San Carlos de Bariloche, San Martin de Los Andes

Yep – two big longwinded names.  Usually shortened to Bariloche & San Martin.  But, in order to make myself and another uneventful update seem more important – I’ve used the more important sounding full names.

But – to get there, first we had to wake up on time on the 16 Aug.  Success.  Breakfast, then off to the bus station.  Buy our tickets, and manage to get on a bus to Argentina.  Nice comfortable bus for the crossing of Andes.  Migration formalities – Argy chap notices the NZ passport, and we chat about sport for a little bit.  Is stoked when I show that I’m wearing an All Blacks top between my two layers of Icebreaker merino warm goodness.

Get to Bariloche, and have to make a choice between one of two touts, or walking to town.  Choose the tout with cabins out of town, and a free ride.  Get there – and discover our own little self-contained cabin.  Sweet – supermarket for some wine and platter-type snacks.  Without the girlfriend, I’d have probably bought some beer and found a bus stop to drink it in.  Girlfriends are such a hindrance.  Then – to a restaurant.  A parilla (barbeque, pretty much), where we seemed to have ordered just a simple selection of meat for two – but they keep bringing it until we beg for mercy.  Dog outside introduces itself, and then follows us all the way to the door of our cabin.  Doesn’t seem to expect an invitation inside, but would certainly like one.  Doesn’t get one.  More wine.

17 Aug – a decent sleep-in.  And then up to a private residence, with our own choice of breakfast, and snow outside.  Without the girlfriend – would have been woken early in crowded dorm room in town, with more  bread and jam for breakfast.  Hindrance.  5km walk to town along lakefront.  Big lake, with the Andes on the far side.  Alright to look at, I guess.  Get to town, and manage to get us some Argy currency.  Lunch – and a quick game of friendly chess.  Then – the chocolate museum.  Quick run through, history of and the such – before rushing back to pay the nice tout for our cabin.  Arrive at the later end of the time window I’d agreed with him – so I send Pen (with next to no Spanish) to deal with him, while I hide in the supermarket buying booze.  Anybody would’ve done the same thing.  Then – same restaurant as last night – this time for some lamb & trout.  Rather tasty.  Back to cabin – and try to drink as much of the booze I’d bought as possible.  I’d stocked up for the Argy vs Wales rugby in the morning, but Pen discovered we had to leave at 10am – same time as the game starts.

18 Aug – up and out the door.  Cleaner arrived at exactly 10am, thwarting my ideas of taking advantage of the legendary south american tardiness.  So instead we manage to find a bus into the town centre.  Bariloche town centre is like Queenstown would be if the council found several million dollars and did up everything to look “Alpsy”.  Tacky alpsy buildings everywhere, being used by tacky alpsy ski-nerds.  But – manage to find a restaurant/bar with the Argys and Welsh on – and we steal a booth, pile up the bags, and I settle in with a beer.  Pen goes to do girly stuff.  Internet or something.

Then, enough time for lunch at a typically expensive restaurant.  But – they had wild venison and boar on the menu – so I insisted.  Scoffed that down, then a quick taxi to bus terminal in time to catch the bus to San Martin.  San Martin is a much quieter, much more relaxed, much smaller, and much less wanky version of Bariloche.  Still a few skiers about, it seems, but they seem to be actually skiing during the day, rather than walking around town.  No St Bernard dogs & puppies to pose for photos with either.  Again, we opt for a tout at the bus station.  18 pesos, he reckons.  That is a ridiculous bargain, and we jump at it.  He says there’s two rooms – and a New Zealand couple in the other.  I figure he’s got it wrong, and just repeating our country as it was the last country name he’d heard.  We get there – and there is indeed a NZ girl, with an irish boyfriend.  Tout had cycled ahead of us to brew up some tea – but got waylaid by kiwi&oirish for directions.  So, we sit at table and listen to directions and stuff, then all 4 tourists have a nice cuppa tea together while tout goes back to his day job.  After much chit-chat, it’s nearly time for dinner.  Pen & I go to the supermarket to make sure we’ve got wine for later, and check out restaurants on the way – while other couple clean themselves up.  Then – we go out to dinner together.  More chit-chat.  Back to hostel (actually more of a bed&breakfast – Pen&I on mezzanine floor over lounge, other couple in a bedroom – and then there’s a kitchen and bathroom).  Sit down, and more wines and chit-chat.  Then we realise that the tout normally sleeps in either the bedroom or the mezzanine floor.  But – with this windfall of tourists today – has set up a stretcher in the kitchen.  Rather uncomfortable.  Not the stretcher – stretcher looked sweet, despite barely fitting into the kitchen.  But the situation certainly was rather uncomfortable for a little while – until the tout/owner started snoring, and we got some more wine into us.  Stayed up until 1 or 2am chatting.

Therefore, slept in considerably on 19 Aug.  I felt a little guilty getting up not long before noon (probably from owners bed) – just in time for him to return for his lunch break and notice his carefully laid breakfast table untouched.  But, then the other couple got up about an hour later.  We then went for a walk – with some directions the owner had given me.  And me nodding along, understanding one word once in a while.  But, I must have exhibited enough confidence for three suckers to trust me – and we managed to find our way to the top of a hill.  Nice view of the town, and then a nice view of the lake.  Nice.  Back to town, and the sickening double-date system splits into two sickening couple systems.  Others go researching rental bikes, while we research buses onwards.  Then, wandering around restaurants – checking out menus and prices until we’re hungry enough to actually eat.  By then, however, it’s after 4pm – and restaurants are closed.  Find a typical plastic-ish fast food joint, and get some cheap food – not completely crap.  After paying for that, realise we’ve got enough for paying the accommodation, and another 12 pesos.  Try one ATM – out of cash.  Another – don’t bother as it only has the “Link” symbol.  Back to ‘hostel’, where the owner is getting the fireplace ready for some old-fashioned heating.  Sweet.  Give him nearly all remaining money, and figure it’s a good excuse to eat at relatively expensive restaurant – as they’ll accept Visa.  But – other couple returns with success story of ATM.  And open fire is pretty cool.  Go to supermarket, confirm they accept Visa – and get some easy food, and wine.  Then – actually attempt the ATM with only Link symbol.  Easy cash – sweet.  Back to hostel to eat some ravioli, drink quite a lot of wine, and sit around fire listening to some kiwi tunes.

Also – don’t worry Colby folk.  Bem will be quite safe with me.  I realise that he now drinks like a little girl, and has only recently had the Gay surgically removed (successfully?… only time will tell) – so I will take extra special care.  All of you who met me know how seriously I take health issues – and I promise I’ll force Bem into even more R&R than I myself partook in while in your charming hamlet.

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