Patagonia is the mystical natural southern region of Argentina and Chile. There are windy, barren expanses and the spectacular Andes mountains, and much more we hope to find. Patagonia is thought to be named after the native Tehuelche’s moccasins, which make their feet appear huge. In Spanish “pata” means foot. Check out the documentary entitled “180 Degrees South”, either on Netflix or You Tube to see why we are excited.
We are up early being of course excited to go. Our first destination is Bariloche, Argentina. It is raining. We decide to put on full rain gear to walk to the bus station in Puerto Varas. We get on the bus but are unable to sight see as the windows are fogged and covered with raindrops. What we do see as we travel west to east toward Argentina are smaller mountain ranges of greenery that reminds us of Ecuador. Finally, we reach the Chilean border exit crossing which was a piece of cake this time, showed our passports and turned over our PDI form of entry and back on the bus. We reached the Argentinian entry border crossing and it took longer. We where the second bus and had to wait for its clearance. We all exited and presented our Passports. No problem. But then the authorities do a random search of luggage under the bus. Guess who gets selected. No not Frank, but Janet this time. Her luggage went through the X-ray and then it was searched as well. Janet stood by with a grimace, but passed, and then repacked. The bus drivers tried to close the luggage compartment twice before Janet was done, but “Steady Eddy” stopped that nonsense. Off we went, a bus with very happy campers.
Ps. Yeah, Frank got searched too, as he almost always is. While watching Janet’s luggage, a little too closely, an officer came up to Frank and asked if his luggage was in line to be scanned, or so Frank thought, actually the officer directed him to put the backpack he was wearing into the scanner. But HA, they did not hand search it like Janet’s stuff.
We arrived into Argentina without any AR Pesos. Luckily, kind of, the station has money changers, who trade Chilean pesos for AR pesos. The exchange rate plus was crazy high, but I guess they have to make a profit too. FYI, $1.00 US exchanges for $15.25 ARS, compared to Chile where $1.00 US exchanges for $666.18 Chile Pesos, compared to Peru which is $1.00 US for $3.40 Sols. Finally, note that Ecuador once used Sucre exchanged as $1.00 US for $25,339.20 Sucre. That is why Ecuador now uses US dollar bills. We got our money, we got our bus card and traveled the several blocks to the new hostel, aka Home Hostel. It is very large and we have a nice room with bath, only shared with one other room, the occupants of which we have not seen but only heard. We stayed in and used the kitchen to cook dinner.
The next day, its raining In the city of Bariloche. We put on our full rainwear and hit the streets with our “to do” list. Get more money, get airplane tickets, purchase a tour, get maps, go grocery shopping, try and fail to get a new Argentina phone chip with another carrier called Movistar, eat some Chocolates of which the city of Bariloche is famous, an industry that started in 1930’s, and do a little souvenir shopping. Tonight we will have Argentina beef with our new Australian friend Julian who we met in Puerto Varas. Finally it stops raining and the sun breaks out, but it is still windy and cold. The city has a heavy Bavarian influence as the AR government invited Germans, Austrians, French, and Italians to immigrate from Europe in the early 1900’s.
We go to Alto El Fuego, a fancy pants restaurant right at 8.00, when it opened but it is small and booked. We reserve for the next night and take a few short steps before we go back and Janet talks to the host to get a recommendation for an Italian restaurant, another fine cuisine of Argentina. Well, he must have liked Janet because he tells her to wait for 15 minutes in case of no shows. We got a very nice table and ordered the famous “Bife de chorizo”, or thick sirloin, and also “parrilla”, or filla Mignonette. We topped it off with a bottle of AR Malbec wine, and some “chimichurri”, a spicy sauce of garlic,parsley and olive oil. Good conversation and a really nice time. Maybe Julian, who is a new teacher, will visit us some day, we invited him. Ps. Here is a reach out to Stephanie and Hendrik of Austria, we invite you guys too, and Emma and Hazel of NZ/UK.
Finally, the weather is grand. We took the half day tour we sought for the past 2 days. Bariloche is the largest city in the Lake District of northern Patagonia. It is bordered by the Pargue National Park. For my buds back home, please note it has some of the world’s best fly fishing, with landlocked salmon and trout introduced by US and Canadian fisheries into Rio Negro. But it is also the world class skiing and mountain trekking that makes this place magnificent. As we rode a ski lift to one of the highest observation points it was clear how beautiful the surrounding mountains and interlocked lakes were. We also saw another wood church, this one more frontier style, and then we drive on a peninsula where a giant grand hotel sits on the lake which looks like the Grand Hotel of Mackinac Island, Michigan. Apparently President Obama stayed there on a diplomatic trip. Our view of Bariloche changed dramatically as we saw the outdoor sights. Before that we thought the central district was just like Birmingham, Michigan. As well, we were told the AR nuclear technology labs are here. Nice place for scientists. FYI, AR supposedly spent $500 million on failed nuclear fusion development in the 1960’s.
We hope you enjoy some of our photos.