Chocolate, carne & world class vistas

Set against a stunning backdrop of lakes and mountains Bariloche is a beautiful place to spend a few days. And when National Geographic names a hike here as being one of the best views in the world you promptly add it to your ‘to do list’.

After catching a bus out of town we started our hike up to Cerro Campanario, or Camp Oreo as Niall liked to call it. Within 5 minutes I had stepped on a dead branch full of spikes, stabbing me in the leg. Not the best start. Luckily for Niall he was spared my whinging as we had met a lovely couple from Brisbane a few minutes earlier so I quickly pulled out the thorns and kept going. National Geographic didn’t lie, the view of the lake district spread out before us was marvelous.

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Not only did Bariloche provide spectacular views but it delivered our best steak yet! Its no wonder that El Boliche de Alberto has three parillas in town. The bife de chorizo was so huge we shared a full portion and were still sufficiently stuffed. But what makes this restaurant even more impressive is that your waiter cooks your meat. The time management skills it would take to get everyone’s meals cooked perfectly has to be admired. They even had time to check that you were happy with the way that your meat had been cooked. Needless to say we came back a few days later..

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Day 2 was set aside for a big hike up to Refugio Frey. Alas, it turns out staying up all night drinking red wine and playing uno (which is still an awesome game by the way) is not conducive to an early morning rise or strenuous activity of any kind.

So the following day, after making sure we refused any offers of vino the night prior, we got up early and caught a bus out to Catedral. Visiting a ski resort in summer was like walking through a ghost town- chairlifts hanging eerily still, restaurants and hotels closed, and no one about except one lone groundskeeper, probably earning his pass for the next season.

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We began our hike up and soon discovered that the march flies were far too friendly. Perhaps friendly isn’t the right word,  evil might be a more fitting adjective. They fly around you in circles, taunting you, until that opportune moment that you let your guard down. As we made our way uphill Niall proceeded to backhand and karate chop the air with surprising precision. I fashioned a fly swat from our map, and hours later my ninja swatting skills were coming along quite nicely. Me and my map were one and a force to be reckoned with.

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Up we went, along dusty and rocky paths,  across wooden bridges, past waterfalls, to finally arrive at the refuge three and a bit hours later.

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We found out that some people camp at the refuge for up to a month as it affords amazing opportunities for rock climbing. We spent lunch watching avid rock climbers and then, as they say, what goes up must come down. Only, we had underestimated how much effort going down would be, as well as our water supply. An hour in we were rationing our gulps. It was hot and our mouths were ridiculously dry. Like an oasis in a desert I spotted a kiosk that had miraculously decided to open as we exited the trail. Happily we guzzled down drinks and shared a choripan (hotdog) before heading back to town.

As well as a beautiful setting, one of the things that lured me to Bariloche was the promise of chocolate that rivals that of Switzerland. Of course, we put our investigative skills to work. Here were our favourites:

– 70% cocoa and cheesecake from Rapa Nui
– pistachio, mint and macadamia from Mamushkas

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We’d also heard that the best helado (ice cream) in town, possibly Argentina, was at Helados Jauja. For a country that appears to have a love affair with the stuff that’s a big call. And yes Dad, it was an expensive ice cream, but it lived up to expectations and sitting in the park eating my white chocolate & raspberry waffle cone I couldn’t of cared less.

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