We caught an 8.45pm bus from Mendoza with Andesmar for ARS$1150 for the 18 hour (yes, 18 hours on a bus) journey to Bariloche or to use its proper name, San Carlos de Bariloche – the gateway to Patagonia. Although the bus journey was long it was probably one of the better ones we’ve had in South America – the night was started with a bingo session, dinner which was served with red wine and movies in English. Not too shabby! So you know how Mark Twain said that the coldest winter he ever spent was summer in San Francisco? There’s no way he ever visited Bariloche in February! I immediately had to purchase a woolly hat! We were there in the highest of the high season so the place was jam-packed with tourists. The surrounding countryside is beautiful; plenty of lakes and mountains. It’s actually a skiing area in July and August and I think it would be a perfect winter escape. We got the 5 minute bus into the town for ARS$12 per person (you have to get a ticket at the Transporte Las Grutas counter inside the station. Taxis are ARS$65 in to town). You can store your luggage at the bus station between 7am and 11pm for between ARS$15 and ARS$25 depending on how long you leave it there.
We snugged up at Perikos (ARS$540) for 2 nights but actually camped at Camping Petunia (ARS$200) for a night between Perikos stays so we could ‘practice’ camping for our ‘real’ outdoorsy experience further down in Patagonia. My lovely brother said of this that its about time we started doing some ‘proper’ travelling to which John agreed that it’s going to be great to get out of our comfort zone. I definitely don’t think that staying in hostels even borders on my notion of a comfort zone in the first place!! Men.
Bariloche’s central area is called its Civic Centre; pretty much a green area surrounded by wooden chalet style buildings with a spectacular lake and mountain vista. There are a few people toting St. Bernard’s around hoping for an excuse to charge you for a photo…oh but they’re so cute!! (the puppies that is). As you walk up through the town from here you pass myriad chocolate shops, Abuela Goye, Mamuschka, Del Turista, Chocolates Torres and Chocolates Rapa Nui to name but a few. We had some hot chocolates and petit fours at Mamushkas which were ok (good lemon pie), I thought the chocolate, atmosphere and staff were far nicer in Abuela Goyes. There are plentiful outdoor stores too so if you forgot anything you could definitely purchase here (adventure gear and the like seems to cost a lot more in Argentina than in Chile). Further down by the water lies a skating rink (in summer?!) and the Cathedral. The Cathedral was really lovely on the inside, although there’s a little work going on at the moment.
After a night in Perikos in central Bariloche we moved out to Camping Petunia to get some nature in. We took a 10km walk to ensure we’d get some sleep and ended up by a beautiful lake and obviously we needed sustenance so stopped at a roadside Abuela Goyes for hot chocolate and espresso for himself. The bus situation around Bariloche isn’t really geared up too well for tourists. You need to purchase a ARS$30 card and then add credit to it. We didn’t bother with the card and instead just asked the bus driver if we could pay by cash, to which they’d obviously say no, but there’s always a local willing to take your cash and scan their card for you. We knew we were only going to be taking 2 bus journeys so it would have been pointless buying the card. We really could have spent a lot more time in Bariloche (and it would be the perfect place to have a car) but alas we need to keep moving!
Next stop: Puerto Montt and Chiloé Island, Chile