If you’ve ever had the urge to play a joke on the world by picking up Switzerland, shaking out the bankers and expensive prices, moving it halfway across the globe and filling it with fun-loving Spanish and Italians, well you’d better stop because it appears that someone has already done it. It’s in a place called Patagonia.
I’m currently in Bariloche which is an almost-city in the northernmost part of the Argentinian Lake District- driving down here the sharp edges of the mountains became rounded and the valleys filled with lovely crystal-clear blue lakes, the result of the glaciers that marched through an eon or two ago. (Bariloche is at 41 degrees south in latitude, which is rather comparable to where Pittsburgh is in the north.) The result is beyond lovely-
It’s the middle of springtime in Patagonia too which certainly helps matters- the scenery is dominated by flowers blooming everywhere, particularly yellows from the rapena bushes that form a perpetual backdrop (at least that’s the name the locals give me when I asked!). Lovely colors abound!
So faced with such beauty what’s a girl to do in Bariloche? Well the answer is easy- hop on the bus from the city center (because this is a civilized country with wonderful and reliable bus service for a pittance) and hop off after 20 minutes in the middle of Nahuel Huapi National Park. At 18.5km from town there’s a bike rental place that rents bikes for 65 pesos a day (~US$16) to do the Circuito Chico in the park, which isn’t as small as the name implies at 30km with hills but is certainly worth doing because you can enjoy the scenery at your own pace!
Some weird girl who keeps showing up in my pictures with her hair all messed up from the wind- what’s with that?!
A British girl who I cycled a fair number of the kilometers with along with her boyfriend, who were named Josie and Jimmy for my convenience. One fun thing about biking the Circuito is those on bikes are exceptionally friendly to each other so we were forever combining forces and melting alliances based on the pace of others in the group- this was quite a hilly 30km so this happened often!
The restaurant where Josie and Jimmy and I had a lunch that was slow by even Argentinian standards in the Colonia Suize, aka Swiss Colony. I have no issues seeing why the Swiss would want to resettle here! I’m posting this picture primarily because seriously now, doesn’t this enchanting building look like something straight out of Tolkein?
Another group of friends made while cycling the Circuito, the Israelis. You see, after the compulsory years in the army the Israelis typically go off on a long adventure and South America is an incredibly popular place to do it, making them interestingly the second-largest group traveling around here after the ubiquitous Brits (interestingly I wasn’t expecting this but Americans are a rarity here). To be frank they are stereotypically friendly and industrious in a way so expected after just getting out of the army- Jonathan here is busy at work with the kettle and propane stove he brought with him to brew coffee for us cyclists who stopped on the beach for a view!The view in the opposite direction from said beach, which is arguably more striking than a cycling Israeli with a portable coffeeshop in his backpack- the Hotel Llao Llao. The hotel was built about 75 years ago when Argentina was first trying to get international tourists to visit and is now considered one of the best hotels in the world- a night’s stay for a room with even a non-ideal view runs at least $500, assuming you can secure one! Next trip I suppose…
So that is my introduction to Patagonia (an an explanation as to why things became silent once I arrived here- I’m too darn tired at the end of the day to do anything!). What an amazing place…