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Old 01-28-2013, 05:22 PM   #316
csustewy OP
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NYE in Bariloche

Bariloche is an interesting place, especially during New Year's, right when we happened to be there. The city was teeming with students who had just graduated high school, taking their class trip, often all seen wearing the exact same outfits either on tour buses or storming the streets chanting their school song. This time of year also brings large amounts of Argentine tourists with their families, enjoying summer break. It also draws a lot of outdoor tourists from the US and Europe, as the Bariloche area has a lot of biking, climbing, hiking and skiing (in their winter) to do. What most people don't see is the other side of Bariloche, with the gravel roads and makeshift houses, where a lot of people live who moved there to try to find work in the tourism industry. The city has two sides, one all but hidden.

The highlight of Bariloche for us was to hang out with our friend Lisa for a week. We also had a really good time getting to know couchsurfer Carlos. We met up with him almost every day we were there. He drove us around the area, took Lisa climbing, and met us out at the bars several times. He was one of those people that you feel like you have been friends with for a long time, even when you have just met him. We really enjoyed hanging out with him and his friends. (So much so that we forgot to get a picture even...)

Just outside of Bariloche, there is a loop called the Circuito Chico, that has a lot of spectacular views. You can take a ski lift called Cerro Campanario up the mountain for about $10, or you can hike it instead. It turned out to be a little steeper than expected, but worth the hike.




(Lisa and Jill at Cerro Campanario)


(The hike down was fun too.)

We were actually in bed by 12:30 on New Year's - we had had too much fun the night before.


(Lisa attempting to open a wine bottle using her hiking boot. It didn't work that well - but it was cheap wine and the cork was really hard to get out, even using a cork screw. A good attempt nonetheless.)

After New Year's, we decided to be active (a resolution?), so we rented bikes and rode the 30 some kilometer (about 20 mile) Circuito Chico.






(It's nice that they have breweries along the way.)




(Jill en route)




(Dogs were a big theme in Bariloche, and this dog was named Bar Dog by us, as every evening he would come into South Bar, do several circuits to get pet, and then lay down under a table or in the corner.)


(Bariloche is also famous for its chocolate. This was at the chocolate museum. We didn't actually take a tour because they were not giving away chocolate samples. Only Lisa knows how their outdoor chocolate sample tastes)


(Nothing like some good beers on the beach to end an excellent vacation.)
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Old 01-29-2013, 05:18 PM   #317
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Awesome report. I followed since you started and enjoy every update!
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Old 01-31-2013, 10:43 AM   #318
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Awesome report. I followed since you started and enjoy every update!
Hey Dracula - glad that you have been following along and thanks for dropping us a line.

Our next series of posts - coming soon - should catch us up to our current location ...which I won't spoil...but it happens to start with a "U" and ends with "shuaia"!!

(We made it!! )
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Old 01-31-2013, 02:51 PM   #319
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Originally Posted by csustewy View Post
Hey Dracula - glad that you have been following along and thanks for dropping us a line.

Our next series of posts - coming soon - should catch us up to our current location ...which I won't spoil...but it happens to start with a "U" and ends with "shuaia"!!

(We made it!! )
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Old 02-05-2013, 08:01 AM   #320
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CONGRATS GUYS!!!!!!

Thanks for taking us along.

Cheers,

Steve
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Old 02-05-2013, 10:52 AM   #321
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Originally Posted by csustewy View Post


(It's nice that they have breweries along the way.)




(Dogs were a big theme in Bariloche, and this dog was named Bar Dog by us, as every evening he would come into South Bar, do several circuits to get pet, and then lay down under a table or in the corner.)




(Nothing like some good beers on the beach to end an excellent vacation.)
Hi Guys..So, breweries along the way and you were in the bar EVERY evening You both deserved it I say !

Bet you both had the trip of your lives; thanks for taking the time and effort to put this together for the rest of us.

Looking forward to hearing from "U" "Shuaia"......

Ride safe both

Cheers
Potski
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Old 02-05-2013, 10:54 AM   #322
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BTW, is that Guinness

Cheers
Potski
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Old 02-06-2013, 01:09 PM   #323
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Hey all, thanks for the shout out!

Tha Rick - I've seen your posts while lurking around the Rockies forum, hope to run into you someday in that neck of the woods.

Steve - thanks for following along with us! It's been quite a ride.

And Potski - you picked up on a theme of our time in Bariloche. We got outside some, but enjoyed our evening in a couple of watering holes. (Well, mainly one that had screaming deals on drinks. We kind of became short term regulars.) But those lakeside microbrews were tough to beat. That stout was quite Guinness-like, but even better, if that's possible. Although it may just have been the setting that made it so enjoyable.

Now we'll do our best to get our virtual selves caught up to our actual selves.
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Old 02-06-2013, 01:15 PM   #324
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Making the short list of our favorite places: Futaleufú

Not far down the road lies el Bolsón, a town that was known for its hippie invasion in the 70's and is still known for its crafts markets on Tuesdays and Saturdays. We like it most because of this place:




(Camping at a microbrewery is tops! And they even give you a beer with each paid day. And they have nice showers, cooking space, firepits,... Can you tell we liked that place?)

Walking through the town of el Bolsón itself was fine and all, a bit interesting but not overly impressive. Neither of us is (ever really) in the market for handicrafts, and the rest of town wasn't all that captivating, but comfortable enough. It does have the advantage of sitting in a beautiful valley.




(hippie inspired art)


(drunken school girl Xing)

On towards Esquel we enjoyed the ride back towards the mountains.






(at the border leaving Argentina. Lots of backpackers/hitchhikers hanging out trying to catch a ride.)

This time crossing into Chile was a little less painful than our first - we didn't have a sheepskin to lose, but still managed to forget that we had 3 peaches with us, so those got chucked. But an easy enough crossing that put us right into Futaleufú.

Futaleufú is a definite favorite for us. The people we met were all super friendly, happy to see us, open to travelers. The valley teems with peaceful beauty that pictures just can't capture (but we'll show you some anyways). Our first impression was that it's the good kind of place that we would be happy to stay for awhile. (How that could actually happen is the difficult part...)


(los Coihues camping just outside of town)


(town plaza, now home to the region's only bank and provincial government buildings since Chaitén's ongoing destruction (due to volcanic eruption in 2008 and subsequent rerouting of the river right through town))



We went hiking in the new Reserva Nacional Futaleufú one afternoon. There are two main sections, Rio Chico and las Escalas, both of which are surrounded by private land, making access a bit challenging. Arriving at the ranger house in Rio Chico was easy enough (only 1 wrong turn) but the ranger was in town and the lady at the house (who turned out to be the ranger's mom and lived there full time too) was less than helpful in pointing us to the trail. Eventually we found enough help to find the main trail to an overlook, but didn't have the right pieces of information to find the full loop. When we returned we met the ranger, who was super nice, and gave us the hints we would have needed. Next time. Next time. But the hike we managed to take was still pretty sweet.











We then wandered towards las Escalas, which required a 30 min ride to the next ranger's house, or at least we thought it was the ranger's house. The road gave us a nice view of Hells Canyon, a notorious whitewater rafting destination:



The lady in the yard of the ranger house (not sure if she was the ranger, the ranger's mom, the gardener, or what) pointed us further down the road, and gave us some hints on how to get up to an overlook of the valley and a big waterfall. "Follow the red-topped poles through the field." So we parked with the sheep and did exactly that.



After we ducked under a barbed wire fence towards an obvious trail that continued up the valley, we took a break. While sitting there a group of 4 men came walking up to look at the exact spot we ducked under. Two of the men were national police, one was apparently the land owner. The land owner was not happy with people coming onto his land. We found that out when we went down to confirm the direction with them. His 2 concerns were (1) that if hikers are on his land and get injured by themselves or by one of his bulls, what's he to do? and (2) that if people keep busting his fence his bulls may disappear. Those are valid concerns, not to mention the fact that CONAF officials (e.g. park rangers) are specifically instructing strangers to cross private property to access the national reserve. The policemen didn't seem to be responding to Miguel, the land owner, with much respect or even courtesy (yet another example of how things often work in Latin America). We spoke to him with respect, apologized for our mistake of entering his land, and did what he asked of us (told him when we were leaving his land so he could be sure we weren't hurt). I think that tiny effort (is it even really that?) helped us forge a bit of a relationship with Miguel, so he invited us to stay and talk with him after the policemen left.


(the cops flanking Mike, Miguel, and Jill)


(sitting on Miguels' porch drinking some mate. He liked to joke around and kept coming back to asados (BBQ's), vino, and chicha de manzana. He then offered to trade us some of his land for a 4x4 truck. maybe we will find a way to go party with our neighbor Miguel now and again. Too bad trucks are so expensive in Chile...)

So while the whole trespassing thing suggests the authorities have some issues that they need to resolve with the population, it really turned out to be an enjoyable afternoon for us. (Partially because Jill's been secretly hoping to be invited to mate, and this was her first time drinking a mate in South America)


(Miguel's place, las Escalas, Reserva Nacional Futaleufú)



While Futa had cast a strong spell on us, we were still looking forward to continuing on and seeing what the infamous Carretera Austral had in store.
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Old 02-06-2013, 07:00 PM   #325
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Carretera Austral

We had been hearing about the Carretera Austral, known for its amazing scenery, ever since we started thinking about this trip. It was a bit of a conundrum for us, an elusive thing that just existed somewhere in the southern part of Chile; we honestly didn't really know where it was. Well, we found it. And WOW! what a place. The scenery was jaw dropping. Absolutely stunning. We will do our best to downselect the photos that we took, and just display some of the highlights here, but be forewarned that this post is picture heavy.


(entering the Carretera Austral near Villa Santa Lucia)


(reflections from afar (we found some even better reflections later on...I've already failed at downselecting))


(the TA loved it)


(it's official. We had found the Carretera Austral)


(Mike caught a Nalca leaf that was this big)


(some more austral flora)


(a nice little campsite outside of Puyuhuapi)


(so much water along the whole route. And it was often some amazing shade of blue, green, or somewhere in between)


(The retired bus lunch stop in Villa Amenguai. Those 2 bicyclists were German, probably ~70+ years old, and pedaling their way around the Carretera Austral for 10 weeks. We saw lots of bicyclists in the area, these 2 were by far the most impressive.)








(We camped outside of Coyhaique where we ran into Bill from Alaska. He has sailed and traveled the world over, and was good company for our evening camping and morning meal. Since he was headed north, we didn't have the chance to ride with him)


(Jill taking advantage of the public mate)


(the Carretera Austral was actually paved for a couple hundred kms around Coyhaique, the regional hub. It was still fun riding!)


(TA with Cerro Castillo)


(the colors of these glacial lakes and rivers are incredible! This light green was common, as well as light blues, and darker blues, and combinations of greens and blues. Yet all still somehow crystal clear)




(dead forest)




(nearing Pto Tranquilo)


(even when you look straight ahead, beauty!)


(and this was our view from camp just outside of Puerto Tranquilo. Not bad)


(we took a trip to visit la Capilla de Mármol = "the Chapel of Marble")


(la Capilla de Mármol)


(this dog lives there)




(the actual Capilla de Mármol (this island is the actual "Capilla", the rest was just on the tour))


(Sunset and reflections, Lago General Carrera)


(Cemetary on the way up Valle Exploradores)


(Perfect reflection in Lago Tranquilo, Valle Exploradores)









Jill made friends with the little kitty pictured above at one of our campsites just north of Cochrane. In fact, it spent a good bit of time in our tent. Once it started exploring, heading straight towards our inflatable air mattresses with its claws, it got the boot. Too bad we didn't have any kitten mittens!


(The bugs were so bad that helmets were worn at all times. Safety first. Man, those horseflies were unsafe.)










(Mike and TA waiting for the ferry at Puerto Yungay)


(It's about a 40 min ride, totally free, and even has a snack bar. We met some crazy Porteños on their way to boat to a glacier. Marcos, Maximo and Matias. Hope they made it...)

The other side of the ferry was, you guessed it, gorgeous. The road was in good shape, maybe because of how few vehicles come this way since there is usually no way out (except every once in awhile when a river can be crossed, but with questionable aduana services available). We did, however, see an awful lot of bicyclists since they can ride/carry their bikes from Villa O'Higgins into Argentina. Even with the backtrack, we were glad to see this stretch.






(camping at Media Luna, just south of Villa O'Higgins. "Wild" horses woke us up, mostly because one of them had a cowbell tied to its neck.)


(Fin de la Carretera Austral!!)




(Villa O'Higgins. Thankfully it has a Petrobras station (which is marked up to almost USD 2 per liter))




(Just sittin' on a bench in full motorcycle gear... this is how we admired the view to keep the bugs at bay. Between Villa O'Higgins and Pto Yungay)





After ferrying back from Villa O'Higgins, we decided to check out Caleta Tortel, at the other end of the dead end road. It was an interesting town, all built on boardwalks.


(we found a nice spot to camp on the way, and appreciated the sunset)






(the cats liked Jill here, too)






(Mike dropped a glove into the water. Thankfully (1) a passerby notice it happen and told him and (2) it was within stick's reach of an accessible place on shore...it just took some off-boardwalkin')

Then back up towards Cochrane we went.





the ultimate general store, Cochrane
(the ultimate general store in Cochrane)
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Old 02-06-2013, 08:03 PM   #326
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Great pictures guys You are on a good roll!
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Old 02-06-2013, 08:27 PM   #327
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Absolutely Amazing Scenery there!!! Thanks so much for posting those pictures. I'm sure it looked much better in person but that is hard to beat.

Incredible trip, you two. Have fun.
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Old 02-08-2013, 04:09 PM   #328
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Thanks for the compliments guys, but yeah, that area just naturally lends itself to some great photos. We are looking forward to heading back north through the same region...
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Old 02-08-2013, 04:10 PM   #329
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Guanacos, ñandús, flamingos and dutchies

We had heard about a free campsite on the way to the Chilean/Argentine border from Cochrane, so decided to check it out. The area was purchased by Conservacion Patagonia, founded by Tompkins, the former CEO of Patagonia clothing company. She and her husband, the founder of North Face, live in Chile and have purchased over 2 million acres of land in Chile in Argentina. They have turned most of this area into National Parks, and are currently turning the area between Cochrane and Paso Roballos into a national park called Parque Patagonia. The park in in construction right now, which is why the campsites are still free. They are also developing and mapping the trails, with the help of several international volunteers. We were surprised at how nice the buildings in the park are. Quite upscale actually. We spent two enjoyable nights at the West Winds campground and ended up meeting a really nice couple, Clara and Santi, from Buenos Aires, who we hiked with for the day. The hike was a bit longer than we expected, as we thought it would take about 3 hours, but ended up taking all day, to the confluence of the Baker and Cochrane rivers. It was worth the walk, and we were even able to hitchhike most of the way back.


(The ride to Parque Patagonia was really nice.)


(Guanacos were everywhere...)


(...including in the campsite.)


(Los West Winds campsite is free for now, and worth a visit.)


(Hiking with Clara and Santi)


(Our final destination - la confluencia.)


(This is inside the new guest lodge. Accomodations are plush.)

From the campsite, the border is about 60kms.


(This is Flamingo Lake, where flamingos are reported to live. We didn't see any.)


(The Chilean border took about 5 minutes to get through. Not much traffic here, so that means no lines.)


(We also had several ñandú (or "Rhea" if you prefer English) sightings. Rheas are a lot like ostriches, but a little smaller and only found in South America.)


(The Argentine border took a little longer. Not because of the customs process, but because we got a flat that Mike had to fix. Luckily we were right at the Argentine customs building when it happened, so we could multi-task for some of the time.)

From the border, we went to Lago Posadas in hopes of finding gas and some food, as we hadn't eaten all day. Come to find out this town completely shuts down from 12-5 for siesta. Luckily for us, we arrived after 4. We found a cafe that was just opening. We admit that the milanesa was delicious (anything would have been at that point, as we are not accustomed to missing meals), but the very friendly owner charged us 100 pesos (about $15) each. That is ridiculous! Everytime we forget to ask the price in advance this is what happens. Mike was able to talk her down, but we still paid more than we should have. At this point we discovered that southern Argentina was going to be a bit more expensive than northern Argentina was, and we already knew that all of Chile was expensive. Oh well, we got some gas and continued on, making it to Baja Caracoles to spend the night.

The town is very sleepy, but has a lot of people stopping in, as it has a gas station and is located on Highway 40. It was a hub for gaucho travel in the '40's as well. We got our old tube repaired by a really nice guy who recommended that we camp at the police station. Jill asked the policeman if there was camping in town. He said no, but then told us we could camp next to the station. Perfect. We got all set up and then went to the hotel/grocery store/bar/gas station for a beer (we were even able to sneak a shower in the morning). A VW van pulled up with a Dutch couple, Janna and Erwin, and we ended up having a good evening hanging out with them to celebrate Janna's birthday. They backpacked through Central America and bought the bus in Chile, then traveled with it through Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina and back to Chile. They are now headed to Santiago to sell the van.




(Janna, Jill, Erwin and Mike with the bus)
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Old 02-09-2013, 10:08 AM   #330
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Originally Posted by csustewy View Post
The town is very sleepy, but has a lot of people stopping in, as it has a gas station and is located on Highway 40. It was a hub for gaucho travel in the '40's as well. We got our old tube repaired by a really nice guy who recommended that we camp at the police station. Jill asked the policeman if there was camping in town. He said no, but then told us we could camp next to the station. Perfect. We got all set up and then went to the hotel/grocery store/bar/gas station for a beer (we were even able to sneak a shower in the morning). A VW van pulled up with a Dutch couple, Janna and Erwin, and we ended up having a good evening hanging out with them to celebrate Janna's birthday. They backpacked through Central America and bought the bus in Chile, then traveled with it through Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina and back to Chile. They are now headed to Santiago to sell the van.




(Janna, Jill, Erwin and Mike with the bus)
Wow!! Classic! Thanks for sharing.
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