San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
Although it’s hard to complain about traveling for several months, it does get tiring feeling “unsettled.” In planning our trip, we knew that we would want a “vacation” from our vacation. Bariloche fit that bill and then some! We spent a week relaxing at a lakefront cabin just outside of Bariloche, Argentina. Chris’ parents joined for most of the week. Together, we enjoyed scenic hikes, good wine, and delicious food.
Chris and I arrived to Bariloche via the Lake Crossing excursion from Puerto Varas, Chile. This was an exhausting 12-hour day, as our transportation consisted of 4 buses and 3 boats! We were privileged to see beautiful vistas, including close-up views of Volcan Osorno and Volcan Tronador. Unfortunately, we were also stuck on the tourist trap that is Cruce Andino, and had to sit through 2 hours of them talking about excursions we could do during our unnecessarily long 3 hour break in Peulla (a hotel conveniently also run by this tourism mega-company!). Our only excursion consisted of eating boring food and playing chess! Needless to say, we were happy to finally arrive in Bariloche to begin the next phase of our trip.
That night, we gorged ourselves on Filet steaks and Malbec. You could say we were excited to be back in Argentina for the food and wine! The following day we checked into our cabin and picked Chris’ parents up from the airport. It’s always great to see familiar faces during travel, but we were especially excited to see Tesa & Ray and explore this beautiful town together. Plus, after 2 months I needed someone else to talk to!
Like most of our trips, the activities for the week fell into 2 categories: outdoor activities and food. Fortunately, in the Bariloche area – there are ample opportunities for both! We did several day hikes that varied in intensity and length: Cerro Llao Llao, Cerro Lopez, Lago Gutierrez. We also rode the Gondola at Cerro Catedral (local ski resort) and hiked around at the top. While this region is a temperate rainforest, there has been a recent drought putting the area at high risk for fires. Therefore, much of the underbrush was dead and the hikes were very dusty. Despite this, the hikes were scenic with amazing views of the surrounding mountains and lakes.
Moving onto the food. What could be more important? Bariloche is well known for its chocolate, and like all of Argentina, also has great steaks and wine. There are several breweries in town that serve “good beer”, considering you are still in South America. Most of the steakhouses in town have a similar menu so we got the ordering rhythm down pretty quickly. As a warning to any travelers, each “steak” is actually 2-3 servings of meat. While steak was the treat for us meat-lovers, don’t feel bad for the vegetarian (Tesa) as there was plenty of chocolate to go around. We joked that our least cost-effective trip was to the chocolate shop Havanna, where $24 bought us a ½ pound of chocolate and a few frappuccino’s. Included for free were the interesting looks when trying to order various forms of chocolate in Spanish.
First, Do No Harm
As a physician, you never know when your services will be needed. The most shocking afternoon of this week occurred while driving back from one of our day hikes. A popular tourist activity in Bariloche is to rent bikes and ride along the Circuito Chico. While driving along the circuit, we came across a cyclist down in the middle of the road. We stopped the car and Chris and I ran to her side. It turns out the accident had just occurred; as such we were the first responders. As we came to find out, the cyclist had hit a large pothole and went down. She was conscious but obviously concussed and with significant facial trauma. I immediately stabilized her c-spine and tried to calm her down, as Chris talked to the friends to figure out what had happened. Other by-standers had gone to call for help. The firefighters arrived 10 minutes later and, after hearing we were both physicians, wanted us to run the show. We coordinated getting her appropriately stabilized for transport, and then helped to load her onto the “ambulance”. From what we understood, there always has to be a physician on transport, and therefore I went with.
The ambulance ride was interesting. The firefighters’ transport vehicle was more of a van than an ambulance, as there was no gurney for stabilization or monitors/medical supplies. So we essentially just held on to the backboard to make sure it didn’t go flying. After about 10 kilometers and much to my confusion, we pulled over and met with an official ambulance from the local hospital. I debriefed the physician on what had occurred and she took it from there. The ambulance took off for the hospital, and the police drove me back to our cabin (in the backseat, feeling like a convict). Meanwhile, Ray, Tesa & Chris had helped to return the bikes and drove the friends to the hospital. We were called in to provide an official statement the following day. It turns out she had a “serious facial fracture” (our guess is a Le Fort fracture) but they were not able to provide additional information. I feel fortunate that we were able to help out at a very scary time. If nothing else, having first responders who speak the same language and are physicians was probably a great comfort.
We had discussed doing the bike ride, but obviously have changed our minds. Putting our one afternoon of work behind us, it’s time to resume our leave of absence!
This was possibly our favorite week of the trip to date. Bariloche is a beautiful town with many amenities of home. After living out of a suitcase for two months, simple things such as a home-cooked meal and unpacking our bags is very settling and appreciated! We loved having Chris’ parents in town, for their easy-going and comical personalities make them fun travel partners. Needless to say, it was the perfect place for our “vacation from the vacation”.
While we have enjoyed the R&R, it’s time to head back into the mountains for some backpacking adventures!
Pros: accessible hiking trails, beautiful lake views, amazing weather, quality time with family!
Cons: hmmm… none?
Tips: For planning hikes, we often used the website trekbariloche.com. We recommend staying out of town for a better lakefront setting and access to hiking trails. We stayed near Llao Llao and thought it was perfect. Definitely need a car, but 4×4 is not necessary. Bring your appetite!
Private cottage from AirBNB. Excellent location on a smaller lake with close access to Circuito Chico and many hiking trails.
Food & Drinks
Alto el Fuego – best steak in town
El Boliche del Alberto – 2nd best steak we had
Cerveza Berlina – the only draft IPA I’ve been able to find!
With my parents off to El Calafate and then Torres Del Paine, we are off for the Nahuel Huapi Traverse.