Bariloche was the most welcoming possible reprieve from the bustle of Buenos Aires. As much as we enjoyed being in the city, it’s hard to compare it to being surrounded by incredible views and clean air everywhere you turn. Bariloche is located in the lakes district of the Argentinian side of northern Patagonia. The landscape is made up of deep green valleys, hundreds of bright blue lakes and snow-capped mountain peaks at the edge of every horizon. We arrived a couple of weeks before the start of the high season, so we got beautiful weather and surprisingly few tourists. We stayed in the Green House Hostel, a little house on the outskirts of town with incredible views of the main lake and mountains from every room and the chilliest, most wonderful staff and vibes. We walked in and they were blasting Amy Winehouse and playing reggae at breakfast the next morning. That’s how chill it is.
In Bariloche, there is a decently reliable bus system. The only problem for us was that we had the card needed for the bus, but had no money on it. Everywhere we asked, we were told that there was nowhere nearby to recharge the card that we have, so the most common practice is to either ask someone on the bus to pay for you, or to hitchhike. Several people told us once we arrived in Bariloche that hitchhiking there is not only safe, but extremely common. So the first morning after waiting for 20 minutes for a bus that looked like it had no intention of showing up, we stuck out our thumbs and hitched a ride. We were pleasantly surprised when a young, friendly couple pulled over and drove us part of the way to our destination. They were so sweet and welcoming, and gave us great advice on what to do in the area. So, we decided to try to hitchhike the rest of the distance we needed to go. Our next ride was with a guy who is a trekking guy in the area, also super friendly, loaded with great information, and dropped us off right at the doorstep of the bike rental shop we were headed to. Not only did we get to where we needed to go, but we met some incredible people along the way and it was free!
One thing we have definitely picked up on in South America is that exaggeration and/or underestimation are ridiculously common. We were advised to take a bike ride around the Circuito Chico, a 29 km route that circles several of the lakes in the region. We were told that parts were ‘pretty steep.’ After having to get off the bikes and walk up the very first hill, we realized that this was an extreme underestimation. Despite the intensity of the ride, we decided to take our time through the loop, stopping frequently to enjoy the incredible views, grab a bite to eat, or casually walk our bikes up a particularly steep stretch of road. In the end we had a thoroughly exhausting but unbelievably beautiful day.
The next day we decided to ‘take it easy’ by doing a short hike up to Cerro Campanario, once listed as one of National Geographic’s top ten views in the world. Once again, we were misled to believe that this would be a gentle hike. While the hike was only about 40 minutes long, the majority of it was straight up a hill that felt like at least a 45-degree incline. Of course the view at the top was entirely worth the climb. We could see lakes and mountains forever, and could see and marvel at the loop we had biked the day before.
When we made it down the mountain, we decided that we had definitely earned a treat for all of our strenuous exercise, so we decided to take a short tour of some of the local Argentinian breweries called cervecerias. We started off at one called La Berlina, a log house surrounded by fields with a grassy backyard overlooking the mountains. It was absolutely heavenly. From there we had the luck of hitchhiking with the kindest older man who spoke great English, enjoys gardening and wasn’t creepy in the slightest. He just so happened to be driving to the supermarket next door to the cerveceria we wanted to try next… what luck! He even ended up joining us for a beer. At this brewery, we tried most likely the best amber ale we’ve ever had. We liked it so much that we took some home with us. Their policy was that the customer provides the bottle and they fill up the beer. Not having had the foresight to bring an empty bottle with us, Lauren ran next door to the store, bought a bottle of water, we chugged/ dumped it out, and the bartenders kindly filled it with beer.
Once we had our water bottle of beer secured in our bag, we went back to the road and had one last fabulous hitchhiking ride to seal our experience in Bariloche. A father picked us up with his 10 and 11 year-old daughters in the back seat who literally feigned fainting when they found out we were from the U.S. It also turns out the dad has a friend who owns 3 Argentinian restaurants in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Once again, an amazingly charming hitchhiking experience.
The next day began a spontaneous series of events that we’ll have to fill you in on later.