Stranded in Bariloche
Setting the scene: - what follows is a summary of the email updates Shelly and I sent while travelling around South and Central America in 2006. I originally posted them after a brief tidy up so that they make a little more sense and added a few photos. After reading the finished post and reflecting however I decided that we had left out many things from the emails, either because we were pressed for time and didn't want to 'trouble' some of the recipients, ie, parents. This meant that a lot of our observations were left unreported. So, with the benefit of hindsight I've re-edited the posts with some additional material.
In summary, we travelled for two months between mid April and June. Mostly we travelled by public bus interspersed with occasional flights. We visited Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, the USA and Spain. It was a wonderful trip and I highly recommend South America as a destination.
So let's start - Bariloche, Argentina 25 April 2006....
Well, it’s almost one week since we arrived in South America but it certainly seems like longer. We have done quite a few miles in a very short amount of time. We are currently in Bariloche, Argentina. As noted in the title above, we´re kind of stranded. We arrived in town late on Saturday night and found that the place pretty much closed down on Sunday. Monday was a public holiday and we could not get a bus out of town until Tuesday. That said, there are much worse places to find oneself stranded - Belgrade comes to mind. Bariloche is a beautiful swiss-style alpine village set in the lakes district of the Andes. All around are mountains and crystal lakes. The town was settled by Germans and Swiss in the late nineteenth century and they bought with them such tradition as chocolate making, fondue and enormous sausages. Not that we´ve eaten any sausages. We have been too preoccupied eating the enormous steaks.
But back to the beginning - last wednesday we arrived in sunny Santiago. At least we hear it was sunny. The city is set in a hollow in the Andes mountains which forms an air trap that holds in all the smog and pollution. The sky was a kind of brownish colour. On our second day we climbed the hill overlooking the city, the Cerra San Cristobal, but it was hard to get a view because of the smog. I know I was pretty unfit when I left Australia, but the pollution in the air made the climb especially exhausting. That said, we stayed in a really cute bohemian neighbourhood just north of the CBD called Bellavista - pretty much the Northbridge of Santiago (a reference for West Australians). Lots of little bars and restaurants and colourful buildings. The food we had there was great - excellent quality and cheap. They served their beer from huge litre bottles (at about A$1 for a pint - great!!). Many people at the hostel we stayed at seemed to have arrived with the intention of staying only a day or two and then moving on, but had ended up staying for weeks.
After two days we travelled to Puerto Montt in the lakes district. It was a nice area but Puerto Montt itself wasn’t such an exciting place. It had the look of an old whaling town that had seen better days. There were lots of old wooden houses slowly decaying along the waterfront. From Puerto Montt we visited Puerto Varas, another German village on a nearby lake. It was very beautiful but seemed quite out of place - very middle Europe in the heart of South America. From there we took a boat and bus tour over the Andes to Bariloche. The scenery was stunning.
A little word on food - and vegetarians need not read any further. In Chile we searched and searched without much like to find some distinctively Chilean dish. In fact, it seemed Chile’s national cuisine could be described as steak and chips, hamburgers and hot dogs. Sounds very strange but we can’t complain. Their hamburgers are AMAZING. The two we ordered were the size of dinner plates and were so enormous we couldn’t eat them all. We have eaten so much steak and meat here that I’m a little concerned we are going to come home twice as big as when we left!!!
There are plenty of tourists in this part of the world at the moment, although they are almost invariably Spanish speakers. We’ve met tourists from Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia. We did also meet one Australian couple so we got to practice a small amount of English on them. Our Spanish is coming along very slowly. We are beginning to actually make sentences and not look like complete idiots (well, maybe...). Hopefully by the end of this trip we’ll be able to order more than dos cervasa por favor (two beers please).
Travel has been relatively easy so far. Haven’t felt unsafe anywhere (touch wood). People are very friendly.
Tomorrow we head to Mendoza in the Argentinean wine region. Looking forward to that!!!
Take care all. Lots of love
Paul and Shelly