Bariloche

Day 27-32.

Jueves – Martes (Thu – Tue). Oct 8-13, 2009.

So we had a 3 day weekend this past weekend due to Columbus Day on Monday. I really wanted to go somewhere and take advantage of our extra day off from school, so I did. I was randomly talking to one of my friends, Nickey, from school and she was saying that she was going to take a bus ride down to Bariloche, Argentina for the weekend. I had been told by many people to visit this city so I jumped on board and went with her! She did forewarn me that it was a 22 hour bus ride, but I thought she meant in total duration…however, it turned out that it was a 22 hour bus ride EACH WAY!

The city is located in the Lake District of Argentina and is in the southern part of the Andes Mountains. Overall, the town looks as if it should be in Switzerland. The snow-capped mountains in the backdrop of the city and the beautiful lakes make it a perfect replica of Switzerland. It actually turns out that the city was basically built for tourism.  Many people found out about it in Switzerland which created a huge movement of Swiss citizens into the area. In fact, there is a town called Colonia Suiza (Swiss Colony) next to Bariloche.  One specialty that they brought over from Switzerland was chocolate. As you walk down the streets of the main square you will see chocoalte shops one after another. The entire city is primarily made up of steak restaurants, clothing stores, and chocolate shops.

We arrived in Bariloche on Friday afternoon. After settling in at our hostel we went out to Cerro Otto which is one of the view points from on top of a nearby mountain.  The view from the top was absolutely beautiful but the wind made it miserable. We had left a warm and rainy Buenos Aires only to enjoy the extremly cold and windy city of Bariloche. Afterwards, we headed back to the hostel and took advantage of the amazing jacuzzi they had. The jacuzzi is located on the 2nd floor and has large windows on two sides giving viewers a spectacular backdrop of the snow-capped mountains. We enjoyed being able to finally relax after our 22 hour bus ride to the city. That night we enjoyed our first meal in the city. Argentina is known for their steak and Bariloche kept that reputation up. We shared a bottle of Malbec and had a huge portion of their local steak. After our meal we headed over to the night club, Dusk, and had a beer. While there we watched an interesting fashion show which we did not really enjoy. We also noticed that everyone in the place, especially the girls, were so young since many of the Argentinean schools take a school trip to the city when they graduate.

The second day we took a tour by car of the nearby mountains. Half of the tour was in a car until we got to the the national forest. Then we followed our tour guide on foot through a trail in the forest. The weather was not the best that day but the walk through the forest was very peaceful and relaxing. We were also able to see a random forest within a forest. They have trees called Arrayans that are only located in this one area and the trees are unusual because they have soft bark. They are of bright orange color which makes them stand out from the rest of the forest. During the tour our guide asked us if we wanted to go to a ‘breadery’ to get something to eat. We assumed that she was saying ‘bakery’ with her thick accent but when we pulled up to the ‘breadery’ it actually turned out to be a ‘brewery’ haha. So we ended up drinking some beer from around the world which was a perfect substitute for food! After dinner that evening we decided to try out the local Irish Pub in the city. This Irish Pub was a bit different then I was expecting though. The atmosphere was very Irish and they had Guinness, Kilkenny, and many other Irish beers on the menu. However, it turned out that they did not serve ANY Irish beers. They only served the local Quilmes beer and other hard liqour drinks which really confused me seeing that we were in an IRISH Pub!

For our last day we decided to enjoy the outdoors in a different way. We booked a two hour horseback riding session into the mountains. It had been a long time since I had ridden on horseback but it was so worth it. We rode up the mountain with about 8 other people and enjoyed many views as we climbed to the top. From the top you could see the main lake and mountain valley of the Andes. After our ride we walked around the city to get some last photos but we did not last long. The wind and cold wore us down so we headed into a chocolate shop and enjoyed a warm Submarino (hot chocolate).

Overall, the two 22 hour bus rides was very worth it. It was such a nice escape from the busy city of Buenos Aires and it was nice to enjoy a little bit of cold weather. I was able to get a little taste of my winter weather that I would normally have in the States this time of year…but I won’t see that kind of cold weather for quite some time here!

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Uruguay

Day 21-23.

Viernes – Domigo (Fri – Sun). Oct 3-5, 2009.

This weekend I traveled to 2 different cities in Uruguay. The cities were about 2 hours apart from each other by bus but were completely different.

A group of 10 of us from the school took a ferry ride from Bs. As. over to Colonia, Uruguay.  We went out to lunch as soon as we got there and noticed that the service from the restuarnts were catered around toursits. They were extremely friendly and even willing to split the bill for us. While sitting outside we heard a car coming from down the street with extremely loud music. When the car passed we realized it had a massive speaker litterally mounted on top of the car for everyone to hear their music. I thought we were bad without loud music in the States but this was just unbelievable. It turns out that it is extremly common in the city thought. Throughout the visit we saw/heard about 10 cars with the same set up. The city however, was absolutely beautiful. It is a preserved like an old town and the residents are not allowed to change the front of their building in order to keep this preserved look. The entire town was very quiet and peaceful. It was a wonderful escape from the busy, bustling city of Bs. As. I noticed on the second day that every car yielding to any pedestrian and the cars never went over 20 mph or so. On top of that, there is not a single traffic light in the entire town. Talk about a laid back town!

On the 2nd day we jumped on a bus and rode over to the capitol in Montevideo. We arrived in the late afternoon and walked out to the park to see a parade going on. After the parade we walked for about an hour down the beach in to the sunset. It was beautiful and there were people everywhere. We ended up in the Old Town Center where we found a very posh restaurant for dinner. We all enjoyed an amazing dinner with some of the best food I have eaten so far in South America. We got tipsy off of a few bottles of red wine and then headed out to the bar for the night. We ended up arriving very early in the night (in regards to South American time standards) and there was not a single person in the bar.  To make up for this we all bought drinks and stood in a circle entertaining ourselves with some interesting dancing. Since the group consisted of people from about 5 different countries, we each represented our countries by showing off our dances from our respective countries. The bar owners were so amused with us that they decided to give us free drinks all night. The streets finally got croweded around 1am and so then we headed next door to the dance club. After dancing for hours we came home around 5am only to realize the next morning that it was Daylight Savings that night…so really we came home at 6am. Being extremly tired from the night before we ended up just sitting on the beach all day then we headed over to the port to catch our ferry ride back to Argentina.

Overall, the country was a very nice break from Argentina. The people are very nice and the exchange rate is ridiculous. $1USD = $22.5 pesos which made it fun trying to keep track of how much we were spending!