Feeling like the Kerouac of South America, I travelled the historic Ruta 40 north from my idyllic hippie village of El Bolsón to the ‘big city’ of Bariloche. Having a total population of 70,000, its hardly a city at all. The town, settled by Swiss immigrants centuries ago, claimed to maintain its swiss charm in the heart of the Argentine Lake District.
I got out the bus at midnight, and without a plan crashed at the closest, cheapest hostel, encountering there a whole team of Israelis, all excited for their big week. (important information: Passover began on Monday, and hundreds of Israelis found their way out of the wilderness and made a great exodus to Bariloche to feast for the evening).
The next day, being Sunday, I set off in search of a new, nicer, and more central accomodation. As I walked down towards the lake I saw an old stone cathedral. Having not been to any of the touristy cathedrals in South America yet, I decided to take a look. Maybe it would ave some nice stain-glass or something... I like churches, so wy not.
I stepped into the church and was accosted by Spanish chanting and wailing, and a crowd of people waving tree branches in the air. What the hell sort of church is this? Having travelled for so long with the northbound jewish pilgrims, I had forgotten Jesus also did the Passover thing. It was Palm Sunday, and in the absence of palms, regular trees did just fine. I figured I would purge my dusty soul with some good ole fashioned Christian cannabilism, and partake in the mass. Always strange to do mass in a foreign language. I stifled laughs everytime we prayed to El Señor (the Lord). It kept sounding to my Anglo ears like begging schoolteachers for forgiveness. Nonetheless, an excellent mass, in a beautiful church.
I quickly found the Centro Civico, the preserved square of original Swiss Architecture. Surrounding it were dozens of chocolate and gelato shops. I sat and complimented the holy bread and wine with some sinful sugary goodness. I am sure eating chocolate on the first day of Semana Santa has to be considered blasphemous. Found a new hostel on the top of the hill with a great view of the lake and moved on in. Met a new team of Israelis and had a great evening.
Monday: what the fuck. Where is everyone? The entire hostel had emptied of its residents (to go to the beginning of their massive 500 person feast), and I found myself the only Philistine left in the place. After ensuring the rapture hadn’t come 2 years too early and I was left alone in the world, I left in search of distraction. I headed north into the mountains, rented a bike and rode the Circuit Chico, a 35km ring around the many lakes of Bariloche. It was gorgeous, and well worth today’s sore ass and jelly legs. I then found a ski lift to take my tired body up the central hill, called Cerro Camapnario, to get a 360degree view of the area. (N.B. I am an expert on 2 things, thanks to my dual lineages: appreciating a good view is one of them). This lookout has possibly one of the most stunning vistas I have ever seen. I have attached pictures, but when it comes to landscapes and viewpoints, it never seems to suffice. The place was... picturesque. (I am finding that I am quickly running out of superlatives to describe this country... and I still have 4 more months-Shit!).
Coming home, I loaded up on chocolate and beer to spend my evening alone, and found a group of Aussie cyclists ad moved in to fill my ebrew void. I spent a nice quiet evening with them and slept like a baby.
Today, I woke up to magically find the jews had all returned! Sababa! Grabbing a last stroll through the town now, we are currently attempting to arrange a car to drive north together (given good weather) through the Lakes and over the mountains to the volcanoes of Chile, where we hope the active faultline will not vaporise us as we attempt to summit one of them. I guess I am going to have to practice my Hebrew.
Until next time