Day 40, 09FEB2017
Our bus departed San Rafael for Bariloche at 2330 last night and drove us clear through vineyards, desert, then into Patagonia at the edge of the Andes in just over fourteen hours.
We arrived in the resort town before 1500 and caught a taxi to our next AirBnB. The new AirBnB was an actual bed and breakfast operated by French friends. The place sits atop a hill in Bariloche, the backyard and our room’s window overlooking the town and lake below. This vantage point provided for some exceptional sunrise and moonrise photos. In truth, the place couldn’t compare to the previous experience in San Rafael. The breakfast was actually only toast and coffee, and while there were several people staying in the grounds, no one seemed friendly when Josh or I tried to make conversation.
Having come to terms with this, Josh and I set off once we dropped off our bags in our clean room and walked down to the town center.
Bariloche is one of the few towns permitted in Argentina’s largest National Park: Nahuel Huapi National Park. The park is set in Patagonia and expands over a great deal of the Andes and the flatlands that descend immediately from the mountain range. However, perhaps what draws people to this area the most are the lakes. The place is oft referred to as the Lake District due to the seven nearby lakes that gleam a brilliant deep blue reflecting the mountain shadows akin to the Grand Tetons.
The Andes immediately surrounding Bariloche are covered in rich greens until about half way up, then in the summer months the bare grey granite shines through. In the far distance, mountains with higher altitudes were still showcasing snowy peaks at this time of year, and a dip in the lakes’ water bore evidence to the source of all the water: melted snow.
Josh and I made our way down the steep streets from our AirBnB and stopped at Jauja for a taste of Bariloche’s most famous ice cream. I ordered strawberry lemonade and blueberry ice cream on a cone and we shared this marvelous treat as we perused the town center’s handicraft stalls. Each afternoon the stalls come alight with locals selling wares they were actually making right then and there. This market was a far cry from the one of Buenos Aires’ San Telmo. While nearly all the stands sold fabric bracelets favored by backpackers, this was about the only consistency. Some stalls sold incense, soaps, handmade jewelry, gem stones, various painted rocks, intricately designed wood works, bone cups, leather belts, stuffed animals, knitted jackets, the list goes on.
After the shops, Josh and I ventured into the Museo de la Patagonia “Francisco P. Moreno” named after the Argentinian commissioned to explore the Andes peaks, marking the border between Chile and Argentina. Upon is death the man bequeathed his home in Bariloche to be made into the National Park it is today (of course the land has expanded exponentially).
The museum happened to offer free English tours on Thursdays, and Josh and I were there on a Thursday! Our guide explained the terrain that made Patagonia so unique compared to the rest of Argentina, and then took us through the anthropological history of the four Native American groups who inhabited Patagonia before Spanish colonization. The tour lasted just under two hours and I was mesmerized! So much information on subjects I’d never encountered before.
Leaving, the guide drew our attention to Bariloche’s town square and the alpine design and features. She explained that it was during WWII that Bariloche and thus the National Park gained its popularity because Argentinians could no longer travel to Europe, so instead they fabricated a European-style Alpine resort in their own country.
After the museum Josh and I enjoyed a slow cup of coffee before we wandered to dinner.
Dinner tonight was hands down fabulous. Manush is a craft beer and burger pub designed in the distinctly Alpine style like so many places in Bariloche. We crammed into a window table and were treated to the music of street performers outside while we noshed on nachos, fries covered in cheese and ham, and burgers drenched in mushrooms and bacon.
After dinner, Josh and I climbed the much needed hill back to our AirBnB and caught a glimpse of the moonrise over the lake below before bed.