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Stauchy Blog » Blog Archive » Bariloche, Feb. 17-24, 2008 (JRS)

Bariloche, Feb. 17-24, 2008 (JRS)

A little bit of Swiss Alps in the Andes, Bariloche was the location we settled on for our time in the “Lakes District” on the border of Argentina and Chile (about half way down the border).  Situated on a georgous lake surrounded by dramatic mountians, its a very cute little town and we had about a week to explore it and the area surrounding it.  We decided on a three day backpacking trip (the most difficult we’ve ever experienced, turns out) and some time to chill (and unfortunately deal with a bad stomache bug).

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After yet another overnight bus (a mode of transportation we were becoming quite fond of) we arrived in Bariloche at about 1100.  After walking around town and checking the price of a few of the hostles, we decided to camp at La Selva Negra, about 2 km from town.  We took the bus out, but decided to walk into and out of town several times over the next few days.  It was a nice walk along the shore of the lake and we had the spare time, so why now.  We had some very good mexican in town at Dias de Zapatas (which we would repeat later in the week).  We then gathered information about the hikes in the area and decided on a two night/three day trip that we would start the following day.

We slept in, packed for the backpacking trip (leaving a bag with the staff at the campground), then headed into town.  We got our bus tickets to Puerto Montt, Chile for the following Sunday then caught a bus to the trailhead of our hike on Lake Gutierez.  We made our way up an innocent enough trail for a couple of hours before it became more and more steep through an otherwise nice forest.  We reached Refugio Frey after about four or five hour hike (should have only taken two hours according to the park rangers).  This made us worry a bit about our “8-hour” hike the following day.

But, we were rewarded for our efforts with some nice views of the Catedral peaks all around us.  We camped near the Refugio, which was situated on a very picturesque lake that almost perfectly reflected the surrounding mountians.  The sun had just set and it was still quite bright (with the moon rising over a ridge behind us) when we went to bed at 10pm.

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The next morning we were up by about 815 and after coffee, breakfast and a few pictures, we hit the trail at about 10.

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On the far side of the lake, we were greeted with what seemed like unescapable walls of loose rocks and boulders (you can see what we were faced with if you look to the far side of the lake in the pictures above).  It was impossible to see our route up to the unseen pass above, but we just kept following the trail and when we hit the rocks, we found orange bullseyes to mark our way.  It was wickedly steep, and the loose rocks did not help any, not to mention the 30-pound packs on our backs.  It was among the most difficult hikes either of us had done, let alone with overnight packs.  I suppose that’s why most people take advantage of the Refugios.

After passing by another georgous lake on the way up, we finally reached the summit of the pass and were rewarded by a jaw-dropping view over the large lake that Bariloche was situated on and the snow-capped mountian range beyond.


From the top, we took a look at the map (which was a couple of pictures we had taken of the sign at the bottom of the hike) and noticed that this was not the only ridge in our hike.  We looked at the valley below and the surrounding ridges and realized that we were going to be faced with yet another grueling pass.  We made our way down an equally steep descent, this time in loose gravel (which wasn’t bad once you got the hang of leaning back and letting the loose gravel bring you down).  The trek across the valley was quite nice, mostly within a nice foresty area.  We stopped for lunch at the bace of a small but tranquil waterfall.

This picture shows the steep descent from the first pass and the valley that we walked through.  The second pass is at the head of the valley, basically in line with the snow-capped peak in the distance.


The second pass was pretty much as bad as the first, but this time we were worn out.  The views from the top were not quite as impressive, but certainly impressive enough.  It was a great place to sit, rest, and grab a snack before descending to the Refugio we could see below, sitting on yet another beautiful little lake surrounded by impressive peaks.

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After a somewhat scary and certainly enraging descent, we finally made it to the refugio where we set up camp then sat on a large boulder by the lake and chilled for a while, taking in what we had just accomplished.

The way out the next day was a gradual 5-hour descent down a nice valley.  At the bottom we waited for a while before catching an rediculously expensive shuttle back to La Selva Negra (I should have negotiated a price before getting on, but I was worn out and not thinking well).  That night we went into town and treated ourself to one of the best steak dinners that we had ever had (at a great price, about $30 for two prime cuts of steak, drinks and potatoes).

The next day we just lazed around town, got on the internet to take care of some future booking and got some groceries, which turned out to be our downfall.  The hot dogs (we think) that we ate that night made us both seriously sick.  We were spent the night alternating trips to the bathroom to puke, hershey-squirt, or both.  Needless to say, we didn’t attempt much the next day.  We basically just laid around camp and eventually were able to eat some crackers and Sprite.  We did meet a nice Australian guy that we were able to chat with throughout the day, which helped some.

The next morning we were still feeling quite weak, but given that it was our last full day in town we decided to go do the “Chico Circuit”, which consists of taking one bus to it’s end, then walking a couple of kilometers to the end of another bus route in order to get back to town.  It was decent, not too impressive compared to our backpacking trip, but not nearly as difficult either.  Other than a fairly hot and stuffy bus ride or two, it was a nice easy day, which helped our recovery.


Our bus to Puerto Montt left very early the next morning (we were up at 430 to catch the bus across town to the bus station).  There was a freaky experience on the bus before it left when a man appeared to have a stroke.  The paramedics came and took him off the bus (he seemed to be responsive), and we were glad that it happened before the bus left town and we were miles from any help.  The rest of the busride across the border into Chile was a nice ride through the mountians.  We got into Chile without paying an entrance fee, which was suprising because it costs $130 in the airport in Santiago.


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