While we were in El Calafate, with less than ideal internet speeds, we received news that our flight was cancelled from Buenos Aires to Bariloche… the flight we were supposed to take in three days. Bariloche- the place we were supposed to be meeting our friend David who was coming all the way from San Diego for a two week trip. Cue panic and several WTFs.
After many phone calls and being on hold, Ryan was able to sort through what happened: The labor unions called for a nationwide strike for the same day our flights happened to be, so the airline had to cancel all flights for that day. Of course, Argentinians knew this and had already re-booked their flights so by the time we found out and processed this information, all the flights were booked for the day before and two days following. Boo!
We also had to figure out what was going to happen to David- he was, after all, supposed to be flying into Buenos Aires that same day. Would his flight be diverted to Uruguay? Would it be cancelled entirely??
A win for good ole American customer service, David was told by his airline that he would still make it to Buenos Aires as scheduled; that the airport here would have a crew to ensure safe international arrivals. And just as he was told, David made it without problem. Phew!
The three of us were able to change our plans around and reschedule our trip to Bariloche just a few days later. We were finally on our way!
Bariloche (aka San Carlos de Bariloche) lies in the northern part of Patagonia, within Nahuel Huapi National Park on the foothills of the Andes mountains, along the shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake. It a good-sized city of about 108,000 permanent residents. Reportedly there were many Nazis that fled Europe to this part of Argentina, which could explain the heavy Swiss/German influence.
We arrived in between seasons- too cold and rainy for hiking or boating on the lake but yet no snow for skiing. With our trusty rental car (a Toyota Etios, manual of course), we were able to take a scenic drive along the "Circuito Chico" (small circuit) to see the surrounding area. It was rather rainy on the day we did this which obscured some of the sights, but using your imagination it's possible to envision how spectacular it must be on clear days.
Being cold and wet gave us the best excuse to stop at the very exclusive Llao Llao Hotel for a bite to eat. We wanted to stay here but the going rate for their most basic room was $400 USD - AKA definitely not in the budget for two mostly unemployed people travelling the world for a year. (We didn't take any pictures of the front of the hotel so here is one from Wikipedia).
We tried an interesting beer here made by Wesley Brewing that uses a wild yeast that is harvested from the Llao Llao fungus.
Bariloche is famous for it's chocolate. Unfortunately it looks like we didn't take any pictures of the main street, with chocolate shops every other store front, but here we are eating ice cream from a famous place called Rapa Nui. Dulce de leche ice cream?! SO DARN GOOD.
On our way out of town, to the Route of the Seven Lakes and San Martin de los Andes, we stopped at Cerro Catedral. We froze our butts off taking the gondola to the top on the very first day it was open for the season.
The views were spectacular, even with all the cloud cover! We didn't last too long up top but it was worth it just the same.
DWNTGB (Do We Need To Go Back) Rating
Bariloche is a cool town to visit. I have fond memories of going there as a child. However, if I were to go back to the Siete Lagos area, I’d prefer to spend my time in the smaller San Martin de Los Andes and Villa La Angostura. Bariloche just feels bigger, more touristy (in a bad way), and when you’re away from the center of town it just feels kind of like a normal city. Basically it comes down to San Martin de Los Andes just feeling like a better version of Bariloche, and is just a 3 hour drive away.
It would be nice to come back and enjoy the lakes during the warm weather. Get on a boat, go tubing, enjoy the mountain views, afterwards go get ice cream… I was on the fence with this one, but I think there are other places I would return to first.