Our arrival in Bariloche started off with a hitch. But first, our second overnight bus ride.
From Puerto Madryn, we caught a 14-hr Don Otto bus to Bariloche in the lakes district. I had booked the kids the front seats on top and was envious of their view and in fear for their safety. The service and product was an improvement from our Andesmar experience…except now the late night entertainment was the A-Team movie. (Never thought my 12 year old son would be quoting Murdock and the Face to me!)
We were awoken at 6AM by a national guard soldier standing beside me with a gun yelling for everyone to get out their documents. In Rachel paranoid fashion, I had wrapped my backpack straps around my legs so it could not be taken while I slept and now struggled, half asleep and startled to find our passports.
All well though and we continued as we watched another stunning sunrise. Kyle and I grinned at each other as the mountains grew bigger, the trees grew greener and lakes appeared…coming from Seattle this felt like home. We were headed to Bariloche for a week, we would end up staying a month.
I had booked a small apartment for a week on Airbnb. I found a pay phone at the bus station and called the rental agent, who sounded genuinely confused to hear from me. We quickly realized we were expecting each other on different dates and, darn it, he was correct. Don’t you hate that?
As I scrambled on the phone, I thought of my tired, cranky family waiting for me with the backpacks and how I was going to tell them we actually didn’t have a place to sleep after an overnight bus ride. Whoops!
Ashley though is a property manager extraordinaire and he told me to take a taxi to the Holly Cafe, get breakfast for the family, log into the free wifi and wait for his recommendations of hotels with availability. Many travelers simply arrive without reservations and walk from location to location seeking the best room for the best price. This is not my family. Maybe Kyle and I could work up the courage for more serendipitous moments on our own but with two kids in tow, I like knowing where we will rest our heads.
Holly Cafe is at the waterfront south edge of the town center and we enjoyed a rare excellent cup of coffee while taking in the incredible views. Light blue sunny skies reflecting down on smooth darker blue water surrounded by mountains which evolve from grey slate to tree covered green as your eye scans from north to south. Stunning.
We spent the night at Alun apartment-hotel, definitely out of our budget but it was walking distance from our next abode, both about 6kms along the main drag Bustillo. In retrospect, we should have gone for a cheap abode in the center so we could visit the tourist information center and the holy grail of all trekking info, Andino. Oh well.
The next day we checked into our apartment for the next week…it was a tiny affair with a marvelous view conveniently located above a restaurant, vegetable/fruit store, meat store and general store. What else do you need?
Bariloche has a downtown that travel guides refer to as the “Switzerland of the Andes.” It’s nothing of the sort. There are amazing views, an abundance of chocolate shops, and yes, 1-2 St. Barnard dogs in the town square ready for photo ops, but that’s it. It’s a hodge podge of tourist shops, kioskos, and ridiculously expensive outdoor wear shops. BUT, when you get out of the center….when you situate yourself close to the Llao Llao peninsula, that’s when you see the beauty of Bariloche…it’s in the seemingly endless mountains, lakes and islands.
Our intention had been to head north to San Martin de Los Andes to hunker down for a few weeks but all it took was one long hike in Bariloche to decide to rent a home for an additional three weeks and hunker down.