SOUTH AMERICA – THE JOURNEY PART 1
Chocoholics rejoice, I’ve discovered a slice of cocoa heaven for us all.
Barlioche, the southern Argentinian town hemmed in between dramatic mountains and deep lakes, is a sweet-toothed fiend’s paradise. Its streets are crammed with chocolate shops and fondue restaurants which jostle for tourist dollars, and I’ve been more than happy to give them my fair share.
Lured by Bariloche’s divine setting at the foot of the Andes and on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi, an Italian man set up the first chocolate factory here over 60 years ago. I’m told Aldo Fenoglio had all the ingredients for success when he produced the first chocolate flake, but without any copyright Cadbury’s crumbled his dreams of international notoriety. Not long after, other Europeans with a taste for money moved to Bariloche to set up their own competing businesses.
Now the plethora of chocolaterias in Bariloche, which import cocoa mainly from Brazil and Mexico, make a killing by adding inches to visitors’ waistlines.
Although the attraction of devouring chocolate morning, noon and night was nearly enough to tempt me down here single-handedly, I’m actually in the town for a couple of weeks to attend Spanish school. While I’m muttering my way through the basics I’ve noticed that my miming skills have vastly improved, so much so that I’ll be competing in the next Sharrards World Championships.
Terrified of not being able to speak a single ‘hola’ when I arrived in Buenos Aires, I bolted down to the school in Bariloche a few days after. I wasn’t lured by the Argentinian capital as so many other travellers have been – the cold, grey weather attributed to this alongside the towering buildings that force the streets to cower in their shadows. In the sun-eclipsed roads, water-stained apartment blocks and colonial buildings dwarf the street jugglers who weave between the battered 1980s cars that Argentinians adore.
However, Buenos Aires’ steak houses are an attraction to shout about. The aroma of chargrilled beef and sweet jus pulls in the hoards like a magnet and I was powerless to resist. Completely unaware of the steak house ‘rules’, five of us each ordered a dish and were overwhelmed by what must have been an entire cow’s worth of beef. While the locals gave us a knowing smirk and tucked into one portion between two people, we left with bulging jeans and doggy bags.
Luckily in Bariloche, I’ve been able to go on a few hikes and ‘dance’ off the over-eating with lessons in salsa and tango. I was initially immobilized by laughter during tango classes but have since wobbled through the primary steps, not without a few sore toes though. Now I just have to master the language and the dancing.
I guess I could be in Argentina for a while then.
WHERE ON EARTH?
- The southern-most country in South America, stretching 3,500km from north to south (the eighth largest country in the world)
- The temperature ranges from boiling hot in the north to ridiculously cold in the south (so much so that even the penguins move north in the winter, or so I’m told)
- The capital is Buenos Aires
- Only 40 million people live here among a shed load of bulls for their steak addiction
- It’s a 24-hour bus journey south from Buenos Aires, but fear not, it is interspersed with 80s music videos played on loop
- The Alpine-esque town is in Patagonia, the area renowned for its cold temperatures in winter and howling wind, but the scenery here is definitely worth carrying all those extra layers in the backpack
- The Andes mountain range form the spectacular backdrop
- In the winter it becomes a skier’s playground and for the rest of the year it’s an outdoor adventure area for hiking, paragliding and climbing fans
- It has all four seasons and current autumnal colours are like a kaleidoscope
- The temperature right now is bloody cold! But what a great excuse to drink a big hot chocolate…
NOTE: ALL PHOTOGRAPHS ARE COPYRIGHT OF JANE BATCHELOR