Wind, Mountains and Chocolate: El Chalten and Bariloche (April 13 – 19)

After our Torres Del Paine hike, it was time to cross back into Argentina and start slowly working our way north. Our first stop was the tiny town of El Chalten, which is the base for climbs of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. The tiny town of 600 was founded in 1985 to help Argentina solidify its border claims. It was evident that the town had been put together quickly as restaurants and hostels were spread out with many empty lots in between. We arrived at the tail end of tourist season, so we had difficulties finding places to eat!

We spent two days in this town and hiked each day. The first hike was to Lago Torre at the base of Cerro Torre which is one of the world’s hardest rock climbs. As we were walking out of town, I stopped to pet an adorable puppy. Little did I know that the puppy would insist on following us. We figured he would be smart enough to turn around, but 15 minutes later, he was still with us, and we stopped at the sign forbidding dogs on the trek. So Mike picked up the puppy, and we walked all the way back to drop him off. After sternly telling the dog in broken Spanish to stay, we started back on the hike. He didn’t follow us, but at the top of the hill, we saw he was following another couple. I wonder how many times a day he gets carried back to his houseJ

As we continued on our way to the lake we enjoyed the amazing array of fall colors with snow covered mountains as the backdrop. It was breathtaking, and I am so glad we are here in the fall!

The small lake of Torre had a few tiny icebergs floating and I am sure it would be a beautiful setting to see Cerro Torre, but unfortunately the clouds never lifted so we had no views except its base. Oh well, we enjoyed the views of the mountains that we could see, including the imposing Cerro Solo.

The next day, we hiked to Laguna de los Tres for views of Fitz Roy. The scenery at the beginning of the hike was similar to Smith Rocks, and Mike and I were scoping potential climbs while the condors soared over our heads. We enjoyed the beautiful colors of the trees again and a few mountain views with clouds swirling. No views of Fitz Roy but we did see a brilliant blue glacier, which was beautiful. Both of us were tired from all the hiking, and Mike was suffering from a bruised bone in his knee so we ended up turning around early to get back to town.

Our Spanish has been coming along slowly, but we had our first big mix-up while trying to get some laundry done. Our hostel didn’t have laundry, so they recommended us to go to the one next door. So Mike and I walked in and set our stuff on the counter and asked in Spanish to get our laundry done. The teenager behind the counter asked us a bunch of questions that we could barely understand, but it sounded like he wanted to know what kind of room we wanted. When we told him we had a room next door, he got a puzzled look on his face. Finally, I pointed to the sign for laundry which worked and we got our laundry done. It turned out that Mike demanded a key instead of laundry. It was quite funny, but luckily it all worked outJ

After two days in El Chalten it was time to move north and, hopefully, somewhere less windy and warmer! But first, we had to survive a 28 hour bus ride before arriving in Bariloche! The bus was comfortable, and the seats were huge almost laying down flat. To keep us entertained there were movies in English with Spanish sub-titles. I finished an entire 550 page book. We also had the un-expected surprise of playing bus bingo. I was happy that they said the numbers in English too. Unfortunately we didn’t win as the winner got a bottle of wine! It was strange waking up in the morning and realizing that we had a whole day still to go!  We have seen some of the most amazing sunrises and sunsets of the whole trip on these buses, though! 

Bariloche is a town in the lakes district of Patagonia and well known for its chocolate, ski slopes, and lakes. We spent 2.5 days in the town and enjoyed slightly warmer temperatures, but still it was as windy as ever! The downtown area is cute and designed with a ski chalet feel. In the main square there were St. Bernard dogs and puppies to get your picture with, but my favorite part of the town was the chocolate shops! They lined the streets, and each one was huge! The chocolate was excellent, but the best part was ordering a coffee in the shop and getting the free bonbons that came along with it!

Our shopping adventure didn’t end with chocolate as I also needed to buy a new bra. Somehow my bra got stolen by the cleaning lady in El Chalten or else somehow mysteriously walked out of our room. Either way, I needed a new one, so off to the shop. Mike’s Spanish is much better then mine, so he had to help translate my needs with the sales lady. It worked out fine until he started giving opinions on which ones I should try onJ The joys of shopping in a foreign country with my husband helpingJ

Both Mike and I were ready for a change of pace from hiking, so we opted to rent mountain bikes to explore the surrounding lakes and mountains. The loop was 26 km long and very hilly, but we enjoyed amazing views! At the first viewpoint, we made the mistake of petting another cute dog. The dog ended up following us for the entire loop! I think he probably does this daily as he knew the best places to take a rest in the water and when to be sly because he wasn’t allowed in the picnic areas. By the end of the ride though, both Mike and I felt like we had to protect him from the other dogs as he was really tired. When are we going to learn that we shouldn’t pet the dogs because as soon as you do you have a new friend for the day?!

 

We decided to reward ourselves with a date night dinner out after our bike ride. Unfortunately, we were starving at 7pm, and none of the restaurants open until 8pm. So to hold over our appetites, we got an empanada from the grocery store as our appetizer. After browsing through the shops, it was finally time for dinner! Mike somehow convinced me to order the meat sampler platter for 2. It included lamb, sirloin, rib eye, and smoked bacon. Plus, we decided we needed a side of veggies and potatoes! When the plate of meat arrived, I couldn’t believe how much was piled on. For normal people it would have fed a family of 5! Somehow, we managed to eat most of it, but it will be a while before I order meat again!

One month into our trip in South America and we have seen the tropics of Northern Argentina and the mountains of Patagonia. It was time to continue north to sample some of Argentina’s wine…

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6 Responses to Wind, Mountains and Chocolate: El Chalten and Bariloche (April 13 – 19)

  1. Steve Heikkila says:

    Wow! Now that’s a place I’d like to visit. Famous for its crummy weather, but it looks like you managed to get some nice views of those dramatic peaks. Envious I am!

    • Mike says:

      I met a dude that had been there earlier in the month (on a clear day); Cerro Torre looked pretty awesome.

  2. Chelle says:

    I’m going to proffer the opinion that the puppy in the picture, at least, has some pit in his background–he looks a lot like my Rufus! And yeah, pretty much anyone who pets Ru is his new best friend forever. 🙂

  3. Kathy says:

    Was there gravy with the meat platter? 🙂

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