Back in Bariloche, or Argentinian Austria. We arrived in the early afternoon and settled in a family run apart hotel. We rested for a while before we went out for a very late dinner. On the following day we went to a bar to watch the Argentina vs. Mexico game. It was me, somewhat Mario and a Mexican dude cheering for Mexico in the midst of an Argentina crowd. When Argentina scored its first goal, the whole world knew it was offside, yet the referee accepted it. This set the mood for the rest of the game and eventually led to Mexico’s loss. I was very upset about it and was sad to see Mexico leave. While some mourned others rejoiced. The streets of Bariloche were blocked by happy football fans celebrating Argentina’s victory. Hundreds of people (mainly young students) waving flags, singing and jumping in the streets. We watched the spectacle for a while and then tried to make our way to the tourist office. A bit of a challenge since the streets were packed with raving football fanatics and it was literally impossible to move forward. Eventually we made it there and asked about available hikes. The guide book had mentioned the Circuito Chico (a circular road going through the mountains and by the lakes), something I hadn’t done before, as one of the most popular attractions and when the lady at the tourist office confirmed that it can be combined with a hike we decided to do it on the following day.
We got the bus that was to take us some of the way and got off at the beginning of the trail where we were supposed to starts walking. Our first stop was a hot dog kiosk, since we hadn’t had the time to eat breakfast. We then carried on towards the ‘Mountain cemetery’. At first I thought it would be an area with a funky rock formation but it turned out to be an actual cemetery in the mountain. It was dedicated to people (incl. an Argentine Olympic Alpine skier) who had perished in the mountains, either hiking, skiing, or climbing. Our next stop was a beautiful lagoon set just off the main road. Pretty setting amongst the mountains tops and sparkling turquoise waters. We then walked further down the road, only making a brief stop at a small hidden lake in the woods a few hundred meters off the road.
We walked down the road until we came aross a sign indicating a detour through a forest of arrayan trees. I had never seen such a forest and knew it was something typical of Patagonia and was aching to go through it. Moreover the detour seemed to be a shortcut to our final destination so it was decided. We walked off the road and through the forest. It was quiet and still and we were the only people walking on the dirt path under the bamboo plants. We walked by the lake, through the forest under the tall, creaking trees. Every now and again I would hear these weird noises and turn around but there would be nothing there until I realized the wind was making the tree tips sway and creak under its pressure. Freaky! We made it back to the main road where we caught the bus again. It was taking us further down the road to a chair lift and a supposedly the best viewing point in the area.
We reached the top and just stood there for a while, open-mouthed in front of the stunning views. I wish cameras took 360º photos because this was the only way to even attempt to capture the magnificence of it all. Mountains, lakes, small villages. Very beautiful, it delivered what was promised. It was worth it. After a while we came down unable to support the strong, cold winds at the top. A football game (Brazil vs. Chile) had begun and Mario was eager to get back to town. As we were making our way to the bus stop we saw a restaurant boasting some flags on the outside. I thought they must be showing the game. The only way to explain the flags. We went in and sure enough the game was on. We had only missed a little bit of the first half. We sat down, ordered lunch and watched the game.
We went back to town, got our bags and headed to the bus station where a bus to Mendoza was leaving at 9pm. Or at least I thought so. We had checked out in the morning, asked the hotel to keep our bags until the evening, and it turned out that there was no bus leaving at that time. I had misunderstood the explanations. There wasn’t a single bus leaving at that time in any direction. We had no choice but to go back and return on the following day when the bus was actually leaving at 1pm.
On the following morning we killed some time walking around town, the lake, the main street, the cafes. At 1pm we were at the bus terminal and ready for our departure to Mendoza.