From el bolsón, I went directly to Puerto madryn, pretty much just to see the whales! I only spend one night here, I was debating whether to come or not, so when I did, I knew i didn’t have too much to spare, because i wanted to to a lot of hiking further south. It was amazing to see the whales. To see their true size, I was lucky to see some interesting behaviours and to see a mother and a calf. I was lucky to see them at all, because as a result of the El Niño phenomenon, the whales came and went a month early.
El bolson was lovely… it’s such a lovely hippie little town. El bolsón, means the bowl, named after the mountain ridge that surrounds the town, forming a bowl shape. An additional interpretation is that people fall into the bowl and cannot get out, and I can really see why. It’s a great place for some beautiful hikes, just to chill in some very homely hostels, eat organic food, bake bread, eat the awesome Jauja ice cream, do yoga or buy artesanal products made by local artists. I stayed here a few days, much longer than I normally do, because I wanted a break and heard about this amazing hostel to stay and relax in, and even then, I which I stayed for longer! One big hike I did was to Cerró piltriquitron. Here we had to get an expensive taxi to the foot of the mountain, from there it was 1 hour to the Refugio, where we got a cuppa and cheese toasties, before we continued our hike. First 2 hours was easy and basically flat, the last hour was a very steep made nearly completely of small rocks so there was a lot of sliding… and it had the coldest and strongest wind I’ve experienced so far. At had to stop and hold my pose, because it was to strong to walk against; I also wished I brought my gloves…
From Buenos Aires I took a dreaded and long 23h bus to Bariloche… it was a long way, but it was worth it. Bariloche is in the Argentine Lake District, and it’s very beautiful and varied; it has lakes, forests and mountains. There is a lot of hiking you can do, but I’ve only had time for a hike to Refugio Frey. I decided to take a bus to el Bolsón that same day so I really had to rush, and managed to do it in 5 hours instead of 8, which is how long it normally takes! I also went on a tour to see the black glacier and the Nahuel Huapi national park. One of my favourite places in Bariloche was the Jauja ice cream shop… best ice cream I’ve ever had.
Normally I don’t like to spend too long in cities, because they are usually loud and stressful, but it’s a nice way to break up the Hiking! Mendoza was different, there is a really nice slow vibe in the city and there are so so many little parks, so many trees, I loved it! Mendoza is a wine growing region, so the main attraction here is tours of wineries! I and a group of people from my hostel decided to do it independently, so we got a bus to get us out of town, then rented bikes and cycled to the winery. It was really interesting to learn more about winemaking; the different varieties as well as different ways of making it. Biggest myth busted that day was that old wine is better… it’s not, it’s different for different types of wine, but never leave it sitting in a cupboard for years! After a couple of wineries, we had enough and did an olive shop one, which was so good too! Loved the cycling in between and had such a good day there. Really enjoyed my time Mendoza. 2 house points if you can put the wine pictures in chronological order!
From San Pedro de Atacama ( or San perro… ) I got a bus to Salta in Argentina. Whilst it’s taxing on the budget to be back in the developed world, it’s so nice to be able to rely on some services, get nice food and coffee… here I didn’t have a lot of time so I used it to get some sleep in the morning, then checked out the city, which was quite pretty and then went for a hike! It was so nice to walk and use my muscles again, even though I definitely needed a break after Huayna potosi! We met a local couchsurfer and he brought us to San Lorenzo for the hike, I think we were a little slow for him, but it was lots of fun. Later we went to a local Church to listen to a free concert from the youth orchestra followed by argentinianly late dinner in a lovely vegetarian restaurant (yes, they have those, but not many.. ). Wish I had more time to hang out, but it was time to move on!
Straight after leaving the salt flats we entered Chile (or more precisely as soon as the Chileans let us cross, so that took a few hours!). We actually entered on my birthday, and I had such a good time celebrating it with people I’ve travelled with and some new Chilenean friends. It was so cool that my new friends made such a big effort to make me feel special and celebrate with me! Another thing I was really eager to do here is learn more about astronomy, supposedly it’s the best place to do it on earth because of its elevation and lack of humidity! So we did a stargazing tour! It was Amazing! We got to see all the zodiac constellations, the large and small Magellanic Clouds ( galaxies ), andromeda, Uranus ( already seen mars and Saturn before in Cusco), as well as a nebula and a few stars; some of which looked like a star but were actually a group of them or just a double. It was so cool, but very cold, so we got a hot chocolate 🙂