San Carlos de Bariloche is some 1000 miles south of Buenos Aires in the sparsely populated area of Northern Patagonia, which gets even sparser as one moves south toward Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn facing Antarctica. It is a favorite destination for honeymoons, for skiers and nature lovers in both summer and winter, and for “end of school” year trips in high school.
Leaving Buenos Aires in the early evening, the bus ride through the night was mainly through scrub desert. Yet, some 1½ hours prior to arriving at Bariloche, magnificent scenery of the Lake District (Siete Lagos or Seven Lakes) began in San Martin de Los Andes. The scenery consisted of snow-covered peaks, rugged cliffs, and deep blue-emerald coloured lakes. The pot at the end of the rainbow was a wonderful alpine town reminiscent of an alpine Switzerland. The central bus terminal is a brief 10-15 minute ride away from the centre of town at Mitre and Rolando streets.
I found a wonderful old-fashioned pension run by a delightful couple Theo and Elba (Theo spoke English well) called Hosteria Las Moiras. The address is Reconquista 72, telephone 427883. My room on the top floor had a most beautiful view of the lake and Andes which reminded me of Lucerne, Switzerland, for only about $12 with breakfast and taxes. Of course, this was off-season, but the sun was warm during the day, as springtime in Patagonia was evident.
I took bus#20 the next day from mid-town past peninsula San Pedro which ended some 20 kilometres later at the Hotel Llao-Llao (Pronounced zhao-zhao), a luxury but rustic resort hotel on another glacial lake. It was a beautiful sunny day and by noon it was warm enough for just a T-shirt (at least for a Canadian). I just hiked around enjoying the natural beauty and caught a bus back when ready. There are half-day and full-day tours from Bariloche, including one over the border into Chile and the beautiful cone-shaped volcano at Lake Orsono.
Being an international resort, Bariloche has many fine eating places, with mainly Central European food. My favourite discovery on a sidestreet leading to the lake was the Europa Restaurant at 149 Palacios with Italian-Argentine cuisine, warm décor and friendly service. Due to the economic crisis and the off-season, I was about the only foreign tourist around mid-week. For great chocolates, ignore the shops on the main drag and head for Bari Chocolates on a sidestreet for wonderful quality and service. Another good quality restaurant is the Viejo Munich, where an excellent lunch of fresh lake trout with a glass of Reisling went for about $8. There are also numerous places for great coffee, sweets and migas (thin crust-off sandwiches) anytime of day. There is also a branch of the famous Freddo’s ice cream right in town. For nightlife, there is a disco, tango-jazz bistro, and cinema.
Bariloche was a relaxing break from the stress of the capital; though as a reminder of the times, I did witness a large torchlight parade-demonstration of students protesting severe cutbacks and the potential closing of their regional branch of a university. Fortunately, the march ended peacefully though emotions were running high.
The long bus ride back to the capital included three good meals, a magnificent sunset over the pampas and interesting conversation with two senior ladies who filled me in on the old Buenos Aires the way it used to be. Their style and nostalgia spoke volumes.