After an easy 7-hour bus ride to Bariloche (I never thought I would just shrug off 7 hours on a coach bus but it’s not too bad with Netflix letting you download content now), I had one day to simply relax and get situated in the hostel as the weather was a bit rainy. I woke up the next day and set off to hike Cerro Campanario, an uphill but relatively short hike to, in my opinion, the best view point in Bariloche. Here, you can see all the surrounding lakes and mountains in the region, and fortunately for me the sky cleared just as I reached the top.
The next day, I went with 3 others from the hostel on the trek towards Refugio Frey. It’s a refuge at the top of the mountain where people can sleep, use as a base for their campsite, or simply grab food before the hike back down. The hike up was just over 3 hours, and was pretty mild for most of the way. The weather at this point was fantastic – I was able to rock just a t-shirt. We got to the top and enjoyed a better-than-expected ham and cheese sandwich, and watched a few psychos rock climbing up a ridiculous rock face at the very peak before starting the walk back down. I enjoy the random and sometimes ridiculous conversations that spur up on these longer hikes. For example, out of one guy’s refusal to believe in the marketing hype of trekking shoes (he wears his Vans to hike), we created the concept for a new product line: Vans Extreme, a potential rebellious outdoor shoe line. The working slogan: ‘F*ck trekking shoes. F*ck everything. Vans Extreme.” The nonsense you come up with to fill 6 hours of quiet without Wi-Fi is good for the soul, even if it doesn’t lead to profitable business ventures. Also, learned the basic rules to the Irish national sport of hurling around the dinner table one night.
The hostel here (Penthouse 1004) was fantastic as well. When you secure the top floor of an apartment building with a balcony overlooking the lake, it’s kind of hard to screw up. But they built out the space great as well. Huge and well-stocked double kitchen, great common area for socializing, and nice private bathrooms. Well worth the 5 extra bucks it’d cost you over some of the other hostels in town.
The next day I took a 2-hour bus ride to El Bolson, a smaller town to the south. I sort of planned for this leg to be a more relaxed leg, in between bigger hiking stops, and it was truly the perfect spot for it. The hostel here (La Casona de Odile) was recommended to me by someone I met at a previous spot with the caveat “it’s the kind of place that makes you not want to leave the hostel” and she was right. It has a ranch feel to it with several guest houses on a huge plot of land 3 miles outside of town that backs up to the river. Also featured: a wild lavender garden, an organic farm, hammocks everywhere, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 1 horse, and a new restaurant/bar on site with homemade beer and live music every night. Just an incredibly well-thought out and executed hostel. Everybody would be well-served to spend a long weekend here and unwind.
I did have one day out of the place, where I took a bus down to Lago Puelo National Park, hiked up to a great viewpoint and through the botanical garden, and finished with a meal along probably the bluest lake I’ve ever seen. I also saw what I believe to be the biggest wild pig I've ever seen, and immediately started scouting my possible escape routes. But we came to an understanding, he just wanted to eat and I was cool with that. Beautiful park with plenty of activities if you’re looking for a nice day trip from El Bolson.
I’ve had a really nice 6 day run in this region, and for the most part, I’ve had incredible weather (sunny and low 70s). Now the real adventure begins – in 2 hours I board a 24-hour bus ride down to El Chalten in the heart of Patagonia. There’s no way to spin it…this bus ride is going to suck. Terribly. But hopefully, with the aid of too much melatonin, I can get some decent sleep and wake up tomorrow refreshed and ready to go.