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Lake District: El Bolson & Bariloche


Heidi in the Lake District

(Heidi) El Bolsón lives a bit off its myth being the first non-nuclear zone of the country way back in the sixties and the first to be named an ecological municipality. That the nearby Cerro Piltriquitron is considered one of the earth’s energy centers just falls in line with this image. There are a few nice hikes, but otherwise it is very “tranquilo”. To exemplify this very quietness: I wanted to do a boat ride on a nearby lake, but the boat did not leave because there were only four tourists who wanted to do the trip!

So after two days there, we both were ready to move on to ritzy San Carlos de Bariloche on Lake Nahuel Huapi and the nearby national park of the same name. Gilles by then had set his mind to go straight to Chile, to the island of Chiloe, whereas I did not trust the weather on the Pacific coast and stayed alone in Bariloche for three days.

Unfortunately, none of the cool traveler hostals had any vacancy, so I moved into Hostal Guemes, which is very comfortable but without the ever so important social life of budget hostals. Among the many activities I undertook was going up by chair lift to Cerro Otto, where the wind almost knocked me over, but the view across the lake is simply stunning.

One whole day I spent on the famous “Circuit Tour”, it takes you to Lake Mono for some relaxed kayaking, which included having a tea break and lunch on the shores of the lake. Then we hiked up a small mountain, from there the view was even more superb than from Cerro Otto. The last stop was a microbrewery to sample their beer. I was the only participant with two guides – that was fun! These two guys were an endless source of information about the Lake District, but also had great stories to tell about their experiences with tourists. Even though they probably made no money taking me around all day, they showed great enthusiasm to make this day special for me.

The last day in Bariloche I decided to go horseback riding, expecting a nice and easy ride around the lake, but instead we went up into the mountains. Soon after we started off we went down a very steep and narrow path. Being very inexperienced with horses, I was afraid the horse would fall. Close to panicking I pulled the reigns and the horse turned around and walked down backwards! This not only frightened me even more but also my guide, who shouted the same words again and again. Since I did not understand what he said I did nothing, thinking it is better to do nothing than the wrong thing. He got off his horse and led us down the path. Once I could accept that horses can climb up and down steep trails I was fine.

Finally I was time to leave, since I had promised Gilles to arrive in Puerto Varas / Chile on a certain day. The bus ride across the Andes was very scenic. On top of that it was snowing and freezing cold. Immigration into Chile took a while: each luggage was x-rayed, since it is strictly forbidden to bring fruits, vegetables or plants into the country.

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