Patagonia is a jaw dropping, eye bulging wow evoking wonder. Following a 14 hour night bus to the city of Neuquen, the capital of Argentinian Patagonia we decided to keep heading South and to jump on another bus to Bariloche. Somehow between buying the ticket and walking two seconds away to the bus stop we unwittingly missed the bus resulting in a 5 hour grumpy (me) wait at the bus terminal for next one.
Finally we boarded our 6 hour bus to Bariloche and then the ‘wowing’ began. The landscape was prehistoric and fitting for both dinosaur and space man should one or the other have come over the horizon. There was not a pylon or man made structure in sight for hundreds of miles but as the journey went on more jagged mountains and rocks appeared. Then the first of the lakes resulted in the coach full of passengers darting from window to window armed with cameras. Reflections of mountains in lakes, occasional bursts of forest and snowy hills entertained us as the sun set. Quite a spectacle.
Bariloche could be Switzerland, or Iceland or Scandinavia. It has chalets, lakes, mountains and continued to bring out our best ‘wows’. The other thing to come out were the hiking boots and the exercise began in earnest. The first hike would be up what I would describe as a mountain (not dissimilar to Everest) but Jamie and the rest of Bariloche called it a hill. The views were phenomenal all the way up and the sky was actually blue! At the top was a revolving restaurant offering panoramic views which we enjoyed whilst nursing the cheapest drink on the menu! We took the cable car down (wrong way round methinks) realised we were in the completely wrong place and hiked 5km home. Then my feet fell off.
Near Bariloche is a glacier called Tronador, (the thunder maker). Tronador is known as the black glacier and due to global warming has been reducing significantly since the 70’s. This is happening so rapidly that it is on track for melting altogether in the next 5 years. You can stand still and hear the ice cracking and it lives up to its name with avalanches causing thunderous booms echoing across the mountains.
Patagonia is big and I mean really big. At 1.043 million km² it can fit in a lot of mountains and lakes (thus areas of it being referred to as the Lake District). It is also circa 7,560 miles away from Wales which makes it all the more impressive that there is a town in the South of Patagonia that is Welsh speaking. Although we didn’t have time to go there we did go to the Swiss colony in honour of the Swiss contingent of my family. However, despite there being a token St Bernard (bloody lovely he was too) it was a bit of a let down and more of a tourist hub/Christmas market.
If beautiful scenery, good walks and nice dogs weren’t enough, Bariloche is famous for… CHOCOLATE. No town could be more perfect. Every other shop is a chocolate shop with rows upon rows of different chocolate delights. Jamie was in heaven with his wine tasting in Mendoza (as was I to be fair) but this surprise treat was right up my street! However, the supermarket sweep that I did of the shops on our last day in Bariloche may well have cured my chocolate addiction. Not only did I stuff my face that night but as you are not allowed to take any food from Argentina to Chile, the next morning on the bus just before boarder control I had to demolish the rest. Letting chocolate go to waste is nothing short of criminal no matter what the time of day or how green you feel afterwards.