...and Bariloche & Chiloe
I know, I know, I’m about to get the sarcastic sympathy violin, but travelling really can be hard at times. Take today for example, it became the best day in the history of the world, just because we found a cinema showing a film in English and a McDonalds! Ahh, the simple pleasures!!! And it was all premised simply because of a boring couple of days, in a relatively gorgeous place, and a crummy hostel. Travelling is tough!
We left Valdivia on our whirlwind tour of the south heading once again across the border to Bariloche, the lakes district of Argentina. Bariloche is gorgeous. A little like I imagine the Rockies would be, Bariloche is set on a lake with stunning snow capped mountains across from it, and loads and loads of lakes with stunning forest surrounding it. The whole area which contains Bariloche is just kind of magical. So after arriving into town, we settled into our hostel – the first experience of a mixed dorm. We had heard that things book up fast in the summer so we booked a week in advance, pretty unheard of for us, and all we could manage to find was a couple of beds in a mixed dorm with three stinky men. Urrghh! Now, I’m hardly a princess, but the smell of just walking into this room was enough to knock out a small rodent. I have to take blame though (not for the smell, but for the fact we ended up in the room), Lee had wanted to spend the extra and get a double room, but considering the price differential, I was sure we could tough it out. And that we did, but I don’t think we’ll be trying it again too soon! We made some friends, and I learnt to live with even the most horrid of smelly feet (never knew Lee was such a fantastic example of a man!), but from now on in its double rooms all the way!
Our first day was spent in El Bolson, a small hippy town an hour and a half south of Bariloche. We had heard it had a great market and was really chilled and laid back. And that it was. We got there about midday and headed straight through the craft stalls (of which Lee was not impressed) and grabbed some of their cool organic foods. We then took this down to the park and watched the freaks. It was cool, there were all sorts of people just working on their tricks – back flips, standing on shoulders, handstands, things I didn’t even know you could make money from, they were doing them. But that killed all of two hours, and our bus wasn’t back to Bariloche for another two. So we wandered. It’s not a very large town, so we got some ice-cream and sat again to watch the freaks (I say that as an endearing term, I like freaks). Our synopsis on El Bolson was that it’s a cute town, and great to chill in, but make sure you’re up for chilling. Lesson number one.
We had an organisational day the next day, but then on Saturday we hired a car and flipped around the countryside. We roped in this Canadian guy named Jason to cut the costs and had a gorgeous day. Lesson number two though – all lakes look the same after about number four. That’s when travelling gets tough. You see something that is absolutely stunning, yet it barely registers as more than an “Errgghh” on the interest scale. We spent the whole day driving the 355km circuit through stunning scenery and along dirt tracks, only to be slightly relived when we returned to the hostel. That said, we did have an incredible asado waiting for us!!! Lee & I, Andy (a retired Scotsman whose wife had recently left him), Sergio (the incorrigible Argentinean who described every part of the country in relation to how hot the women were), a lovely Argentinean couple from Rosario, a couple of Argentinean girls, and Christophe (the cross-eyed German) sat down to the largest serving of meat I have ever seen. Between us I think we ate a whole cow, three pigs and a couple of chickens, it was insane, but brilliant.
So the next morning we left Bariloche, once again to cross back into Chile and head down to Puerto Varas (the Bariloche of Chile) for a night before checking out the island of Chiloe.
Puerto Varas is gorgeous, also set on a lake with Volcan Osorno behind it, and it has cute little shingled houses throughout the town. But that’s also its major sightseeing attraction, so after an afternoon in the sweet little town, we caught a bus down to Castro, the capital of the island of Chiloe. Now, in Lee’s defence (he planned this part of the trip), our Santiagoan friends had told us how beautiful this island is and how it’s a must not miss. I’m not sure what it is that is a “must not miss”, but it was cute. There was also the backing of the lonely planet (which is this close to being ditched I might add) as a “bustling summer holiday destination which fills up fast in the summer months!”. We travelled the island for three days, sampling the seafood of Quemchi and Achao, checking out the stilted houses of Castro, and just looking for some civilisation in Ancud. Which we never really found. Cute, but absolutely dead with very little to do. I am sure it’s a great place to go, but at this point the lack of anything to actually do was killing us.
This brings us to the best day ever. Well almost!!! It started off with the first stroke of luck we’d had in a few days. The hostel which we had stumbled upon the previous evening, turned out to be only a street away from the bus station, so after having our photo taken by the sweet little Chilean hostel owner, we were on our merry way. Merry until we reached Puerto Montt. Now we had no expectations, but we wanted accommodation close to the ferry terminal so that the next morning we would be able to get straight on the ferry and off to Patagonia – bring on the good times. After a fifteen minute walk through death town we arrived at the place that was recommended in the lonely planet. After finding out the price had more than doubled in the past two years since the book was written we moved on to the next closest place! This has to be the worst hostel I have ever seen, but on the plus side the cheapest. So we took it. At this point I was close to tears and we had to vacate the room as quickly as possible to avoid ingesting any of the toxic mould spores ( I may be embellishing). So we wandered back through death town, into the heart of Puerto Montt. This is where the day of fun started. We spotted a mall, we went shopping (and bought Lee a lovely brown down jacket), had Pizza hut, went to the movies, then had McDonalds. Oh my god, it’s amazing how familiarity can cheer you up. So that even now, eight hours into our fourteen hour delay for the Navimag, we’re happy and cheery, and renewed for another stretch on the travels.
Love you all,
Em & Lee