SOUTH AMERICA – THE JOURNEY PART 2
Bariloche – El Bolson
Arriving in El Bolson in a downpour, I stepped off the bus into a gigantic puddle, and how glad I was that I’d purchased non-waterproof boots in the UK. Walking with soggy socks and a giant backpack, I made my way down pot-holed roads, accidently bashing into several locals at the weekend craft market.
Luckily for the inhabitants of El Bolson, the threat of the backpack was safely deposited in a nearby hostel. Now I just had to avoid the food stalls at the market for fear of bursting. The previous night eight of us had gorged on every cut of beef known to man. The asado, a traditional Argentinian BBQ, had defeated everyone and the remaining rump, rib-eye and fillet steaks were probably still on the hostel table in Bariloche.
Beyond the craft market, there isn’t a whole lot to do in El Bolson in the rain. It’s a sleepy Patagonian town caged in a valley by looming mountains. When the rain gradually eased in the afternoon we made our way on a short walk and watched the evaporation rise from the valley and merge with a string of clouds wrapping themselves around the mountains.
Thankfully, the next day the weather had cleared and we went on a 26km hike to the Sculpture Forest on Cerro Piltriquitron. The man at the tourist information office muttered we were ‘mad’ to walk the entire distance, a sentiment that was echoed in the locals’ faces as they drove past us walking the 14km uphill journey. But what better way to work off the asado, at least that’s what I kept telling myself when I stopped for a gulp of air.
Unfortunately, the Sculpture Forest isn’t as imaginative as it sounds. It has numerous wooden pieces dotted around but none seemed to excel in the carving stakes. So I left Ling snapping away at the bizarre creations and continued to the refugio further uphill to gaze out at the peaks. The bright shades along the entire route were like an artist’s palette with red, brown and orange leaves making the perfect watercolour picture.
That evening I tried out my ropy Spanish with the non-English speaking guys at the hostel. Deciding that this could take several days for me to spit my words out, we opted for a game of Truco insead, a South American card game with more rules than school. The Argentinians are very serious about the game and my bemused face and ‘incorrect’ dealing method was met with stern looks.
My punishment for not taking the game seriously was to be eaten alive by a hardcore mosquito. I couldn’t tell if the blood-sucking pest had my sense of direction and had taken a wrong turn on its way to warmer climates, or if Patagonian mossies are armed with thermals. You see, the temperature here has plummeted to about minus 4 in the night and a snow flurry left the cars and peaks with a sugar-coating the other evening. Surely a death warrant for any tropical insect.
After another downpour, I headed back to Bariloche for a few extra days in school. The plan, if you can say I have one, is to head into Chile and take a four-day boat trip to the ends of the earth. Well, from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natalia, which is pretty close to the South Pole. That’s if I can stand the freezing conditions. However, if I get cold feet I’ll head north instead.
WHERE ON EARTH?
- Home to football aficionados eagerly awaiting the World Cup
- The South American country is the eighth largest in the world
- Dinner takes place between 9pm-1am. Yes, seriously
- The nightlife consists of reggaeton and eighties music (I was wondering if Eruasia had made a comeback)
- A sleepy Patagonian town with Lago Puelo, the national park, a stone’s throw away
- A mere 26 hours from Buenos Aries, or 2.5 hours from Bariloche by bus
- There’s a craft market every Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday
- The tiny town is a great base to do one day or multi-day hikes
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS ARE COPYRIGHT OF JANE BATCHELOR