This is the first part of our stay in Bariloche. The 2nd part can be viewed here
Part 1: Travel Diaries
26 hours by bus? Never again!
We had the bad idea to book a 24H bus from El Chaltén to Bariloche. We have already made 16 hours of bus to go from Ushuaia to El Calafate so we thought that 24h was easy.
Already, it starts badly: two very young French people who are missing a lot of things (travel experiences, life experiences and especially politeness) are just behind us. Only sleep makes them stop talking and regularly kick the front seat (if you followed correctly, it is OUR seat).
The films are broadcasted almost all the time, in Spanish as well. For those who travel with young children, don’t count on a parental filter since several films with oiled scenes have been broadcast.
Even though 3 courses are served (dinner, breakfast and lunch), only dinner is edible -> I almost had a hypoglycemic attack. Luckily the all-you-can-eat tea (and sugar) saved me. On these 24 hours of travel, there was a 20 minutes stop to fill up with gas and 3 stops of 5 minutes to pick up new passengers, that’s all! In Asia, we had gotten used to make 30 minutes breaks to have lunch in small bibouis.
I would have liked to stop in Los Antiguos. We would have crossed the border to Chile Chico, we could have visited the famous marble cellars on the General Carrera Lake from Puerto de Tranquillo. That was the plan of departure, until all the transports between Los Antiguos and Chile Chico were cancelled because of a too high tax applied to the passenger cars linking the two cities.
Bariloche : nothing to see on foot but some funny anecdotes
Arriving in Bariloche, we realize that we are dropped off at the new bus terminal in the suburbs and not the one in the city center. We see 2 public buses passing by and we run to take one (the number 20).
It is past 10 pm (the bus is 2 hours late compared to the program), we are exhausted, no desire to wait and negotiate with a cab. We vaguely understand that this bus drives in direction of the city center, we get on it without asking questions. It is super risky when we think about it, but other tourists are with us then suddenly we are less afraid, if there is a problem we will not be alone ahaha.
The driver does not seem to want to make us pay (in any case he did not react when we asked him “back” while making the gesture with his fingers). So we are 6 tourists, loaded like mules, with our smartphone on to try to understand where we are and hoping that there is a stop near our destination. When Google Maps shows that we aren’t too far from the city center and that indeed we see a bus station with a lot of people, we get off (like everybody else).
It will be the right decision since the hostel is only a 5 minute walk away. I promise, I will only do this in the green zone defined by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (i.e. all of Argentina except Salta, Buenos Aires and Ushuaia), I will never do this in La Paz in Bolivia for example.
Who do you see when you enter the hostel? The two young French girls we hoped never to see again!!! One of them dares to give us a “help me” look as she lifts her two huge suitcases. Luckily, since India, we have become experts at tactfully ignoring people with problems. And then, due to the lack of space in the dormitory where we had reserved two beds, we were given a private room (without extra charge). After 24 hours in the bus, it is a nice surprise. We will thus not have to support the company of our two chatterboxes!
Day 2 :
The next day, we discover that all tourist agencies are closed between noon and 3:30-4:30 pm. It seems that many businesses in Argentina are closed all the early afternoon and open until late at night. We try to walk close to the lake, in spite of the wind, until we fall nose to nose with the Belgian one that we crossed several times since El Calafate. We agree with him on a fact: we are bored to death in the city center, there isn’thing to do lol. He explains us that he reserved two nights the time to recover from the trip and to wash his linen… exactly like us!
We pass in front of a travel agency with a huge Via Bariloche logo (name of a bus company) and enter it to buy tickets. Ironically, the employee of the agency doesn’t know how to use the reservation software of the company. So we spent some time with her, on her computer, and even suggested her where to click ahahah. At one point, she said, “It’s complicated their reservation system, don’t you think? ». We pretend not to understand the question in Spanish so we don’t have to embarrass her with our answer: the software looks very simple. She will also have a hard time using the card payment terminal, but finally we come out with our tickets.
The day of poorly trained employees isn’t over yet! While passing by the supermarket, we come across the only employee who can neither scan the items, nor weigh the fruit, nor use the payment machine. Fortunately, she will be assisted by 2 other employees and a customer.
Well, aside from that, it was still a positive day.
The inn took care of our linen in 4 hours, for 80$AR! Yippee! Adios the dust of Patagonia!
We came across two very competent and gifted people in foreign languages: the 1st at the National Park Office and the 2nd at the car rental office CORRENTOSO. We congratulate him for his excellent English. Very proud, he answers us: “I can also speak French if you want”. Class! 2750$AR + 565$AR insurance later, we have our car for 3 days, 600km included and a “premium” insurance (the basic insurance is included, but since our bad experience in Papeetewhere we almost paid 250€ for a tow truck, we are ready to pay a little more to be quiet).
Note that there is a Sixt and Avis agency in Bariloche but neither had vehicles available the day before for the next day (perhaps because it is vacation time in Argentina). Book in advance if you want to go through them.
In Bariloche, as we have nothing to visit, we take revenge on the food: their famous artisanal chocolate is delicious (try Ranapui), and Helados Jauja deserves its reputation as the best ice cream parlour in Argentina. Their homemade ice cream is so addictive that they even give away a loyalty card. Anyway, here in Argentina, ice creams are very popular: they are always 2 to 3 times bigger than the cone and the most greedy can buy them by the kilo 😃
Tomorrow, we will discover the famous route of the 7 lakes (ruta de los siete lagos)
Part 2: Practical Tips
- Apart from eating, there isn’t much to do in the city center of Bariloche. You have to get out of the city quickly, by renting a car, or by taking the public buses (a bit crowded) to Llao Llao and then renting a mountain bike
- You can take a boat to explore the lake or even pay for a long ferry to Puerto Varas in Chile.
- Bus ticket El Chaltén – Bariloche: 2020$AR/person, 24h trip (20h to 20h, but the bus was late -> 20h to 22h)
- Auberge Periko’s: 450$AR/bed/day in dormitory (we recommend!) very nice staff and the hostel has a cute little garden.
- Linen: 80$AR/ bucket – like in Asia, we have nothing to do, just drop off our dirty laundry and pick up clean and folded laundry a few hours later. Happiness!
- Supermarket: 330$AR for 2 meals, 2 people
- Vegetarian restaurant: 245$AR for 2 people, drinks included
- Public bus: normally between 10$AR and 15$AR/person.
- Cab Bus Terminal -> City Center: normally 90$AR
- Car rental: 1260$AR/day for a small 3-door car, 100km max, 2,3$AR for each additional km. Decreasing rates from 2 days.
- Chocolate: between 43$AR and 50$AR a small box of chocolate at Rapanui
- Ice cream: a vasito at 60$AR at Helados Jauja is more than enough for one person
- Spanish lessons available at our hostel Periko’s: 30USD for 2 hours of classes. There is another school in La Montana, very famous here for its Spanish courses but we didn’t want to learn Argentinean Spanish.