Part 2: Bariloche – El Calafate and Ushuaia at the tip of South America
So having had a wonderful time in the North of Argentina and Buenos Aires we counted the tiles again whilst waiting at the airport for our connecting flight down to Bariloche on the border with Chile, a good way down South. A trip organised by Unique Destinations – Leo Van Heukelem – a truly first class outfit.
Part 3 Ushuaia & Antarctica to follow in due course
Coming in to land at Bariloche
Bariloche – A small Alps like town – could be anywhere in the Swiss/German Alps – Ski resort – plus the beautiful Nahuel Huapi Lake. The excursion goes along the Brazo Tristeza Sound where you are surrounded by wonderful mountains and many waterfalls. At the far end of the Sound we disembarked from the boat and had a mountain hike through the forest which is populated by coihues & alerces trees and then along the Frey River to more waterfalls.
We arrived here in a howling wind and with the lake looking like something from a Hollywood, biblical proportions, movie !
Our hotel:Hotel Cacique Incayal a walk of about 1.5Kms from town was great, with fantastic views over the lake, fabulous staff and well appointed, The town awaited. Only xp on their computers though 🙁 can’t cope with Go-Pro downloads for some reason.
View from hotel bedroom
Having dumped our bags we headed for town – a snow capped view at the end of every street.
The town is a chocoholics dream – chocy shops everywhere….
In the centre of town we found this, still giving first class service
Everywhere in Southern Argentina we found roses growing in abundance and all looking good
Alps like architecture
Night time on the lake
Dawn Xmas Eve Morning
So, out on the lake
Lake Boat coming to fetch us
Disembarking for the land
looking back at the lake
Something like our knobthorns
Clamber up the mountainside with walking stick – way to go !!!
From Hotel Room Balcony
Xmas Eve dinner at hotel, first class with French Champagne & wines
We enjoyed Bariloche very much, a very walkable small town; even going off the main routes up to where the locals live, high up and far away from the lake. Lots of Teenagers having their year-end school razz. Very small town in one respect and on Xmas Eve just about everything except the hotels were closed, but we were happy to have the (not so cheap) feast that the hotel had laid on, most of the patrons being locals. The touts are all out on on the main shopping street offering to exchange dollars, but at a much lower rate than Buenos Aires. The further South we went the more evident it was that the economy was not like the Main City, English also was a even more of a problem, especially in restaurants away from the hotel. All the coffee shops are way over-heated and this was mid-summer – I guess it must get really cold in winter, snowed-in and a skiing destination.
We encountered no hostility vis a vis the Falklands but then again we made quite sure that people understood that we are South Africans. Again walking at night perfectly safe and everyone very pleasant.
Going on our excursion to the lake & up the sound we had a long drive all around the edge of the lake, the road twists and turns and goes through very beautiful countryside. At rush hour the traffic leaving Bariloche is quite out of proportion to what one might imagine.
Flying out of Bariloche South to El Calafate
So another taxi ride to the airport and yet another long wait and then the plane is delayed by an hour and the free wi-fi at the airport is not working. And then……we get priority through the check out but the local transport fuzz don’t like the look of Lin’s walking stick, I ask you ! Long story short – totally intransigent – they insist that the stick must go in the hold so I insist that then they must get a wheelchair :-)…..stand off at noon 🙂
They take the stick, we get the chair, and are thus first on the plane to which the Cabin attendant wants to know what’s up….I tell him. He rolls his eyes, mutters stupid buggers, and goes and gets Lin’s stick ! Problem solved – laughs all around – goes to show Cops are dumb the world over.
Nice flight down to El Calafate, crap snack yet again on the plane and given that it was an hour late we should have eaten at the airport.
We arrive at yet another small airport and have a taxi ride to our Hotel: Hotel Kau Yatun which is a fair walk from a not very interesting town – its sole purpose being the tourist centre for the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and the Perito Moreno Glacier which, since the airport was built, has experienced a boom in not very attractive buildings.
view from hotel room
The hotel has been taken over and there was a shortage of attention to detail. It was pleasant enough and the food OK but one sensed a lethargy and lack of care generally plus we both got bitten in bed by something horrible. Not nice.
It was raining, a walk to town was abandoned due to the fact that the roads and pavements were totally water logged, so not enjoyable. We had dinner and went to bed with the rain coming down in sheets outside.
Imagine our surprise when upon opening the curtains the next day (Boxing Day mid summer) we encountered this.
So OK it had stopped raining. Our guide duly arrived and we set off for the park driving though beautiful snow covered terrain. Upon arrival at the park there is a traffic hold up. The Park can’t cope with snow in Summer and some trees have come down and roads are closed so we have to turn the trip around and do the boat trip first by which time they hope to have the road route open !
Waiting for the boat with the Glacier in the far distance
Park caught out – very slippery
Our boat arrives
The boat was full but we found a good position. It has to be said that the photos here will never do justice to what we saw and experienced.
You take so many photos………
She’s Happy !
I’m cold and need my sun-glasses
Imagine living so close to the Glacier. When chunks fall off it’s like a very loud rifle retort.
End of the Wall
Leaving to come back to port
Back at Port
So many photos. So back at the port we had a lunch break and then set off for the other side of the Glacier where the inevitable “tourist centre” is, with all its junk, plus an over-priced restaurant.
Other side of the Glacier – I must say that the tourist authorities are really jacked up in Argentina, they put a lot of effort into making things as accessible and pleasant as possible.
We had snow
Still need my sun-glasses
Wanting to be fed – very tame
So It’s XMAS !
Look at the depth of this
We asked to be dropped off in town after the tour so that we could sample the delights…………
This is a problem all over Argentina from Buenos Aires to every small town – Can’t think what goes on here but electricians nightmare
More beautiful roses – all the houses have beautiful gardens
Back at the Hotel
So Goodbye to El Calafate; the next morning we took the taxi back to the airport and travelled the distance down to Ushuaia; the Southernmost City in the world at Cape Horn. But that said there is a village in Chile which is bit more south that is trying to give Ushuaia a run for its money. It is cold. But then again Ushuaia is 3000km further South than Cape Town and let no one complain about the Cape of Storms, the wind at home is a breeze in comparison to what we experienced in Ushuaia and this was Summer – heaven alone knows what this place must be like in winter.
Thus to Ushuaia – flying over the jig-saw puzzle that makes up the tip of South America to Tierra del Fuego
In town at the tourist centre, at the docks, they will stamp your passport recording your visit to “The End Of The World” “Fin Del Mundo”
Ushuaia a port – cold and windy – and a glacier too !
Part 3 Ushuaia & Antarctica to follow in due course
Click below for part one – Iguazu & Buenos Aires
More photos at: photo album