Bariloche – Beer, Chocolate & Hill Climbing

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The Patagonia Mega-Trip ended with two weeks in San Carlos de Bariloche, better known as just Bariloche. It’s a rather Germanic town build along the edge of a beautiful series of lakes, including the Nahuel Huapi, nestled near the Andes. The scenery and rather Alpine style of design has lead to it being dubbed “Little Switzerland” by some.

While we spent two weeks here, I had to return to work while Katie just relaxed, so despite having far more time here than anywhere else, we did less. Most days were grilled cheese sammiches for lunch while I worked away. We’d head down into town for Happy Hour at one of the many local craft breweries (2 for 1 starting no earlier than 6pm) and enjoy the beautiful weather and scenery.

The craft beer scene there is nuts. While it draws comparisons to Switzerland for looks and aesthetic, for beer I’d liken it to Bend, Oregon. Both are 100,000 people or so and have a slew of good craft breweries. There are at least five craft breweries pumping out various styles of beer (unlike a lot of Patagonian craft which just made Roja, Rubia y Negro – Red, Blonde, and Black. Red might be IPA, red ale or Scotch ale, Negra either porter or stout) in an area smaller than a shopping mall, and a few others with decent R,R y N.

They also have designer chocolates all over the place, really old Swiss or Italian family run places that have been pumping out top notch chocolates and confections for decades. Sadly, after our stay here, neither Katie nor I have managed to conquer our alfajore addiction.

Our apartment was two story and probably the coolest place we’ve stayed. Apparently one of our hosts was the architect. Really great place divided in a way she could relax while I could work away. It was also located on the top of a hill, a 15-20 minute walk down into town, 25-30 up. After a couple days we started cabbing back, particularly if bringing jugs of drinking water home. I dubbed the return hike the Bariloche Butt Lift… and given our predilection to alfajores, having to hike back up the slope to get home most nights was needed.

Our host recommended a place called Alto el Fuego as one of the top meat restaurants in the city. If a place has a spot on the podium as a top steak place in Argentina, you know you are in for something special. It was. Katie got a remarkably good steak while I enjoyed more cordero. With the really great bread and chimichurri sauce apps we got, was so much food I got the leftovers for lunch the next day. The microwaved leftovers of the steak was still better than most I’ve ever had. Oh, and the lamb was mighty good to, though I think I prefer it mixed with other ingredients a la discos or the near pot-pie in Ushuaia. Not a complaint, mind you, it was still really good… just an observation.

We did take advantage of our weekend off to ride the (extremely crowded) bus up the coast of the lake, where you have like 15km of hotels, hostels, cool houses, little bungalows, breweries, a chocolate museum, restaurants and resorts. You also have the Cerro Camponario – Cerro meaning hill/mountain. You ride a ski lift up (shudder – heights bug me, particularly when not safely encased) to the top of the hill and are rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of the area.

We also took our last day off to go on a horseback ride. Was a Dutch woman who hosted and she and her three dogs took Katie and I on an hour or so ride, through a stream to a nice picnic lunch and back. My horse, Malbec (named after his color, not her taste in wine), loved to go. Every time Katie’s would try to catch up he’d up and take off. I got up to a cantor several times. Apparently I did well in riding. We had a great time all Gaucho’d up, but riding a horse, then the Bariloche Butt Lift after dinner meant we were mighty sore when it was time to fly back to Asuncion.

Tender backsides aside, we arrived home back in Asuncion, happy to find despite 28 days of rain in our absence didn’t flood our apartment (though we forgot to change the coffee filter we used the day of our departure… /breaks out trumpet and plays taps) … a bit tired, but sad such a massive trip where we experienced and seen so much had come to an end.


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