After 3 nights in El Bolson, I headed back to Bariloche for a few days. It is low season right now and the hiking season is almost completely over, with the majority of the refugios already closed and the ski resorts opened. As I am not looking for a full second winter season this year (left Canada in the middle of the winter and now enjoying the snow in Argentina), I decided to stay only a few days in my new favorite Argentine Whistler and enjoy an opening in the forecast. I came back to the same hostel I stayed in during the Semana Santa, the Achalay’s hostel in the center of the town. It was really quiet (had my 6 bed dorm almost to myself for 4 nights) but the hostel lobby was always alive with the staff hanging around. The staff in charge of the reception are mainly other travelers both from Argentina and other countries in South America. The atmosphere is very friendly and right after I arrived I was invited to go out with them and have a mate on the beach. I spent all my evenings at the hostel with them cooking, playing Risk, learning new songs on the Ukulele (special shout to Pedro and Martin for our Little Talks Guitar-Trumpet-Uku trio!) and trying to decide what I was going to do the next day (depending on the forecast).
Most of the hikes and excursions that I wanted to do were already closed for the winter, so I decided to go check out the boat tour heading out to Isla Victoria and the Bosque de Arrayanes. The boat leaves from the port at KM 25 in front of the Llao Llao hotel – supposed to be one of if not the best hotel in Argentina. I arrived a bit early with the transit so took some time to go have a fancy latte (75 pesos) in their Lobby lounge. The view is great and I think its worth going to have a look. The boat tour was with the company TouriSur and was 680 pesos, plus the 120 pesos national park entrance fee and the 37 pesos tax from leaving from the port.
The tour itself is about 4hours in total. We first headed to the Bosque de Arrayanes, which is also available by a hike starting in Villa Angostura. I decided not to visit Villa Angostura and San Martin de Los Andes because it seemed to me very similar to Howe Sound area in Canada, and I wanted to spend more time in the mountains or discovering something different. The first stop was very interesting and there is a boardwalk in the forest and a little tea house in the middle of the woods. The trees are very interesting and create a lovely atmosphere to walk around. The second stop was a bit longer, we stopped directly on Isla Victoria for about one hour. There was a few trails on the island and it was very relaxing and, I have to admit, felt like Canada! If you want to get pick up from your hostel to get to the port you will have to pay an extra 150 pesos for the transfer, which I think is really expensive. If you have a SUBE card, you will pay 46 pesos for a round-trip with the local buses.
On my second day I went up to Cerro Lopez Refugio with Martin and Jonatan from the hostel. I will cover the details on a separate post! I was hoping to head up to San Rafael the next day, but there was no more Cama in the bus, which was a no go for me for a 16hrs bus drive. Turns out I used the extra day to check one of my to-do list item… and went for a little paragliding ride in tandem! I booked from my hostel with basically the only company/service in Bariloche, Parapente Biplaza (Ernesto Gutierrez). Depending on the wind conditions, the jumps are done either from Cerro Otto in Bariloche, or Cerro Piltriquitron in El Bolson when the wind is too strong. We drove to the parking of Cerro Otto teleferico and drove up with a couple (and their super cute 2 years old baby) who are also flying often in the area. After maybe 45 minutes of setting up, we were ready to fly! I was surprisingly very calm and did not feel nervous until pretty much the second where my guide said: Ok, now, RUN! By then we had to run downwards the slope and just… let ourselves fall off the cliff with the parapente taking off over our heads! Paragliding is actually really calm and relaxing. The wind was very low that day, but the sky was really clear, which was perfect for me! The flight was short because we couldn’t use the wind to get lots of speed but for a first experience it was great! I also have a nice video where I am actually controlling the parapente a bit before we prepared for landing. The flight was 1600 pesos and 200 pesos more for the photos and video taken during the flight. I have to admit this might have convinced me to take on kitesurfing when I get back home!
I have to admit If it wasn’t from the winter coming, I would have stayed much longer in the area. It felt a bit like leaving home! Now I’m on my way to the Wine country and will start with a quick stop in San Rafael, as I have heard lots of good things about the town from the locals!