Saturday, January 28, 2006

Northern Patagonia - The Southern Tip of this Journey

Another 20 odd hour bus ride through largely desolate terrain took Dave, Mik and I into the lake district of northern Patagonia. The start of the end of the inhabited world. As I woke up from the night on the semi-cama the scenery began to change from arid scrub strewn desert into hills, forests and eventually lakes. The road winds beside deep blue passages of water with alpinesque forests climbing up from gentle banks. The hills then climb into snow topped mountains in the background and we enter Bariloche.

This is a clearly very German influenced tourist town, packed in winter with skiers and in summer with outdoor lovers and teenagers trying to get as far away from their parents as possible. It was so packed that we could not find room in a hostel and instead found ourselves in an apartment high up half facing the lake. This worked out more than for the best as it gave us space to relax as we wished. An extra bonus was that we shared the flat with two lovely Israeli girls (Orit and Sarit) fresh out of the army.

To cut a long story short, all the lengthy treks through the mountains, horse rides and boat trips (we even booked one) were left by the wayside or simply missed because we were more than happy just chilling out in the simply stunning surroundings. The view from our window of the western half of the lake, forests and mountains made the early afternoons as the sun went down quite inspirational. We did find time for a couple of long nights out, meeting up with the Swedes from La Paz and a Dutchie from San Pedro within 5 seconds of walking into the first bar and then dancing a Saturday night away with a group of Israelis. They do not call the place Israeliloche/Barilisraeli for no reason.

Not much on this trip has beaten lying by the lake side reading my book, chilling out and sizzling before swimming in the FREEZING water. In fact there was only one thing in these three days that beat that experience - an evening feast at De Alberto´s. When I say this had fantastic steak it simply does not convey the magnificence of what was put before us. A good half kilo of perfectly cooked, tender, melt-in-your-mouth steak. Mix that with a special reserve red wine and some great company and to be honest I had to pinch myself. I am now a fully converted carnivore, no doubt about it, and I have to thank Sarit and Orit for booking what was damn close to the best meal of my life (or at least in South America one does not want to exaggerate but it was wonderful).

On our final full day we did manage to get into the hills for a great walk. The views were spectacular and it did make me feel a little bad that we did not make more of our days here, but to be honest I had a great time anyhow and it just gives me yet another excuse to return to this continent as fast as possible - I am smitten!! Half-comedy, nearly tragedy, Dave and I did get to see Mik following the 20 minute rule in full flow climbing a 100 metre high rock cliff naked as the day he was born. Amusing at the start but worrying, and soon seriously worrying, as he huddled halfway up sin anything shouting as I quote "the 20 minute rule sucks". Not so funny. One slip and you do not want to know the consequences. Gracias de Dios after a bit of re composure and 25 minutes freezing his bits off, Mik managed to find a way down. Not all challenges are worth attempting. Next time wear shoes.

A note on the 20 minute rule - the rule that you should not look more than 20 minutes ahead of you when making decisions. I have found this rule really quite liberating in certain situations where you can get stressed about the potential affect of an action in hours or days time, and indeed in can lead to hilarious consequences but it undoubtedly has its limits!!

There was time left for Mik and Dave to nearly miss there bus to a volcano in Chile and a bit more for me to have delicious helado at Jaujau and say farewell to our flat mates before an another 20 hour bus to BA. Probably the most talked about place on the travel trail in South America and I was to spend a week there - marvellous!!
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