The last day in B.A. (for the next 6 weeks anyways) was insanely hot. Like 40 degrees. Humid, blasting like a furnace, and in the city you all know it makes things intense. We rode Autobus 53 to La Boca, a colourful neighbourhood on a colourful river (pollution...) to take in some tango and the artisan markets.
Didn´t take long to get wiped out, sunburnt, and thirsting and by the time we were back at the hostel the sky was rumbling and the most torrential of rainstorms began. More than 12 hours of non-stop lightning streaked the sky every second second. The wind howled and the hostel leaked (but only in the inner courtyard). It was actually a little frightening, the intensity that is, and kept us up all night from the noise of the rain on corrugated plastic.
Weighing on our minds was the epic journey across the Pampas to Bariloche. A 20-hour bus ride. Luckily, in Argentina they know how to ride in style. Well, comfort anyways. Food service (no! vegetarian is not chicken!), movies, refrescos and toilets. And a lazy boy you call your seat. Not bad - someone get Greyhound on the line. But 20 hours is still 20 hours. And when you are rolling past flat grasslands and estancias for 8 hours into what looks like another epic lightning storm, well, sometimes comfort is more than just a fine seat.
In the morning, we awoke to a different scene. The Andes! What a glorious range! Just 2 hours outside Bariloche the canyons are deep, red, and towering above are pillars of rock so narrow they should not be upright. Greenest river grasses and winding roads along the desolate edge of the Andes and suddenly smack into....British Columbia? Yup, Bariloche´s scenery is striking, stunning even, but a little reminiscent of home. And that ain´t bad considering what we are blessed with. But within an hour or two´s drive from something totally new, it was a little odd. And hiking around today reinforced that feeling. Though instead of ferns, there was bamboo, and instead of cedar we saw the cinnamon-barked Arrayan trees (but even those bore a resemblance to the Arbutus of the Pacific coast).
The town itself is like Banff or Jasper. It´s an alpine village, more popular in winter when skiers from around the world come for powder on Cerro Catedral. And more English than we´ve heard since before landing in Los Angeles. Luckily the hostel makes up for it - 1004 Hostel. Check it out if you are in the area - it´s the best around. And the chocolate....mmmmm. Hello Mamushka! We´ll be seeing you later. And tomorrow. And before we split for El Bolson.
Bariloche may be in Patagonia - that sense is everywhere and the mountains and lakes surely attest to that - but what it comes down to is the feeling that maybe, somehow things would be a little better if it weren´t such a "resort" and more like the quaint little alpine town it still is underneath the tourist sheen.