Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bariloche, Argentina (January 20-23, 2008)

Bariloche (or San Carlos de Bariloche) is a ski and outdoor sports haven in northern Patagonia. It was settled by Europeans in the late 1800s, and the architecture in the center of town is quite Alpine in character. Nahuel Huapi Lake and the surrounding mountains are truly beautiful, but such a change from the subtropical South America I had grown accustomed to these past three weeks! Goodbye palm trees and heavy humidity; hello snow-capped peaks and crisp mountain air.

Like many winter resorts, the main street is lined with an odd mix of mountaineering and adventure sports outfitters, restaurants, tourist traps and high-end clothing shops. Downtown Bariloche´s distinguishing feature is its outrageous number of chocolate shops: there are at least three chocolate factories in town, and there´s at least one chocolate shop per block on the main drag. And these chocolate shops don´t just carry chocolate; they also have a wide selection of candies and ice cream. Bariloche is a dangerous place for a person with a sweet tooth!

In addition to its many culinary virtues, Bariloche is a wonderful place for outdoors enthusiasts. Horseback riding, whitewater rafting, kayaking, trekking, fly fishing and biking are just some of the activities available during summer. It could be just the sugar talking, but the sky in Bariloche seems bigger and bluer than anywhere else in South America.
A slightly crooked photo from the 18-hour bus ride from Buenos Aires to Bariloche. It was fascinating to watch the landscape change during the bus ride, from the coastal capital to the inland desert, to the rising mountains of northern Patagonia.
Vivid blue skies and green rolling hills complement Nahuel Huapi Lake
The view from Bariloche to the nearby snow-capped mountain range
A traditional town building of stone and wood in the main plaza on the lake
A woman fills chocolate molds with dulce de leche. Dulce de leche is an inescapable flavor in South America - it´s in ice cream, cookies, churros, chocolates, and they even serve it spread on toast for breakfast!

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