Friday, March 03, 2006

Bariloche Update

Im sittin in a nice little Internet Cafe and thought I would share some Bariloche experiences of last week. Im still working on that second Antarctica update...itll get on the net one of these days

Bariloche Fotos and More!

The 19 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires went pretty well. Gotta share with you some information about the bus system in Argentina. In the US we have only the Greyhound. In Argentina you have hundreds of bus companies. And within those companies you have a few options with the bus that you want to ride on. There is the airport shuttle bus type bus, the coche-semi-cama and then there is the coche-cama.

  • The airport shuttle bus type are the type that are pretty uncomfy; for tall people at least. They were designed for just shuttling people back and forth from one area...small distances. However, these types of buses are the type that many bus companies use in Patagonia because they can take a beating much better than their bigger, heavier, and more comfier bus brethren...the semi-cama and the coche-cama. I had to suffer though a coupla these going to El Chaltén and Puerto Natales.
  • The semi-cama is more like what you would find on a Greyhound...there is a little more space to stretch out, the seats go back a littlebit, there is a movie, and sometimes they serve food. Not too bad.
  • For a few dollars more you can upgrade to the coche-cama. The coche cama is the airplane first class equivalent in the bus industry. The advantages of the cama is that the seats are only three across instead of four in every row. The seats nearly recline to the horizontal position. There are food services which bring you something that is halfway decent. Lots of space, baby! It really is like they take those first class seats they have in airplanes, put them into a bus while installing foot rests and making them recline...Laiiiiidddddd Baaaaack....It doesn't take much more to go first class...
I paid the extra eight bucks for the expresso coche-cama bus to Bariloche. It took 19 hours instead of the normal 24. Less time in an air conditioned steel box means a happier jp. I left a hot and muggy BA at 2pm and arrived to a cool and very windy Bariloche in the morning. Most overnight buses give you a great chance to see wonderful sunsets and sunrises. The scenery changed quite a bit over the 19 hours. Gone was the forever flat pampa and in its place was the rolling mountains of Rio Negro province and the gigantic Lago Nahuel Huapí.

Bariloche is a great city and has a great feel to it. In the winter time it becomes the home to many skiers from all over the world. Bariloche is known as the Switzerland of South America. And for good reason. There are lots of great places to snowboard, Nordic and downhill ski all over the place. When its not snowing there are still lots of things to do check out. I went on two day hikes the time I was there and really enjoyed both of them. The first hike began from the steps of my hostel up to a viewpoint of the entire city. It was alright but kinda began to rain on the way back. There was a ski lift to the top of the mountain but I didnt wanna pay the five bucks and thought the two hour walk up the mountain would do me some good. The views of the city were excellent and the lake beyond that were mighty fine. Brought my lunch with me and planned to eat it in the ski lodge but ended eating it on the steps since they were gonna charge me three dollars to sit inside and eat my own food. The wind was strong on top of the mountain so I found a calm place and lunched on crackers, cheese, and some fruit. Towards the West you could see the storm clouds forming and the rain falling. I took some more fotos and then made my way back to the city while getting sprinkled on lightly the whole time. A good hike that got me ready for the next hike.

Had to take a break the next day because I think I walked too much the previous day. No fun hiking when you are banged up.

The second hike was a full day of walking. Quite worth it! I began by taking a 30 minute bus from the town center to Catedral Alta Patagonia. There were a coupla folks from the hostel on the bus so we all decided to hike together. The Catedral gets its name from of the chorus of rocky pillars that look very similar to the spires found on tall churches. We forked out eight buckaroos to take the ski lift to the top of the mountain. The weather changed from nice to cold and windy on the 15 minute ride up the mountain. Glad I brought some layers. The weather initially looked kinda crummy from below because the top of the mountain was covered in clouds. Once we got up there we found that only one side of the mountain range was covered in clouds, the view of the ski lodge below and Bariloche in the distance were the only things that we couldn't see. The other side of the mountain had a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and the valley that was a 1000 meters below. We snapped some fotos and got on our way. Our goal at 1030 that morning was to reach the bus stop where we came from and catch the 6pm bus back to Bariloche. To get there we took the scenic route and stopped by a refuge and a campground where hikers could rest and do some rock climbing on the impressive rocks that encompassed the refuge and the valley. Our trek lead us along the backside of the mountain where we frequently stopped for water and picture breaks. Hiking in Patagonia is alot like connect-the-dots. Since signs can fall or be stolen, most of the trails are marked with red painted dots that guide hikers. Pretty easy to do until some goonie gets the wrong idea and brings his own paint and starts painting dots all over the mountain. Our hike to the refuge brought us along the backside until we had to cut across the mountain and make our way down. To get to the Frey refuge we had to ascend and descend several tiers of rocky walls, walk along some winding rivers of glacier water, and around two big lakes of glacier water. Each lake was like the stage and the rocky walls surrounded it were like a giant natural amphitheater. I noticed some rock climbers on a huge mountain peak and gave a huge YOOOOOO!!!!! in a booming voice. I was kinda amused to hear all the echos of my voice bounce off the rocky walls. Kinda like that little toddler you hear in church who hears an echo and starts to make more sounds. Well, kinda like a toddler.

The view from the refuge was impressive in any direction. The two most impressive were the south side which had a view of a gigantic rock where the climbers were working there way up. The west side had a view of where we hiked down from. Wow...this is a lot better than the office. We rested at the refuge for 20 minutes or so before heading back on the trail. The only problem with day hikes is that you can never really stay in one space for very long because you always gotta get back to somewhere because it would be pretty uncomfy to be in the place you want to be without the right equipment. ie...stuff to keep you warm and fed.
The hike back was nearly all downhill. We passed through wildflowers and huge sections of bamboo forest as well as one side of the mountain that had been affected by a forest fire. We made it back to the bus station about 15 minutes before the bus and stretched and relaxed then napped on the ride back. A great day hike, baby...

I was on my way back from one of the many famous chocolate shops in Bariloche when I noticed something strange. It was a wheel. What in the heck was a unicycle doing in Bariloche. Well, a hippie slash juggler was in town and making his way to El Bolson, a hippie hangout in Patagonia. He and his buddy had their doubts when they saw this tall gringo making his way towards their unicycle. This wasn't any normal unicycle that I usually ride. It was a giraffe. A giraffe unicycle is a uni with a really long neck and the operator can be pretty high off the ground. It took a little convincing and a little help from the fellas to get up on the unicycle but they were pleased to see that I could actually ride the thing.

a quick note on the unicycles. lots of people think you are gonna crack open your head when you ride a unicycle. I call shenanigans. You can hurt yourself a whole heck of a lot more on a bicycle than on a uni because you really cant go fast enough on a uni to do any real damage. That is not to say that you cant hurt yourself. I have had a coupla unplanned dismounts that left their markings on certain parts of my body. But nothing as bad as the time when my buddy Jesse and I saw a women do a Peter Pan over the handlebars on the Corporate Cycling Challenge a year ago. Now that was ugly...

Anyways, the time spent in Bariloche was great. Lots of nice people that I met and one or two that might stop in Omaha when they are on passing through. I get that a lot when I tell people Im from Omaha. "Oh, you're from Omaha...I drove through there once on the way to ..." I met one girl who was a forest fire fighter who said that, we got to talking and she promises to stop and have a cup of coffee when she's passing through.

Its time for a steak. laters

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