Destination: San Carlos de Bariloche (or just Bariloche), Argentina
Times we took the: Boat/Ferry - 0 Bus/Minivan - 4 Train/Subway - 0 taxi/car - 1
Where we stayed: We rented an apartment with views of the lake for 100 pesos per night for 3 nights ($25) - Mirador Nieve and then we rented a cabin - Villa San Ignacio - for 120 pesos per night for the final night after we returned from the seven lakes
Favorite Restaurant: El Bariche de Alberto - Hands down our favorite restaurant in all of Argentina, the steaks were oh so tender, the portions massive (the bife de lomo filets come 4 to an order) and the wine fantastic...all for a small fraction of what we would pay at home. We liked this place so much we went to it 3 times.
Best of: Mountains, lakes, wine & steaks...how can we possibly choose?
Worst of: Some cheeky kids stole the hood ornament on our rental car.
We boarded our bus in Mendoza for another long yet beautiful ride through the Andes to San Carlos de Bariloche (19 hours - $55 with Andesmar), this one complete with Bingo. For the curious ones out there, the prize was a bottle of wine and no, we did not win. We could barely make out the numbers with our rudimentary Spanish. I think we only had about three numbers marked when someone yelled Bingo!
Bariloche has a lot to offer year around. In the summer there are hiking and biking trails everywhere. In the winter, the town turns into a full fledged ski resort town complete with chalets and loads of bars and restaurants. It's Argentina's version of a Swiss ski town.
After spending so much time drinking wine and eating well in Mendoza we decided to stretch our legs a bit by biking the Circuito Chico. The circuit is a 60 kilometer circular route around Lago Moreno Oeste, Punto Panoramico and Llao Llao (Argentina's most famous and exclusive hotel). We were off to an energetic and fast start with incredible lake scenery, blazing by as we rode downhill. However, in the case of a circular route, whatever goes down must also go back up. We quickly realized how out of shape we are and eventually after huffing and puffing our way back up hill we gave up and walked the bikes to the top...no worries though because the ride back down was as exhilarating as the first! After repeating this several times we finally made it to the end of the circle. Tired yet proud that we made it through the whole circular route we headed back to our favorite restaurant, El Bariche de Alberto, for a fortifying meal of asado (ribs), potatoes & salad with a bottle of red wine. Did we mention we loved this place?!?
Tired from our bike trip and disenchanted with the idea of getting on a tour bus full of people we decided to rent a car. Our first day trip was to the Ventisquero Negro, the Black Glacier. We enjoyed yet another ride through mountain lake scenery until at last we came upon the glacier. Since it's summer in Argentina we were able to see the tiny bits of the glacier which had calved off and were melting beneath it. Even though we saw many glaciers while we were in Antarctica this one was pretty spectacular as it was set in such a beautiful valley, not to mention the glacier was naturally black in color from the sediment it picks up as it grinds its way down the mountain.
On our way back into town we stopped and took a walk around town including a visit to the local cathedral with its lovely rose gardens.
When we returned from the seven lakes region we enjoyed a final sunset over Lake Huapi before heading to Esquel the next morning, but not before a little surprise from the car rental place. During the night, one of the local kids had decided that he would like to have our Renault hood ornament costing us about $80US to replace...cheeky kids!