Patagonia (Bariloche, Argentina)

I got back a few days ago from a hiking excursion in Bariloche, Argentina, and I also spent a few days in Buenos Aires as well. I went for over two weeks, which is about my maximum vacation period before I’m mentally dying to return to normal life. It’s weird how that transitions over time. At first I’m so happy to be on a wonderful trip. I sometimes stress that I don’t have enough time to cover all of the sights/food/coffee with my limited time. Ten to fourteen days later I miss the boring but good home life I normally have.

The Patagonia region has been on my very short “I want to go there someday” list for a while (the others being Alaska for hiking and the Japanese countryside). The travel distance has been the main factor, along with the limited window of needing to go in the winter (they have opposite seasons, so it’s actually summer there now). It’s much more convenient to get there from Mexico City, but it was still a nine-hour direct flight to Buenos Aires, and a two-hour flight to Bariloche.

It was a lot of work to organize this trip. I usually go to one specific place with a limited agenda. Talk with friends who know, or do some research on Reddit for the “best” neighborhood to stay in (assuming I don’t need to be somewhere specific), book the ticket, book the Airbnb/hotel. Pack the night before/morning-of. I had to research Buenos Aires which is a massive city for a place to stay, with lots of internet advice that was contradictory (I would stay in Palermo-Hollywood next time), and pinpoint where to go in the massive region of Patagonia which spans two countries (Chile and Argentina). A lot of people go from city to city constantly on the move with new hotels/hikes/planning across the region, but I decided it would be a better experience (and it turned out there was still more to do) flying to Bariloche which was considered the best overall area and staying there for the full two weeks.

Another issue is the currency controls they have in Argentina. I’ve traveled a lot, and read about things like this, but never experienced it before. The official exchange rate if you use your ATM card, credit card, etc. is literally 50% less than what you can privately exchange US dollars for with people or get from Western Union. It’s the difference between ordering a tomahawk steak costing $19 or $38. I didn’t quite understand how this was real, had never used Western Union (and had to wait in 1-2 hour lines every time I needed money), etc. so it took me a lot of extra time researching this. I use a credit card everywhere else in the world at this point, so it was one more thing I had to wrap my head around. It was real though, and I overspent by double on our Airbnb (we booked it for two weeks with a credit card online as we do anywhere else not realizing that the dollars were getting converted to Argentina Pesos at the official rate) as well as a few other things which sucks, but it was something interesting to learn and experience. Once you go through the Western Union process one time you get used to it.

Luckily my girlfriend did research for the hikes, and it was a lot easier to figure out what to do once we arrived in Bariloche. It was as beautiful as I was hoping. For me it’s up there with New Zealand and Iceland as far as natural beauty and great hikes. I would probably put Utah and Colorado after these. It’s hard to rank places at this top tier. They’re all super beautiful and full of lakes/rivers/waterfalls/mountains. I think it comes down to the random factors of the weather/how busy the trail was the day you went/personal preferences on difficulty/etc. The Bariloche region was great because the hikes were medium difficulty for me, but packed with maximum natural beauty for that moderate physical effort. But not too easy. We stayed in two different huts during multi-day hikes, and I was happy to rest after around 5 hours of trekking every time. We also did a bunch of hikes where we came back the same day.

You can also go to Bariloche and eat incredible craft ice cream/chocolate/pizza/beer/wine and overlook the lakes for your whole trip. There were tons of families there just on a standard vacation with no intention of real hiking. The main city San Carlos de Bariloche was large, full of traffic, and full of people. It is great that it has so many food options, but I was happy we were fortunately a little out in the country. I would stay in the Llao Llao area next time. I would also be less concerned about booking during peak tourism season that we had to lock one place. We rented a car and drove to a town two hours away called El Bolson. It was a fun place, had equally great hikes surrounding the town, and we were able to drive up to a bed and breakfast that we saw online and pay with cash night to night. There was still availability in Bariloche too, so I would drive from there staying in the small towns doing their various hikes as opposed to booking one place ahead of time as we did. This assumes you have two weeks though. If we only had 5-7 days, the Llao Llao/Kilometers (where we stayed) region of Bariloche would be perfect. 

I was looking forward to the nature, but an added benefit was that it really helped clear my head and clarify things. I forget how good hikes can be for that. I’m thinking about how to make it easier to integrate longer walks/hikes on the weekends here in Mexico City without a lot of effort. Trading has been good, life has been good. I know the activities I need to do on a regular basis that are good for me, even if I often fall off track and need to recalibrate.

It’s been a while so I’m just going to rattle off some good books I’ve read/tv shows I’ve liked recently.

Books: “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin (thank you to my sister Katie for getting this for me for Christmas), “The Future is Yours” by Dan Frey, “Children of Time” by Adrian Tchaikovsky.

TV: “The Other Two” (comedy on HBO), “Yellowjackets” (horror on Paramount/Showtime), “Severance” (weird thriller/sci-fi on Apple TV).

I’ll leave you with some Patagonia pictures, and wishing for everyone a great March!

Happy to be back

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