native but add to the view. We then stop for a picnic lunch. I tried some of the driver´s “mate” (pronounced matteh), it´s the Argentinian herbal drink which is so much stronger than coffee and is drunk from a really weird little vessel. (Not sure if it isn´t cocoa leaves really). It wasn´t really something I´ll get in to, a bit green grass like. he was showing me some Lupins and asked if we had them in my country and what they were called – Lupins, I said and he laughed. Then we headed off to yes another waterfall. This was pretty impressive, but I´m saving myself for Iguazu after Christmas. Lucky the flowers on the path to it weren´t in flower otherwise the place would have been infested with rats trying to eat the seeds.
Finally six hours after we started I see black glaciers, pictured below (Note to self, check tour itineries in more detail in future). This was the whole reason for the trip. They were worth it. You can only view them, not walk on them. they are black due to the sediment in the ground although they are white on the inside. But another first for my trip so I´m happy. We got back to town at 7pm, I´m knackered and can´t find Kaat, so write yet more postcards and pop out for a while before an early night. I then got the full Argentinian male experience where they make a strange noise at you as if they are calling a cat to come over. The rule is ignore, so i did, but laughed all the rest of the way down the street. Kaat had got back even later than me and had had the same meal at “Family weiss” I´d had and declared it was the best meal she´d had in months.
The next morning I checked out and as my bus wasn´t until 6pm went with Kaat for a walk around the local lakes. We caught the local bus to Llao Llao, a lovely hotel where the trail starts. We hiked for about 4 hours. The weirdest bit was when the trees started creaking in the forest. It was almost like they were talking to each other. Either that or one was going to fall over, just standing there listening was pretty freaky. Not somewhere I´d want to be in the dark, it would scare the living daylights out of you. We also saw a huge bird of prey which was a member of the caracara family. I was trying to get a shot (photo not gun) but some other hikers scared it off. We caught the bus back and agreed to meet in 30 minutes to get a taxi to the bus station. I went to the local bra shop and a first occurred. They didn´t have one big enough to fit me. Now I´m not large so I´m wondering if the women are not that well endowed here. Oh well, it certainly gave me a boost (boom !! boom!!).
We caught a taxi to the bus station and Kaat ended up on the same bus as me. She´s jumping off in El Bolson a hippy town and I´m off to Puerto Madryn in search of my beloved whales. Bariloche is beautiful and 3-4 days is the perfect amount of time. So far I am impressed with Argentina and hopefully I´ll see Kaat again in Buenos Aires in the new year !!
Plane = 15, Bus = 61, Train = 2, Boat =14, Sunglasses = 5, Mosquito Repellant = 8
Take care all