After our three and a half day hitchhike expedition through Chile and Argentina we had finally reached the promised land of San Carlos de Bariloche. We had no time to relax though, since errands had to be run. First, we needed a hostel. Since the bus had dropped us off in the middle of the city centre of the sizeable city of Bariloche, we had to look for a hostel in this part of town and could not go hunting for deals in the outskirts. The city centre has a European-like picturesque quality to it and buses to the different national parks surrounding the city depart from there. After a quick price and quality check of different hostels in the 8 blocks surrounding the main square, we ended up in the dorms of Rodinia Hostel (280 ARS per person per night including breakfast), even though Laurent was convinced that better deals surely could have been found. Nonetheless, we found that this place suited our needs quite well and was indeed, quite nice.
The second task we had to undertook was to purchase the bus tickets out of Bariloche. Since we had to meet Emily’s dad in Buenos Aires on March 2, we did not have time to hitchhike the 1600km between the two cities, and thus opted for a 22 hour bus. The bus station in Bariloche can be easily reached by taking either bus 20 or 21 in in the eastern direction (both buses have multiple stops in the city centre). The bus terminal is neatly organized and it is very easy to shop around for good prices, especially if you travel towards Buenos Aires. All bus companies seem to have a bus there three times a day. Although we were there a full three days prior to departure, the cama class (most comfortable) of all buses were already fully booked for the date we needed to travel, so semi-cama (still very comfortable) it was. Third on our to-do list was getting some food. Here we got lucky. Bariloche is absolutely packed, as one can expect of one of the most touristed places in any country, with tourist traps serving bad hamburgers and worse service, but we managed to dodge all these. Around the corner of our hostel ‘La 10 Empanadas’ served great empanadas in ten exotic flavours. Finally, we had to plan our activities for the next day.
In all fairness, outside of the winter sport season, Bariloche offers really only two attractions to tourists: either you can do one of the many outdoor activities offered in Nahuel Huapi Park and the mountains surrounding the city or indulge in Bariloche’s famed chocolate and ice cream scene. Doing the former necessarily requires a reward by the latter. One of the hikes that the tourist office highly recommended was the trek to Refugio Frey. Alternatively, there was also a shorter hike to the top of Cerro Llao Llao, locted closer to the lake instead of the mountains. (See other posts)
After completing these two treks we felt that we deserved some chocolate (and some more empanadas). If you walk anywhere among Mitre you will quite literally stumble over all the chocolate shops trying to drag in tourists. We settled for the most expensive and popular one, Mamuschka (they have a separate ice saloon juts up the street). We sampled 6 different kinds of chocolate, which set us back around 60ARS. The 99.9% pure cacao tablet they offered surprised Laurent in its flavourless, but all the others we agreed were a true delight.
Content with our chocolate experience and with our stomachs filled, we headed back to the hostel to pack our stuff and prepared for our departure from Patagonia and towards Buenos Aires. The brochure of the bus company had promised us champagne served in crystal glasses and three meals during our 22 hour ride (the brochure seemingly also promised a bus full of Scandinavian models and an air-conditioning that did not leak right above all the window seats). Lies. Champagne became Sprite in plastic cups and the lunch of the second day was served together with dinner of the first night, leaving us hungry from 9am until the bus arrived in Buenos Aires at 4pm.
Tips for travellers
- If you pay your bus ticket in cash, you get a 20% or more discount on it. if they don’t offer you this discount just ask for it.
- Regardless of what the bus company promises you, bring food. In contrast to other South-American countries, long-distance buses in Argentina do not stop frequently and even when they do stop at bus terminals you are unlikely to have enough time to buy anything.