If you read the last blog post you won’t be surprised to hear that we hadn’t found a hostel in Santiago. Fortunately after a quick stop at an internet cafe we found a cheap one and hopped in a taxi. We were both feeling a little worse for wear after attempting to drain Mendoza’s wine supply so it was an early night for us both.
Alex left early the following morning to take a flight to Mexico for his work. After a lazy morning I met up with Lucia who I had met in Mancora, Peru a few months before. We wandered around the area of Bellas Artes, visited Museo Bellas Artes and Lucia was kind enough to offer me a place to stay at her house. It wasn’t a difficult decision between staying in a lovely house or paying £10 for a bed in a 6 bed dorm and enduring another night with a heavy snorer! Later that day we met up with Paula who I also met in Mancora. The next few days were great and I am very grateful to Lucia who not only hosted me but became my Santiago tour guide. One day we took bikes and cycled from her house into the city and up Cerro San Cristobal. It was good to be doing exercise again and as well as the great views from Cerro San Cristobal we also stopped off at Parque Bicentenario where we saw many birds including the infamous flamingos. Another day, while Lucia was at university I took the metro into the centre, visited the President’s Palace also known as La Moneda which means ‘The Coin’ as it was originally built as the Chilean mint. I also had time for the national museum, Plaza de Armas and walked through a lot of the city. I liked Santiago and it is definitely up there with my favourite of the capital cities I have seen in South America. On my final night we met up with Paula again and some of her other friends for a few drinks. Lucia and Paula are both great company and in particular I have to thank Lucia for her generosity and also her brothers and sister for making me feel very welcome.
My plan was to return to Mendoza to meet another friend but when I arrived at the terminal I received the news that the pass across the Andes was now closed as a big storm was setting in. I wanted to get moving so decided to take an overnight bus down to Bariloche, considered the gateway to Argentinian Patagonia. Once again I crossed the Andes and enjoyed more great views. I arrived into Bariloche and headed to a hostel I had found on the internet. The best thing about the hostel was that all of the people staying there actually lived and worked in Bariloche and were Argentines so it was perfect to practice my Spanish. The second best thing was that there was a pingpong table! Of course it didn’t take long to assert my authority…
The first full day I attempted to hire a bike only to find the bike hire shop closed. Luckily, although I was a good 20km outside the town I was able to walk a few hundred metres and take a chair lift to Cerro Campanario. It was a wet and windy day so the views were limited but it was still incredible. I had previously read that on a clear day this place was considered to have one of the top 10 views on the planet. I could just about see why despite the nasty conditions. That night and after a few beers I mingled with the residents of the hostel who were extremely welcoming and very friendly. A few of us headed into town for more drinks and I tried the infamous fernet and cola which was enjoyed in plentiful amounts! It was a good night and the anniversary of Bariloche which added to the enjoyment. The following day Sonia, a girl who was living in the hostel, and I walked up Cerro Otto and enjoyed sunshine most of the way. Unfortunately the last 500m were shrouded in cloud and we didn’t quite get the view we were hoping for. As it was getting later in the afternoon and Al was due to arrive we took the cable car back down and returned to the hostel.
We were greeted by Al who had now returned from Mexico and we passed the evening playing cards, enjoying a few drinks and playing more ping pong. Al was keen to see some of the area around Bariloche so we hiked up Cerro Otto again and this time were treated to blue skies and sunshine all the way up. The views were great before but on this day they were stunningly beautiful. Before I came to South America and when I was researching my trip, Patagonia sat at the top of the list of places I wanted to visit. It was a europhic feeling to finally be there! I hadn’t researched Argentina in much detail before my trip as it was many months away but visiting El Calafate and the Perito Moreno glacier was recommended both online and by others. The only problem was that it was a 28 hour bus journey and the flights were too expensive. Nevertheless we wanted to see it so we bought our tickets a couple of days in advance and were lucky enough to get the front row seats, obviously offering the best views. We said our goodbyes to everybody at the hostel, I had really enjoyed my time both in Bariloche and with the people at the hostel but with the Perito Moreno glacier awaiting we set forth.