Overall Destination Rating: 92%
Argument Density: Moderate
Argentina – the country that just keeps on giving. Our journey south to Patagonia started with a quick flight to San Carlos de Bariloche – a quaint little town known as ‘the Switzerland of South America’. If you like endless views of snow-capped mountains, turquoise lakes and lush green forests then Bariloche is for you. If you like craft beer, handmade chocolate and sensational ice cream, then Bariloche is for you. Three perfect days of climbing up hills and having beers at the top, thank you very much Bariloche.
Day 77 – A Final Hurrah in Buenos Aires
With our flight not departing for Buenos Aires until later in the afternoon, we had a morning to kill. Turns out that once you’ve visited the falls, there isn’t a great deal to do in Iguazú. You can barely get a good coffee and scrambled eggs for breakfast. We set out with the best intentions for seeing the border mark where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet, but easily convinced ourselves that this would, in fact, be a bit pointless and so we resigned ourselves to some questionable cheese toasties to pass the time until we were to be reunited with Tone. I found time to buy myself a small bottle of whisky, which remarkably only cost 70p, a small price to pay for mine and Ross’s sanity on the flight. The airport wait was made more entertaining with Monopoly Deal and a very friendly tourist who took it upon himself to draw Ross and I whilst we tried to plan our wins.
It was to be our final night in Buenos Aires, and, even more sadly, our last night with Stevie and Nyssa. Having grown quite accustomed to travelling as a 4, I was fairly dismayed at the thought of going back to having to deal with Ross’s bad jokes alone.
Our meeting point for the evening’s festivities was La Carbonera – a Venezuelan empanada joint which had eluded us previously, but was now going to get the absolute treatment. Luckily for me the corn empanadas are naturally gluten free so before Ross could say “pint of quilmes por favor geez” I had earmarked a couple of flavours to spend my pesos on. From here on in, a mini bar crawl ensued, where we stopped frequently at anywhere that looked Instagram worthy, the highlight being a bar whereby everything, yes everything, on the menu was $89 pesos (around £1).
After several rounds of Monopoly Deal, more mojitos than could ever be necessary, and questionable rum shots that appeared without anyone asking for them, we ended up with some halloumi treats before bidding Stevie and Nyssa a tearful farewell. We couldn’t have asked for a better pair to explore Peru, Chile and Argentina with and can’t wait for some more adventures on the other side of the globe.
Day 78 – The Remarkable Norwegian Air, Lago Nahuel Huapi
For fear of sounding like a travel blogging cliche, I’m quickly learning that one of the best things about travelling is the incredible people you meet. This flight was a true example of that. Not only did a lady named Irene actually swap seats with Ross in order to sit next to me and chat to me throughout the flight, Marcia the flight attendant was exceptionally helpful, even writing me down (in Spanish) a list of things I could do to help with the shakes.
We landed in Bariloche with bright blue skies overhead and artisan ice cream calling our names. We checked into our Airbnb, dumped our dirty washing at the laundrette and set off for a recce of the village. Turns out Bariloche is like a mini Switzerland and the perfect stop before heading into Patagonia.
Day 79 – Cerro Llao Llao, Sendero de los Arrayanes
After a home cooked meal and (finally) some veggies, it had been an early night for us, meaning this morning we were up early ready for a day of hiking. We jumped on a local bus to Parque Municipal Llao Llao where some pretty trails awaited us.
First we tackled the Sendero de los Arrayanes, a relatively easy trail through the forest taking us past a pretty lake and via some very photographable viewpoints…
Once we’d reached the end of that trail, remarkably with not even a peep from me about my feet hurting, our appetites were whet and so we set off on a second trail which looped us round the edge of the lake and towards our ultimate destination of Cerro Llao Llao.
This marked the end of the enjoyable walking for the day, as a sharp left took us climbing up to the top of Cerro Llao Llao. Notoriously not a fan of any sort of incline, I was soon huffing and puffing, with Ross becoming increasingly less patient with each hairpin bend. Thankfully, it was only about 30 mins of wheezing and snapping at each other before the trail opened out onto one of the most spectacular views we’ve been granted thus far on the trip.
When we finally made it back down to sea level, there was just enough time for a quick home made dinner and a few episodes of Friends before another early night.
Day 80 – Cerro Campanario, Mamushka
Another lazy start for Ross as I ploughed through a job application and he alternated between Facebook videos of dogs and the Mail Online sport section. We finally got ourselves out of the apartment and made a beeline for Mamushka – an ice cream vendor that Irene-from-the-flight had recommended to us. Turns out Irene knows a thing or two about ice cream, with a delicious vegan pineapple, ginger and mint flavour, and a lemon pie with real meringue swirls, being the showstoppers.
We decided to tackle Bariloche’s most famous and most visited viewpoint today – Cerro Campanario. The viewpoint and cafe can be reached by a quick jaunt up the ski lift but, in the interest of saving our pesos for a pint at the top, we decided to scramble up the steep, dusty trail below it to get to the peak. It was a rough climb but we were rewarded with 360 degree views of the surrounding area, a cold pint for Ross and a lovely white wine for me. Worth it 100%.
The journey back down the mountain, after a drink, was much more sketchy than the way up, and it was only after several stomach-churning slips and slides, many a stumble, and a couple of panicky grasps at tree branches, that we finally boarded the bus back to our Airbnb.
Day 81 – Cerro Otto, Telerifico Cerro Otto, Rotating Cafe, Habsburg Stone, Manush, Belek
Fearing we had seen the best of what Bariloche had to offer, we did a quick trawl of the nearby trails and came across the Cerro Otto Telerifico (cable car). After a quick move from our Airbnb to a cute ski chalet type hostel, we set off for the cable car station, bright eyed, bushy tailed, and bravely planning to hike up to the top of Cerro Otto rather than get the cable car.
It was only when we were half an hour into an overgrown trail that we began to question our plan. It was with many concerned glances at each other that we persevered a little longer, but soon were faced by a pack of aggressive dogs that sent us skidding back the way we’d come, cursing the advice we’d read that the trail was viable.
We eventually admitted defeat and were soon being locked into a carriage and hauled up the mountain by the somewhat rusty cable car system. I enjoyed the view through my fingers as Ross taunted me with “what was that noise?” and “that wind can’t be safe” comments.
At the top of the cable car, there are a few viewing platforms, an art gallery, rotating cafe, and trailheads to various points in the mountains. Upon some advice from a friendly and enthusiastic ranger, we set off for the Habsburg Stone – a rocky outcrop offering more incredible views. The walk was about two hours each way through the forest, and was flat enough for Ross and I to remain friends throughout.
We got back to the cable car station just in time as they were closing the trails, and decided to treat ourselves to a drink in the rotating cafe. Ross enjoyed a pint and we shared a very Christmassy apple strudel whilst Ross tried to pretend he wasn’t getting travel sick.
On the bus back from Cerro Otto, we agreed that tonight would be an excellent night for our Around The World in 80 Arguments Christmas Do. We started in Manush – a local brewery offering 2-4-1 happy hour craft beer and jugs of wine for cheaper than a bottle of water.
From here we moved onto Belek where Ross worked through their craft beer offering and we sampled some of their cheap but very cheerful burgers. Little did Ross know, as he was pounding his fourth and fifth beers, how much he would come to regret them in the morning…