Quebrada Humahuaca (Tilcara, Purmamarca, Humahuaca)

Day 1: July 21, 2010 – Tilcara
We made it to Tilcara in the late afternoon. It was dark by the time we got off the bus. We saw a hostal just across the street from the bus terminal and thought we would inquire about the price. It was cheap but it was also rather ugly and uninviting. We thought we would ask around before we make our decision. On the way to the center we came across a nice looking hostel but it was unfortunately fully booked. The lady however pointed us to the local tourist office. We made our way there and asked about accommodation. I was very surprised when the hostel prices they gave us were ridiculously high. We asked what would be a cheaper option and they pointed us to some family run accommodations. Mario went looking for one and I stayed at the office with the bags. He came back after a while saying he had found one and we went to leave our bags. When I saw it I thought it was rather adventurous to say the least. The room had a comfortable double bed and the walls were painted in wine red which created a warm, inviting atmosphere. Apart from that though the floor was bare concrete covered in dust and there was no brick wall above the door, instead there was a light ‘wall’ made of bamboo sticks. We wondered whether it would be warm enough at night but eventually our worries were all in vain. We slept just fine. The bathroom though was another story. To quote Mario ‘You feel dirtier after you have been to the bathroom!’. Couldn’t agree more. We didn’t shower that day.
We went out to get some dinner and found a really nice restaurant that was unfortunately full. We went around looking for another place but really none of them appealed to us as that other place did. We decided to go back and wait for a table. We sat outside and the owner came out with two glasses of delicious liquor and some peanuts. Time flew by. Both Mario and I had fun with the dog of the owner who was a very friendly, happy, fat golden retriever and loved plastic bottles. We played ‘catch’ with her, that is if we managed to get the bottle out of her mouth. The lady had a very strong grip and sometimes would get very excited. A bit too excited about our safety. Anyhow, we didn’t have to wait too long and we were soon having a lovely meal. After dinner it was bed time.
Day 2: July 22, 2010 – Purmamarca
We got up and headed to the bus terminal. We caught a bus that was to take us a nearby town famous for its colorful mountain (Montaña de los Siete Colores). The ride only took about 20mins and we were in Purmamarca in no time. We started by exploring the handcrafts market arranged around the central plaza. So much color and shape, so much tradition and custom. Lovely! I like a few things but decided to hold off the buying until we got to Bolivia since the same stuff would be much cheaper there.
Since we hadn’t had any breakfast we were pretty hungry and it was already lunch time so we found a small, family restaurant and sat waiting for a waiter. It took a while before anybody brought us the menu and even longer before anybody brought us food. At the end we had spent more than 1.5h there which was beyond our idea of a quick bite. The food was worth it though. I had a locro – a lamb stew traditional of the region, and Mario had a llama stew. Finger-licking-licious!
We then headed to the top of a hill that served as a lookout point for the colorful mountain. It was super windy and I nearly lost my hat. We took a couple of photos and headed to a path we had seen from the top. We walked to another lookout point before we decided to climb up a rock that revealed views of the whole valley. We carefully made our way to the top and went down the sandy path with even more care. The strong wind blowing in our faces wasn’t helping. On the way down we stopped at a shop where I bought a small present for a relative and then headed back to the center. We decided to have some freshly squeezed orange juice before we left since we had some time to kill anyway. At 4.00pm we were back on the bus to Tilcara where we had to take another bus to Humahuaca.
Luckily, there was one in about 30min so we just took a taxi back to the hostal, took our backs and boarded on time. An hour later we got off at the bus terminal in Humahuaca. That’s when Mario realized he had forgotten his guide book along with its case and a CD at the restaurant in Purmamarca. Unpleasant but not the end of the world. We headed to the center but before we had progressed too much a guy stopped us offering real cheap accommodation. He said there was a very nice kitchen as well as a new, clean bathroom. Even double rooms! It was too cheap to miss and e decided to check it out.
The house was organized around a clean, square courtyard with an old in the middle of it. The kitchen was indeed very nice, and the bathroom was amazing according to local standards – white tiles, clean shower curtain and a new shower with hot water and amazing water pressure were worth it! The sleeping quarters were a lot less impressive but would still have to do. There was a mother travelling with her two teenage daughters and us two. They got a simple dorm room and upon some insisting we got the ‘double’ room. What was it like you wonder? It was a double mattress thrown on a bare concrete floor in what was more of a storage room than a bedroom. We were separated from the dorm by a thin curtain. Well, for $4pp we couldn’t complain. We had plenty of blankets to keep us warm so we were happy. ‘You gotta admit we have stayed in some pretty adventurous places’ I told Mario. Luckily, he had his sleeping bag with him that we used as a bottom sheet since there were no sheets or pillow covers. Again we slept well. One of the best nights we have ever had as a matter of fact.
We showered and went out for dinner. Before we reached the center we got stopped by a guy advertising a nearby restaurant that offered a live music performance. The menu looked alright, so did the prices and we went in. Mario decided he felt like playing backgammon and went back to get the board. I ordered some snacks, some wine, and more than 20min later I was still sitting alone. I wondered what had happened to him. Why wasn’t he coming back? Eventually he popped his head through the door. It turned out that he had gotten lost. I was so relieved to hear that as I thought he might have gotten mugged or something. He got back just in time for the folkloric performance. He had a horsemeat steak (first time we ever saw it on a menu) and I had a llama one. We enjoyed the music and then to our surprise there was a second act. This time a man and his young daughter were reciting local poetry. Mario wasn’t impressed and rightly so because they really weren’t that good. But we couldn’t be too mad at them; they were just trying to make a living.
After dinner we went back home and slept. We were getting up very early to catch a bus to the border.

Valles Calchaquíes (Cafayate, Angastaco, Molinos, Seclantas, Cachi)

Day 1: July 14, 2010 – Cafayate
We got off at the central plaza in Cafayate and the first thing we noticed was ho pretty it was. Next thing we got approached by touts offering accommodation and one of them caught our attention. It was ridiculously cheap and it sounded alright. We went to the tourist office looking at the accommodation prices as well as getting some info about local activities. As we couldn’t find a cheaper option we headed to the place they had offered us earlier.
We only had the house description (the only adobe house on such and such street) and we couldn’t find it at first. We walked a bit further up and we saw it. The rooms were arranged along a dirt courtyard boasting some vines at the further end. The bathrooms were decent, they assured us there was hot water, the rooms were basic but clean and comfortable and we decided it would d for a couple of nights. We settled in and went out. As it was already dark we only had time for dinner before we went back to the hostel.
Day 2: July 15, 2010
On the next day we visited yet another winery and a goat cheese production farm. We had a late lunch, played some backgammon and walked to another winery for the walk’s sake. The rest of that day is rather blurry. I just remember having dinner that night and going to bed.
Day 3: July 16, 2010
This was the day of our trip to the local quebrada. It didn’t start until 2.30pm so we had a relaxed lunch and a stroll in town before we left. It was fun. We enjoyed walking between the colorful, funky rock formations and enjoyed some marvelous panoramic views. The stop before the last one was a natural amphitheater with 85% acoustic. We enjoyed a wonderful traditional flute/guitar performance and even bought the CD that we forgot in a restaurant a few days later.
Back in town we had dinner in a lovely restaurant offering live music. What was really cool about it was that the bands and the music styles changed throughout the night creating a merry atmosphere. It was then time for bed. We were catching a morning bus to a small town further into the valleys.
Day 4: July 17, 2010 – Angastaco&Molinos
Our bus was supposed to leave at 11.00am but it was late due to road blockages caused by the snow (turned ice) that had fallen a couple of nights ago. The bus was coming though so we just sat and waited. We got some burgers for breakfast as well as some tangerines aimed at maintaining high levels of Vitamin C in the battles against our colds. The bus came and to hours later we were in Angastaco, a small ton in the middle of nowhere. Now this is where the fun began as there was no further public transport and we had to figure out how to get to our next destination of the loop.
We walked around a bit, bumping into two Argentine travelers who were also looking for transportation. There were private cars willing to take you places for a fee but they just charged way too much. We decided to ‘explore’ the town before we tried to hitchhike. Not more than 30min later we had seen the church, the plaza, and had even climbed up a hill for a panoramic view, thus exhausting the local attractions.
We went to the petrol station at the end of town, hoping to get a ride but got advised to completely leave town and head to a crossroad that was a kilometer away in order to get better chances of hitching a ride. We got a local man, who had packed all his family in a truck to take us to the junction and rode on the back bumper of the truck holding tight to ropes and whatever else as available. We were happy to have avoided all the walking but it was hard to hold onto the truck for much longer. We were relieved to get off the back of it.
We started walking down the road, hoping to get picked up soon but we had advanced a few kilometers before we decided to stop and have a break and decide on our next move. It was late afternoon and we didn’t have that much daylight left. We sat on the road nearby an adobe shack and waited. Mario entertained himself with a friendly dog playing fetch and other silly games while I rested on the sandy rocks. A couple of cars went the other way but none passed our way. After a while we decided we would take the next car going back to the village and spend the night there before we attempt hitchhiking again in the morning. Luckily, at that moment a car passed our way and took us. 20mins later at the back of the truck we stopped at a farm and the driver asked us to get off since it wasn’t his. He promised to come back for us in about 15mins. We waited and took photos and a bit later he re-appeared, having picked up another lady on the way. We got back on and a little while later we arrived in Molinos, a small, dusty town half way through the valley. Although the scenery up to Angastaco wasn’t that impressive it quickly changed once we left it turning into the most spectacular view (one of the best during this trip) all the way to Molinos. Sitting at the back of an open truck just helped us appreciate it better.
Once in town, the lady riding with us advised us on some accommodation and we went looking for one. The lady offered a room for AP$35 per person and we decided to check out a cheaper place first thinking it as a bit too much. We found the place she had recommended and it turned out to be a student camping facility that also had a few old fashioned rooms available. It all looked like a horror movie hospital or a mental institution and for the difference of $1 e decided it wasn’t worth it. We went back to our lady and imagine our surprise when the accommodation offered turned out to be a beautiful private house that we had all to ourselves. We got the beautifully decorated master bedroom, settled in and took a wonderful hot shower before we headed out for some food. A restaurant we had seen earlier that day was closed so e headed to another one recommended by locals. It turned out to be a lovely family run restaurant and we had some delicious chicken soup and freshly squeezed orange juice for $2.50 per person. We then walked back and went to bed in our beautiful house.
Day 5: July 18, 2010 – Seclantas&Cachi
We woke up, had breakfast in the nice kitchen of the house, again all to ourselves, and headed out. We had to make it to the town of Seclantas that wasn’t originally a place we were stopping at but after the locals told us about the festival taking place there e decided to check it since it was on the way.
We walked out of Molinos, and pretty soon a local truck picked us up. He dropped us off a few hundred meters away from the village, trying to avoid potential trouble with police control checking vehicles at the entrance. As we entered town we heard music coming from the church and just as we got there, people were taking the Virgin out of the church. We had made it just on time for the main procession. We humbly walked among the locals and carefully observed the procession. It went around town and back into the church making a stop at a predetermined spot on the main street. There were some speeches before the gaucho parade began. I was hoping there would be one since I had seen them carry the statue of the Virgin and then disappearing into the side streets where their horses stood. It didn’t take too long for the parade to begin and soon enough several schools were performing up and down the main street. It was rather impressive since they had the horses trot in a certain way and all of the men wore their parade uniforms turning the defile into quite a show. They went up and down the street three times before they left which was more than enough. We then followed the procession back into the church and went looking for a place to eat lunch. We found another family run restaurant that served good food but not as nearly as cheap as the other place we had visited the night before.
As we were walking out of town we heard music coming from the local sports center. We went in only to find a few hundred people sitting around long table, having cheap lunch while a band as preparing to play some music. We got invited by a local man and also found out that there will be a traditional dance off in the evening. We were bumped for not having had lunch there, for missing an opportunity to mix with the locals but we had to go. The traditional music and dancing sounded very appealing but we had to go. We had to hitchhike our way to our next major stop – the town of Cachi.
We walked out of the village and managed to get a few kilometers before we stopped for a break. All that time not a single car had passed us. It wasn’t looking good. We waited for a while but still nothing. Then we decided to just keep walking. It wasn’t getting us too far but it was at least keeping us warm. We had walked a good 7-8km before another local truck picked us up. A few tourists with empty cars had passed us by and refused to take us and by then we had committed ourselves to just walking the 20km (we later found out it as a lot more than that) to town. We were so grateful and happy when the truck pulled up and let us climb into the back of it. Just as we were approaching the truck thought he seemed to be leaving and for a moment we stood still before rushing into the back. We thought he was playing tricks on us but we later found out he actually had problems with his engine and the mere fact that he had stopped to pick us up could cost him and his family (wife and a baby daughter) getting back home. We couldn’t believe that despite it all he had still stopped to pick us up. How very nice! That was only the beginning of the afternoon’s odyssey though.
We had reached a small, dusty town and a few men standing on the side of the road had hailed the truck driver to stop. He did and we thought they were hid friends, wanting t give him a package or something. It turned out that they were just strangers whose truck had broken down and they needed a lift to the next town. Despite the problems with his engine our knight of a truck driver pulled to the side, waited until the son (there was his old father too) had attached the emergency chain, and left again dragging them behind. It was all going fine until the chain broke due to the pressure put on it upon climbing a steep section of the dirt road. Again, the truck driver stopped, somehow backed the truck down the road trying to turn the engine back on, and again waited until the chain as fixed and re-attached. Back on the road again, we went for a few more kilometers before the chain separated again. Same thing, backing down, engine wouldn’t start, waiting. Eventually we made it into town, we got off, shook hands, said thank you and walked up the street looking for a place to stay.
We knocked on the door of the first hostal that e came across but nobody answered so we just walked further up. We asked a few locals and one of them, a mentally challenged young man pointed us to a place. We couldn’t quite figure the directions though; he saw us standing there with confused looks on our faces and kindly offered to take us. Again, very kind. The locals have been absolutely amazing. A gaucho whom I’d remembered from the parade had also stopped trying to help the father and son with the broken truck. Amazing really.
We settled in and went out for dinner. Mario was feeling sick so we just decided to get something and go back to the hostel. Mario went back and I picked up the chicken and followed him a few minutes later. I found him sitting by the fireplace trying to warm up after the cold truck ride and the freezing cold night of Cachi.
We had dinner and then Mario decided to shower. Big mistake! He wouldn’t come out for a really long time but I didn’t think much of it. I thought he was enjoying a much needed hot shower and I didn’t want to disturb him. After a while though his absence got really suspicious and I walked towards the bathroom to look for him. I bumped into him walking towards the dorm, shaking. It turned out that the shower arrangement had been really weird and the hot water had run out a couple of minutes after he had got into the shower. He had spent the next 25mins freezing cold, waiting for more water to warm up. ‘That’s just what we need!’ I thought. ‘What if his cold gets worse after this…’ I wondered. Luckily, I had prepared his bed and had put a hot water bottle in it. I had also prepared a hot medicine tea for him. He drank it and went to sleep. Luckily, he woke up feeling just fine the next morning.
Day 6: July 19, 2010 – Cachi
We checked out of the hostel thinking there was a 3.00pm bus leaving to Salta. We decided to kill some time by hiking up one of three lookout points in town. We walked out of town, and up a hill leading to the local cemetery. Goodie! I like cemeteries, they can be very interesting. We walked into it and strolled through the graves, every now and then having our attention drawn to a really old tomb, an interesting name, or dates. One family tomb in particular drew our attention – looking at the family names of women, men and children we tried to figure out their family tree. It was virtually impossible. We got some of the relations right but then some were a complete mystery. We then stopped at one of the most ancient tombs in the cemetery. It was build out of adobe and by now almost completely ruined but the recently put cross indicated its date. It was built in 1884. What did I tell you about cemeteries – exciting!
We then made out way to the actual lookout point and sat there for a while, chatting, enjoying the warm sun and the magnificent mountains surrounding us. We wondered why people raved about this small town. It was pretty, but not exceptional and the views of the valley had been times better earlier on, compared to the ones we were faced with now. Oh well! It was time to make our way back to the bus stop and we slowly descended. It was 2.50pm and the ticket office was still closed. It wasn’t looking good. We walked up to the tourist office and asked them about it. They said the bus was most probably not leaving due to the road blockage on the way to Salta. There had been some snow and it had apparently turned into ice. The lady advised us to go back at 5.00pm when another bus was arriving in order to get information. Since we were not going anywhere we went back to the hostel and checked back in. We then went to lunch.
At 5.00pm we went to the bus stop and finally found it open. There hadn’t been a 3pm bus but luckily the services were restored back to normal on the following day. We bought our tickets and got on with our day. Later that night I cooked dinner and we went to bed. Our bus was leaving at 9.30am.
Day 7: July 20, 2010 – Salta
The bus left and soon revealed some pretty amazing views. We knew what to expect and were eager to see it. At first the scenery was rather flat and desert like. But then we got to this lush valley with steep hills on both sides. This was also the frozen section of the road. Of all the places to have ice, it had formed on the most dangerous section of the road. It was narrow and steep. A precipice was looming on both our sides. The driver slowly inched his way through the valley though and we eventually made it.
After the big valley we stopped for a short lunch break and we got some empanadas. Back on the bus I felt a bit dizzy because of all the steep turns and dozed off. When I woke up we had almost reached Salta. Back in town we looked for a different, a cheaper, maybe even better place to stay but unfortunately we didn’t have any luck and we ended up going back to our pretty colonial house which really wasn’t the end of the world. We settled in and must have gone out but none of us actually remembers.
Day 8: July 21, 2010
We had a relaxed start, got some breakfast, did laundry, and went to the Inet before we finally left to Tilcara – a small town in yet another quebrada.

Salta and the Opera

Day 1: July 11, 2010
I arrived in Salta very late at night after a picturesque journey through the Jama passage. I got a taxi and headed to the hostel that Mario and I have agreed on. Taxis in Salta by the way were very cheap. He dropped me off at the hostel, I handed him a rather large note and he of course didn’t have any change. I went into the hostel and told them I wanted to stay there and wondered whether they had any change for the taxi. At first he didn’t but then he found some small bills and paid for it. I would have to pay him back.
They didn’t have any space available in the main building but they offered to take me to their second building that was just a few hundred meters away. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. It was a large, spacious colonial house elaborately decorated with pretty tiles. There was even a small fountain in the back courtyard. I got settled in the dorm and went out for a quick bite. I had a plate of locro in a nearby restaurant before I went back to the hostel for a hot shower. I bathed and went to bed.
Day 2: July 12, 2010
I got up in the morning, eager to see Mario, wondering why he was running late. While I was having breakfast, the lady informed me that the other building had advised Mario as to my whereabouts (just as I had requested the night before) and he was now on his way to me.
Once he had settled in we went out for a bite and a mini city exploration. We wandered around, chatting. We decided we felt like some Chinese food and asked around for a restaurant. The police pointed us to a couple of good places and we went to check them out. The Chinese restaurant was not just Chinese but everything else you could imagine and it was all you can eat. I don’t remember the last time I had seen Mario so excited. The only downside was that it only opened at 8.00pm and it was still about 6.30pm. We decided to head to the market to kill some time.
After dinner we went to the tourist office to get some ideas. We decided to go for a short hike on the following day.
Day 3: July 13, 2010
After breakfast we headed to the city center and after some searching we found the bus stop we needed. Soon enough the bus arrived and it took us all the way to a nearby village where we could begin the hike. The trail was only a couple of kilometers long and it didn’t take too long to finish. It was a pretty, leafy walk under the trees, overlooking the valley in the distance. We walked casually, stopping at a small river to get some fresh water before continuing to the lookout point on top of the hill.
We bumped into this young bull on the way there and Mario was trying to take a photo with him, hugging him! Once that was dismissed we could continue our walk. The view from the top of the hill was pretty. We saw the village of San Lorenzo at its foot, Salta in the distance as well as the valley further down. We played a few games of backgammon, Mario munched on Pringles and I had some M&Ms before we headed back to town.
As we were walking back to the hostel we passed by the local theater where I spotted a poster for an opera performance for that same night. I went to give it a closer look and realized it was the national polyphonic choir and soloists singing excerpts from Traviatta accompanied by the local symphony. It was too good to miss and although Mario wasn’t too excited he agreed to come in and find out the ticket prices with me. Imagine my surprise when some of the best seats cost only $4! There was no way I was missing it now. I imagined it being explosive and I was so excited. Mario wasn’t sure but he thought it was so cheap that he couldn’t really go wrong so we bought the tickets.
We went back to the hostel, showered, dressed up and hurried back to the theatre. The seats we had bought were better than I thought and we had an excellent view of the stage. Soon the performance began and we listened. Mario made fun of certain parts but admitted he actually enjoyed it. I was so happy that it turned out to be the explosive performance I was imagining it to be. As we were leaving the theater they treated us to a glass of champagne. Sweet! Mario was now in love with the performance.
We went for a late night dinner and then back to the hostel to get some rest.
Day 4: July 14, 2010
Today we were going to Cafayate for a multiday trip through Valles Calchaquies but first we had a few chores to take care of. Mario had to talk to his family, I had to talk to mine, and most importantly I had to extend the dates for my return flights. While Mario busied himself on the Inet I checked my bank account, making sure I had enough money to pay for the next three months of traveling as well as pay the airlines penalty fees. Once that was confirmed I found their phone numbers, talking directly to the airlines instead of going through the website I had used t purchase the tickets thus avoiding an extra penalty charge. Luckily, I could change the tickets, and my preferred dates were available. I worried it would be a huge deal as I had seen others struggle with it but it only took half an hour (mostly on hold) before I saw the e-mail confirming my new dates. Sweet!
Now that was taken care of, I could talk to my grandmother. First thing she said was ‘where are you? Aren’t you coming back already?’ and then ‘Who’s this Mario you are traveling with?’. Gotta love my grandma. After the latest updates on the garden, the animals and the family affairs I decided to talk to my sister, since I hadn’t spoken to her in a really long time. I couldn’t get through to her at home and I tried her mobile but that didn’t work either. I phoned my dad, hoping he would know where she was and although he got her on her mobile I only managed to relate a message to her. The rest of the time I spent talking to my dad about the family and my travels.
Once we were done with all the talking we picked up our laundry and headed to the bus terminal. The trip to Cafayate took four hours and we arrived in the late afternoon.

Mendoza: bikes and wines

The following is justa brief outline of our stay in Mendoza. I got too lazy to write in detail.
– Bus trip to Mendoza (first time in cam)
– Mario busy with his Rubic Cube, hardly paying attention to anything else
– Mario raving about the Bife de Chorizo at the bus station (Neuquen) food court
– Day 1: My bike trip of the city (the plazas, the hill (the isolations of it), the way back (the bumpy roads), went for dinner at a small local restaurant, had meatball stew and spent 3h talking (we didn’t notice the time go by).
– Day 2: Our trip to the Chilean frontier (beautiful scenery, cool Korean NY guys), went out for dinner and drinks to a karaoke bar I had seen the day before.
– Day 3: hired bikes and went to the wine region of Maipu (watched the game(Brazil lost, Mario was sad), found a great cerveceria for lunch (great homemade empanadas, tapas and beer – red, black, rubia) , played table football (he won a set of 10 so did I), we both fell in love with it immediately, there was little Maria Luz who was charming chewing dry grass. We went to Trapiche and had a tour incl. the tasting of 3 local wines, and Luciana (the guide let us a try a fourth one – their most expensive Malbec. We hugged for goodbye and went cycling all the way up to the other end of Maipu, rushing to get to an olive farm before it closed (I wanted the bread and olives included in the tour), the ride there was beautiful going under golden leafed trees extending along the road, punctuated by small family run wineries. The policeman told us it was closed, but we insisted and we won. Police escorted us all the way back to the rental place, we had a lot of fun cycling. Wine with two Americans before we left for Mendoza. Had dinner at a simple local place and crashed for the day.
– Day 4: We saw the Argentina game (humiliating loss) while we had breakfast at a local café, Mario watched the next game, I went for a walk (walked to the bus terminal researching the trip to Bolivia and Mario’s trip to Santiago; looked for a mini backgammon board and found one), an American guy had offered to have a BBQ at the hostel that night but we wanted to go to the movies, we started at 7pm and didn’t finish until the small hours of the morning (Robin Hood and lame Prince of Persia) only stopping for dinner in between (Mediterranean Wok for me, and a seafood one for Mario). We went back and slept
– Day 5: I left at 9am for Bolivia; Mario said he would leave a bit later for Santiago. We agreed to meet in Salta in about a week.

Bariloche: Cirquito Chico

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.