Sunday, January 19, 2014

Patagonia Part 4: Bariloche, Argentina

I had my first bus mishap when I attempted to leave Pucon. I bought my ticket in this little store with the name of a bus company on it, so I foolishly assumed that bus company would be the company my bus ticket was for.

SOUTH AMERICAN ROOKIE MISTAKE: Assuming things will be a certain way, because that certain way makes sense.

Long story short, Pucon has about 10 different bus stations, and it's a small town. I went to the wrong one and missed the bus. Luckily, my destination (Osorno) was a popular one and buses left for it every couple of hours. I had to eat the ticket price, but luckily it all worked out. I took a roughly 4-hour ride to Osorno, which is where I had to go to connect to get to Bariloche. This time I made it, AND there were tickets available to Bariloche, too. Yippee! That ride went over the Andes, over the Chile-Argentina border, and was supposed to take 6 hours, but took about 7.5. Luckily it was really scenic.

Getting across the border was time-consuming, but not too much of a problem. When I finally arrived in Bariloche, the first thing I did was get in touch with my friend Adrianne from Paraguay. It was really nice to see someone I knew, and not go through the typical travel conversation: (what's your name, where are you from, where have you been, where are you going next, etc. etc.). Even though it was late, we met up in a bar Adrianne had found with great microbrews. Hurrah!

The next day we went kayaking in a beautiful lake. It is the Lake District, after all. The water was so pretty! It was a little windy so we had to work a little bit, but overall a really nice day. After all that work, we had to quench our thirst again-same place as the night before! Actually, we went there for happy hour, which was SO cheap. Then we wandered around town, then went back for dinner!

We decided to travel together for a few more days, so the next morning we took a short bus ride (a couple of hours) to the town of El Bolson, Argentina!
I came back through Bariloche again on my way back north, which is why I have more hotel/restaurant recommendations than make sense! But it rained pretty much the whole time and I think I read 2-3 books during those days, and pretty much did nothing else-so that will not warrant a separate blog entry!

Bariloche is all about the outdoor activities so if you are here, that is probably what you will be doing, weather permitting! There are tour operators all over the place and most hotels/hostels can help you set things up. I loved the kayaking and regret that I didn't have a chance to do any hiking here. The town itself is nice but super touristy and crowded, and I was honestly ready to leave after just a couple of days. I did love the restaurants here though! Manush is the brewery/restaurant we kept ending up at-highly recommended! I also went to Cervezeria Antares, which had great beer and another good happy hour. El Vegetariano was good vegetarian food (rare in the land of beef) and I also liked the Mexican fare at Dias de Zapata.

When we were there, the peso was basically in a free fall. Which really sucks for Argentina, but it meant our US dollars went really far. Argentina was CHEAP. Especially with the black market rate. So here's the thing you need to know about money in Argentina. If you change your money in a bank, use an ATM, or a credit card, you will get the "official" rate. When we were there that was about 7 Argentinian pesos to the US dollar. However, the "blue market" (I don't know why it's called that) or unofficial rate was 11-12 pesos to the dollar when we were there. This is obviously a HUGE difference. It's different in different cities but I changed all my money in Bariloche. Basically you walk along the main touristy street and people say "cambio cambio" which means "change." These are the guys you want. Ask what the rate is, if you like it you tell them how much you want to change and they give it to you. Some people are freaked out by this and afraid they will get fake pesos. I didn't have any problems.

The first time I was in Bariloche I stayed at Tangoinn Soho. Pros: close to the bus station (most of Bariloche is not really walking distance to the bus station), lots of activities going on, bar, pool tables, it would probably be easy to meet people here, nice staff, nice backyard area. Okay breakfast. Cons: for me it was just too big. Not personal feeling. The dorm was okay. Each dorm room has it's own bathroom/shower which has pros and cons.

Adrianne stayed at Green House Hostel. From what I saw it was super cute, small, more personal, and had a nice kitchen. The main drawback (which could also be a pro) is it's pretty far out of town so you have to take a bus or taxi every time you want to go to eat or anything.

The second time I was in Bariloche I stayed at the Universal Travelers Inn. I really liked it. It was smaller, the owner really cared about it and everyone's experience, and it was about 4 blocks from downtown. Breakfast: marginal. Never anything hot but some days there was fruit or cereal in addition to bread. It had good coffee!! I had a nice time here, which is good because I was rained in so much!

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