Bariloche, El Bolson, Hielo Azul: Argentinian Patagonia

November 15th-21st

From all the hitch hiking I did on the coast I was inspired to hitch hike to my next destination, Bariloche Argentina. I had to take two buses to get to near the prison to the south of Valdivia. I made it there no problem and within a matter of minutes I got picked up by a truck driver with a very thick Chilean accent. I could still converse some words with him but he ended up calling his cousin who could speak English to talk with me and tell me he was going to Paillaco and needed to drop me off on the route 5 to Osorno. I got picked up literally right away by a girl from Valdivia who was excited to practice english bit didn’t really know much so i got to practice spanish more. She and he dad worked building hospitals and i noticed a big hospital being built in Corral when we were there and she was heading to osorno for another hospital project. She didn’t have faith that i would make it to bariloche and wanted to drop me off at the bus station. I told her it wouldn’t be a problem and i had lots of time. She droped me off at the intersection that led to the Argentina frontier. I had to walk about 200 metres and wait about 20 mins but i got picked up by a construction worker working 20km or so down the rd. He dropped me off and i waited another 20 mins or so in the hot sun. There was very little traffic but i got a ride to Puyehue by some ladies who worked in tourism that needed to deliver some papers to resort just outside the park. These ladies were very excited to meet me and show me everywhere (click any photos below for a link to full album).
After they dropped me off I had a long wait so I just kept walking… It was going on 5 pm and I wasn’t entirely sure if I would make it to Bariloche. It was a very beautiful, hot and sunny day and I just kept walking with my heavy pack through the park Puyehue which was absolutely beautiful. I got tired about about an hour and a half of walking and I finally found some shade so I took a break. I had walked a long way and passed a sign that said 15km to the Argentina border. I had seen about 4 cars pass by me in 2 hours and finally 3 cars came at once and one of them stopped to pick me up. It was Pablo and he was argentinian and heading directly to bariloche. He knew no english but I was able to converse with him using my pen and paper and my offline translation app on my iPod. I quickly learned some of the major differences between Chilean and Argentinian Spanish. About 5 minutes past where Pablo picked me up the lush green rainforest started to turn grey. P1140255

It was the result of volcan Puyehue that exploded in June of 2011. It destroyed huge sections of beautiful alpine rainforest in and around Nahuel Huapi National Park. P1140260
Even though huge amounts of ash and grey forest flooded the landscape, crossing the border was no problem. Soon enough we had driven around Lago Nahual Huapi into a dry desert like environment and back around the southern shores to Bariloche. P1140270Pablo was so kind as to phone my Couchsurfer Carla and figure out exactly where she lived. He dropped me off close to her place and I went looking for some food. P1140272
Bariloche is a hilly city and walking around with my heavy pack was no fun. I had a lot of trouble trying to get Argentina money and find a restaurant that was open around 6 pm. Finally I found one that accepted Mastercard and it had wireless Internet. I ordered a big sandwich and a beer And relaxed for a few hours while I waited for Carla to get off work at 9pm. I met up with Carla and she was so kind. We had a nice dinner together. P1140434
After a few glasses of wine I decided to show her my dry suit and she was a surfer so she had a wetsuit. We both put them on and she showed me how to dance the tango Argentina style in our goofy suits. It was ridiculous! Lots of laughing.

The next day I finally found a way to get money out and made my way to meet up with my friend Kara who I worked with in Mazama Washington with Outward Bound. She had done a mountaineering training in mid October that I was very interested in participating in but I had a lot on my plate at that time and felt too rushed to make it down in time for it. Oh well I still got to see the OB base camp and make some connections. The base was in an interesting neighborhood to the west of barloloche 20min by bus. I was originally in communication with Kara about climbing Volcan Tronador with her friend Bill but weather was not looking good so we decided to head further south to El Bolson and go trekking for 3 days up to glacier Hielo Azul.
It was a very nice trip with great weather. The map of the area was quite a bit off and the property owner at the trailhead would not let us pass through his property because he had not opened the campground for the season yet. He told us we had to walk back 3km and them down the river and follow the river back around to get to the spot by his property we could pretty much see from the gate. We ended up hiking back a few hundred meters back and bushwacking down to the river. This hike was great but it had some of the sketchiest bridges I’ve ever seen. The other thing that the trail kind of went more or less straight up with no switch backs so really steep up and down. The second day we hiking up to the glacier Heilo Azul from the refugio.
It was a great view of the valley and a more relaxed day of hiking
We hiked up and over more rugged terrain through interesting rain shadow forests of the Andes. We arrived down in the next valley and found the sketchiest bridge i’ve ever seen that led us to a campground on the other side of the river.
The next day we hiked out and made it back to El Bolson just in time to catch the bus back to bariloche. When I returned Carla had her whole family over for the weekend and there wasn’t much space for me at the OB base so I got a hostel for 50 argentino pesos a night close to $12. The weather was horrible with lots of ash blowing so I finally got some much needed relaxing in and had a good night on the town before I took a bus to Puerto Montt in Chile.