Self-directed coach tours
Renting a car in Bariloche is easy and inexpensive. We gathered around three new friends (Sue - UK, Nancy - Cortes Island/Berkeley and Edmund - Austria) and rented a VW Gol (not a Golf, but a Gol). We spent the day bumping up the gravel road called La Ruta de La Siete Lagos (the seven lakes circuit) - a total of about 700km all told.
As is always the case, I (dave) was the driver and successfully navigated us up and over mountain passes, along treed rivers and down barren stretches of wind swept Gaucho country. And yes, we did see a few Gauchos (Argentine Cowboys) with their dogs and sheep. With us the whole way was the wind. In fact, in Patagonia this is the one constant so far. That and the very friendly folk. It is a stormy, rugged land and the wind ripping off the lakes creates larger waves than I have seen on the Pacific in Vancouver. Shot many a photo and unsuccessfully ordered a tostada I could eat in San Martin de Los Andes (tuna, whoops), then tried to fill the tank with gas - natural gas - before realizing gas is actually gas and gasoline is petrol. Coming back, the weather was bleak and turned the expanse into a glorious wash of light and mist. Lying on the highway in the rain and wind, I wonder what kind of escape from winter in Vancouver this is.
Oh, the dogs of Argentina. They are everywhere, under everything and generally quite lazy. They love attention, disregard affection and won´t eat your bread. And many are without homes or owners. They roam the mountain highways, lay around in parking lots and wag their tails with a little eye contact. If we stayed here, an animal orphanage would be an idea. Course, these guys seem to be a bit picky and may only feast on that famous Argentine steak.
Did I mention Bariloche is a chocolate lover´s dream? There are about 8 very good handcrafted chocolate shops along one block here and though I seem to be hooked on a certain square of Tiramisu chcocolate, when we return to 1004 Hostel in Bariloche for Xmas in a few days I intend to do my duty to you, friends and known fellow chocolate fiends, and sample some of the others.
They call it a laid back place where folks go to get back to the earth. First impressions upon arrived at the 100+ Feria Artesanal (artisan market) is that, yes, this is true. Lots of dreads, beads and long garments. Like a folk fest market but with delicious samples of homemade beer (black stout, cherry ale, lemon ale), cheap and very filling veggie empanadas and a variety of fruit products to knock your socks off. We got a place about 3km outside of town in a log cabin, surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Andes and tucked into a grove of eucalyptus and beech trees. The fire is warm and the homebrew is chilling as we prepare for an Asado tonight - a great BBQ feast over an open pit out back. We´ll be here for 3 days of mountain biking and hiking, then we´ll check out a Mapuche woman´s cooperative making lovely things out of wool. This is a fantastic part of the world and we feel quite at home right now. Life is good. Til soon...hasta luego.
(edit) Sitting on a ridge above the Valle Azul after a long bike ride outside El Bolson.