Panoramic view of Bariloche (click to enlarge)
Mendoza to Neuquen to Río Negro: Of the 970 photographs taken during our recent trip, we have included a few select images to depict our breathtaking journey inside Argentina's famed northern Patagonia. Our final destination was San Carlos de Bariloche and the remote outposts that surround this majestic village.
The hardest part of this trip was leaving Dallin in Mendoza with some dear friends. The easiest part of this trip? Being alone without Dallin...in a beautiful hotel with a lake view! As you might know, Tania is half-Mapuche (maiden name Nahuelcura), so it was wonderful to experience a little indigenous culture as Mapuche dialect accounts for 90% of the names for local lakes, forests, islands, etc.
DAY 1: From Mendoza to the South
Last night, we arrived to the local terminal and boarded our Andesmar bus, prepared to travel 17 hours south into the northern limits of Argentina's famed Patagonia. As we departed Mendoza, with iPods in hand, we reclined our favorite seats (upper level/ in front) and enjoyed the open landscape as seen through the massive windshield before us. As raindrops and splattered bugs slowly ruined our view, we turned our attention to the television screens overhead...only to be disappointed with the evening's film selections: Nights of Rodanthe and Madagascar 2. With lightning storms in the distance, and the peculiar smell of sweet grass in the air, we drifted off to sleep...until we were stopped at the Neuquen provincial border and searched by eager police officers and their German Shepherd sidekicks. With a bus free of drugs, we continued on our trip...
Passengers inside the bus terminal of Neuquen
DAY 2: Arrival to Río Negro
The sun is now shining through the windshield. We are waking up...yet a subtitled Kangaroo Jack on the television overhead is forcing us to close our eyes once again. The overnight trip has brought us a new climate much different from the boiling summer heat of Mendoza. The bus windows are now covered in condensation, our feet are cold and stiff, and the mother sitting across the aisle is preparing steaming mate to share with her daughter. We stop at the bus terminal of Neuquen, pick up a few extra passengers, then continue southward into the Río Negro province...but not without welcoming one more drug search from eager police officers and new German Shepherd sidekicks.
We are getting closer to our final destination. We have seen signs for Traful, Confluencia, and other known outposts of northern Patagonia. We are counting down the kilometer markers to San Carlos de Bariloche. At last we arrive...to a small terminal outside the city. The sky is gray and the forecast calls for afternoon drizzles.
A blue-and-white taxi cab takes us to our downtown hotel. Hotel Panamericano provides a spacious room for us both - free of charge - with a calming view of the lake just two blocks ahead. Pinching ourselves in disbelief that we are finally here, we crack open the massive window to invite the frigid outdoor winds inside. We then grab our camera and leave.
Bariloche is derived from the term vuriloche, meaning "people on the other side" in Mapuche dialect. Such indigenous tribes, scattered across southern Chile, knew of this divine destination centuries ago, but intentionally kept it hidden from initial European explorers. At last, in 1717, Jesuits crossing through these Andean valleys established their mission along the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi. In the late 19th-century, German immigrant Carlos Wiederhold discovered Bariloche, eventually establishing his own local general store. The resort town of San Carlos de Bariloche was born. Austrians and Germans soon made their home here, creating an alpine-style civic center, and thus, a warm and inviting "Switzerland of South America". Known as Argentina's Lake District, this region is also considered the ski capital of Latin America, and is located inside Nahuel Huapi National Park - the largest of Argentina, and the first ever on the South American continent.
We spend the afternoon and evening exploring the heart of Bariloche. Government offices and national banks are housed in beautiful buildings of traditional stone and wood. The grass is green and free of litter - a rare sight to see in much of Argentina. Araucaria trees are trademark evergreens of downtown, often referred to as "monkey puzzle trees" for their unique design. Breweries and chocolate shops line narrow avenues, as winter lights in the shape of snowflakes and bells illuminate our evening stroll. As we admire chocolate workers perfecting their culinary craft, we are offered several free samples of white and dark confections, all of which further contribute to the feeling of Christmas back home.
Intricate woodcarvings outside the government offices
Folks waiting below the town's clock tower
Antu: a faithful Saint Bernard trying to make a dollar
The unique form of monkey puzzle trees
Fishing in the cold
Perfecting an art at Frantom Chocolate Factory
Fresh chocolate "en rama"
A favorite restaurant and brewery
Bustillo's cathedral in downtown Bariloche
The main square of San Carlos de Bariloche