Easter gifted us with a four day weekend so we braved the fifteen hour coach ride to Bariloche. Public transport and I are not compatible, so my first long distance coach journey in South America had the potential to be disastrous. I can wait an hour for a bus and still miss it and sleeping through my stop is an embarrassingly regular occurrence. I sat on the wrong train in Kings Cross for over 25 minutes and missed my actual train in the meantime. I tried lying to customer services by saying I got stuck on the underground, however, another thing I am not very good at is at lying. I crumbled, apologised profusely for lying and told him that I had been sat on the train at platform 0 rather than platform 1 for almost half an hour. Public transport makes me twitchy because with me, anything can go wrong. However, I outdid myself, the bus arrived, I got on it, Bariloche was the final stop, I got off. Success. I even made a friend called Emilio and we watched a film on his laptop.
Bariloche is beautiful, it is famous for its chocolate, is surrounded by mountains and has the most spectacular lakes. We spent Thursday afternoon on Lago Gutierrez. We had two hours paddling away and the scenery was spectacular, it was so serene the time flew.
We timed our visit with Barack Obama’s; he popped down to Latin America for the first time in 80 years and there were certainly mixed feelings about him being there. We waved at his helicopter and promptly forgot he was in town. We were also in Bariloche for El Día de la Memoria; this day commemorates the lives of los desaparecidos, innocent citizens killed by the dictatorship which terrorised Argentinian society in the 1970s. The government snatched subversivos from their homes, before torturing and killing. An estimated 30,000 people were killed and the families of victims have fought for justice and recognition of the lives lost. There was a really poignant design in the plaza of the Centro Civíco. The headscarf is the emblem used by Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, mothers of victims who have fought for the return of their children, and later for justice. They wear the fabric of their children’s nappies as they silently march outside the Casa Rosada, the presidential building, every Thursday. The paintings of the headscarves accompanied by the names of victims are extremely powerful.
It was lovely to catch up with the 11 other girls, we barely paused for breath all day as we shared stories about what we had been up to. Good Friday was definitely a good day, we trekked Refugio Frey and it was amazing. Armed with packed lunches and a head full of annoying songs we learnt at camp, we made it to the top and back down again. It was pretty steep and given our excessive dulce de leche consumption at the Borough, we had to dig deep. It was absolutely spectacular and made for some outstanding Instagram posts. The hike took two hours longer than expected and we were a fairly sorry site by the time we got to the bus stop. That evening, the Irish girls followed their noses and we ended up in a bar called the Dublin and hung out with a bunch of pediatricians who taught us how to dance Cumbia: ‘just shake everything’. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t quite master it.
The rest of the weekend was spent eating chocolate, empanadas (which are like Argentinian pasties) and visiting pretty places. On Easter Sunday the chocolatiers assembled to create an 150m chocolate bar. They closed the road and traffic could pass; flocks of people gathered and waited behind barriers like sheep in pens, hoping to be given a piece to try. Another highlight was visiting Cerro Oto, which is a viewpoint somewhere up in the mountains from which you can see the whole of Bariloche. We took the cable cars up and looked in awe for quite a while, and then took a few selfies for good measure.
We were extremely reluctant to get on to the bus back to Comodoro after such a fantastic weekend and separate once again. Definitely somewhere to go back to!