13th March – 21st March 2013
Bariloche, a breath takingly beautiful mountainous town in Patagonia, Argentina.
We arrived after a twenty something hour bus ride from Buenos Aires. Corey was fortunate enough to have a spout of food poisoning on the bus after devouring a street stall chorzipan (chorizo sausage on bread). So the evening was spent recouping for Corey. The next couple of days in Bariloche involved me doing some freelance work whilst Corey planned our trekking adventure in the mountains. I have to say this relationship works very well. I have the ideas and Corey’s strategic mind plans the ideas. Not sure if Corey thinks this is a fantastic balance but I do! He was also in for another surprise, Corey is already aware of the two things that’ll undo me, lack of food and sleep deprivation. However, it wasn’t until we arrived in Bariloche he learnt another one of my weaknesses, the cold. I don’t really think it’s fair. He is from Switzerland so he has been born and raised pretty much in igloo’s. Me on the other hand, I’m a true summer girl, suffering even in our Australian winters back home.
We decided to do a three day self guided trek, Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. The trek would entail climbing two mountains over the course of a forty plus kilometres reasonably marked trail. Our journey started at Cerro Cathedral which was home to the ski fields in winter. So after taking a few hours too long to pack and get ready in the morning, we finally made the 11am bus when our intention was the 9am bus. Even to catch the 11am bus we were pushing it. We walked down the street the wrong way, waiting at a non existent bus stop before realising we had to walk three blocks in the opposite direction to get to our bus stop. Lucky the bus was fifteen minutes late as we arrived at our proper bus stop just as the bus was due. Finally after a morning of running around, we were ready for a much different pace… to climb mountains. The views only got better and better along the way. Views of mountains soon turned into forest which then turned into us climbing the bloody mountains we were admiring just before. The climb up to Refugio Frey was so steep that I honestly thought I would not be able to survive the next two days if we had to climb continuously like that. We soon arrived at the Refugio with a huge sigh of relief. We set up our cosy little tent amongst the rocks and continued to admire the beautiful scenery that surrounded us. As we admired our mountainous backyard, there was a bunch of rock climbers in action climbing the adjacent peak. The Frey is apparently world renowned for it’s steep but smooth rock face for climbing. We looked up at in extreme amazement but absolute horror that they were conquering such rock faces at an insane height. We propped ourselves up on a lovely rock and watched the sunset behind the mountains over the lake, it was spectacular. I felt very blessed to be able to experience such a view. After cooking up a storm and chatting to some of the other hikers, it was off to bed as we needed to rest up for our big day of trekking the next day. We jumped into our sleeping bags, me with all the warm clothes I owned on. After about half an hour of trying to sleep, I was freezing my ass off in my sleeping bag despite having fifty layers of clothes on. So Corey being the gentleman he is, swapped his swiss military style sleeping bag for mine. I was super toasty after the swap and fell asleep pretty much immediately after. The five millimetre piece of foam acting as my mattress wasn’t even enough to keep me awake.
Today took us at least an hour to rise and shine. My muscles weren’t as fatigued as expected but still the thought of trekking for eight hours straight over two mountains was enough to make me cringe. We woke up to the stunning view of the clouds pouring over the mountain range with the sun slowly creeping up. After breakfast and packing up our tent, it was back to climbing mountains, literally! So we set off for day two of our glorious trek. We started off by walking along the lake for the first half an hour which was a nice way to start the treacherous day. After this slow start to the trek it was time to go up, winding our way up to the next stunning lake. We stopped for a quick photo shoot session capturing the very picturesque scenery with a back drop of snow capped mountains ahead. The lake was a stunning turquoise blue, very inviting indeed, temperature wise there was no way I was even go near the water! After a quick break, it was time to continue on. This part of the trek involved us pulling ourselves literally up boulders on the side of the mountain. Wasn’t the easiest lil stroll I’ve ever done. Nonetheless, it was a very rewarding and challenging climb up the mountain. Especially when we were following a trail of red dots painted on rocks, so the path some times got confusing. I was literally pulling myself up the massive boulders and army rolling myself plus my backpack as I didn’t the strength nor elegance to pull myself up properly. And I’m not a very flexible person so you could only imagine Corey’s reaction when he turned around to see me straddling a massive boulder, dangling horizontally. I am glad I’m great entertain for him, I dangled for a bit longer so he could photograph my elegant moment and piss himself laughing. We made it to our first mountain pass at just under 2000m. Was a very rewarding feeling. I was more than happy for Corey to continue leading us down the other side of the mountain as later on in the trek I found was the best option. I took lead for about five minutes and got myself caught on a ledge where it was too steep to go down. Good on me! So it was back to Corey leading. The descent proved to be even more difficult than the ascend, winding down through boulders with lose rock coverage. The scenery was so worth it though, looking over the valley and surrounding snow capped mountains. I felt like I was in a scene out of ‘The Lord of The Rings’. Apparently on a clear day you can see mountains in Chile but there was too much fog today. Once we got past the boulders on our descent, it was time to slide down the mountain snow skiing style. We slide down the mountain on our heels in the lose rubble. This was the most fun part of the trek but still sketchy as it was pretty steep and it took all my concentration to lean enough backwards so I didn’t forward roll and end up avalanching to my death. Every time my mind wandered off on it’s random tangents, I found myself losing my footing and falling flat on my ass. Extreme concentration has never been my strong point!
Eventually we reached the forest and it felt like we were somewhere in Asia. The trees all looked like Japanese imports! We walked a little further till Corey found us a nice spot to have lunch. I suggested a nice rock as the grass was quite tough and not very inviting. But Corey insisted on being at one with the grass. As soon as we sat down, we were attacked with farmer’s friends on steroids. They stuck to us everywhere, so it was to the rock I first suggested. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch farmer’s friends free and continued on our journey. It was so delightful to trek along flat ground for a few hours, crossing little streams before we hit our next mountain. The next mountain’s ascend wasn’t so bad, we were pretty tired by this stage but it wasn’t as tedious as the climb before. When we reached the top, it was incredible to see where we had descended from the other mountain and crossed the valley. I honestly didn’t think It would take us less than 6 hours, I thought it would take us days! We could spot Refugio Jakob down by the lake down in the valley. Now this part of the trek looked like it was going to take us forever as it was extremely steep. By this time it was about 5pm so we really didn’t have much time before sunset. The thought did cross my mind that we would be stuck in the dark however I didn’t want to entertain this thought for long. This was by far the hardest part of the trek, it was the steepest descent and we were so tired by this stage. My quads were burning and I was extremely hungry! But after what felt like forever we made it down the mountain and to the Refugio in about two hours. Day two ended up taking us seven and a half hours and about twelve kilometres, over two mountains. A bit slower than the usual hiker but for us two, it was a new personal best. When we finished setting up camp at Refugio Jakob, Corey wanted to go exploring before sunset. I could hardly change my clothes let alone go exploring, so poor Corey missed out on exploring Lake Jakob at sunset. To be honest, I was quite happy not to have to move my ass. Our second night was not as comfortable as the first. We were both over tired and I had very little sleep as I was kept awake all night with stomach cramps.
Despite lack of sleep and fatigued muscles we started off on day number three of our trek. Today was an easier day as majority of the trek was slightly descending and the rest on flat ground. However, we had twenty three kilometres ahead of us and then a further five kilometres into town to catch a bus. We cruised along following streams and waterfalls, butterflies and bumble bees. I felt like a little girl playing in the forest, there was so much to look at and lots of cool little bridges and stones to jump across. We came across so many picturesque landscapes, so we spent most of the day photographing ourselves in the amongst the charming scenery.
Eventually we reached the road into town. It was such an achievement to trek up two mountains, walking about forty plus kilometres over the course of three days. But was also a huge relief we got to sleep in a proper bed and have a shower after three days. We walked five kilometres back into town and jumped on a bus back into Bariloche extremely exhausted but stoked with the trek we had just finished. Words could not describe how absolutely Incredible it was.
Still, our day wasn’t over yet. Far from it. We made our way back to the hostel once we arrived in Bariloche. The room we had originally booked had been given to someone else. We were slightly disappointed as we had especially requested the room. But there was nothing we could do plus the new room had a king size bed!! A slight upgrade from the five millimetre foam mattresses. So I jumped in the shower after three days of no showering, even the worst shower in the world felt amazing. I was in for a rude shock though. After showering, I realised there was a bit of water coverage over the bathroom floor. As I opened the bathroom door, I realised the water had made it’s way into our room. There I was, standing in the nude in shock horror of how much water had flooded out of the bathroom. Corey’s first reaction was how could I have flooded nearly three bathrooms in two weeks. My response… it’s not my fault Argentinian’s build shit bathrooms! The water was lapping our bags and had made it’s way under the bed. As I was running around mopping up my mess in the nude, Corey thought maybe he should lock the door to our room. Just as he did, the owner’s of the hostel tried to barge into the room as the water had made it’s way into the hallway and almost down the stairs of the hostel. I pretty much had flooded nearly the entire top floor of the hostel. After wrapping myself in a towel, we let in the hostel staff to help clean up the mess. I felt terrible but I was still sticking to my guns, it wasn’t my fault the shower Argentinian’s build shit bathrooms. I was so tired when I jumped in the shower, I wasn’t about to realise that the shower drain was actually in the middle of the bathroom and someone had covered it with a cloth! I mean, who puts a shower drain next to a toilet in a bathroom!
They moved us to our new room after the flood and Corey enjoyed a cold shower. At least this shower had a proper drain and shower walls where the water was stopped from flooding everywhere. So eventually I built up the courage to go downstairs and cook us dinner. They were actually really apologetic about it all and told me not to worry. So we cooked a lovely dinner and sat down to enjoy it after a long day of trekking and mopping. Dinner wasn’t very enjoyable though, almost immediately I started getting stomach cramps. I thought it must have been from exhaustion or over eating as we were starving but sure enough I had food poisoning. I was up until 6am vomiting and with a fever. Then when I finally got a few decent hours sleep, I was up with the squirts. After I had finished with the food poisoning, it was Corey’s turn. It wasn’t too bad though, I was feeling much better by lunchtime but it didn’t help I could hardly walk though from muscle fatigue.
It took us a day or so to recover, then it was off on our next adventure to Mendoza, the Malbec region of Argentina. Silva and Caesar, the owners of the hostel gave us the warmest goodbyes and drove us to the bus station. It was sad to say goodbye to such a hospitable couple. We arrived at the bus station to find a massive line up to our bus for Mendoza. It was packed! And Corey was told he wouldn’t be able to put his surfboard under the bus as there was too many people and one piece of luggage per person. After much discussion and drama from the Latino’s, all we had to do was pay for extra baggage and a small tip. He was able to squeeze and I mean literally squeeze Corey’s surfboard under the bus. We met a bunch of Aussies who we hung out with for the rest of the bus ride. It was sad to say goodbye to Bariloche, I loved it there. But it was nice to say goodbye to the cooler weather and welcome the warmer weather of Mendoza.