If We Could Walk (ok, ride) 500 Miles

After our stint in San Carlos de Bariloche, we needed to continue heading South towards Patagonia and Fin del Mundo. Somewhere during our time in Bariloche, we learnt that if we make a slight detour on our way, we could make it to Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

At Puerto Madryn, we were supposed to be able to go on ocean safaris where we could see Southern Right Whales frolicking off the beaches and walk amongst colonies of penguins, sealions and elephant seals.

So… of course we bought the next bus ticket out to Puerto Madryn.

We found out there was a small problem with this plan…

This “slight” detour is 500 miles long and would see us traversing from the West to the East Coast of Argentina. (In terms of bus hours, it translates to “too much time on our flabby asses”)

So it was a good thing that the buses we’d been travelling on in Argentina were ridiculously comfortable. We’re talking about seats that recline to 150 degrees, four hot meals a day, screenings of the latest blockbusters (WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES!!! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this), and to our disbelieving delight, free flow of red wine. There was a point where the bus steward started a game of Bingo (it’s a thing) and the winner got to go home with… a bottle of red wine. We gave up on THAT game because we figured winning that bottle would be like winning a sushi roll at a buffet (NOT because we couldn’t keep up with him shouting random numbers in Spanish)

Since we’d learned from our mistakes and very wisely chosen the front row seats of the bus, it was like a road trip for us… a road trip along Argentina’s Ruta 25 that brought us through some truly majestic valleys, past a few crystal clear lakes and over spectacular mountain ranges.

The 11 hour bus journey was over faster than we knew it… and that’s not just because we were passed out from the alcohol.

Bariloche Madryn Roadtrip 6Bariloche Madryn Roadtrip 4Bariloche Madryn Roadtrip 5Bariloche Madryn Roadtrip 3Bariloche Madryn Roadtrip 2Bariloche Madryn Roadtrip 1

Not enough Snow and too much Meat

Well… this is going to be our fifth post about the ski resort town of Bariloche, and we’ve blogged about how much like Switzerland it looks, the high cost of living here, the awesome awesome steaks and ermm… possibly the stupid-est dog in the world.

I think this is the post where some of you will be wondering… what about the ski resort ???

The famous Cerro Catedral (nope, that’s not a typo) is the biggest ski resort in South America and since it is located just 19km from the town centre of Bariloche, it was THE main reason why we were in pricey San Carlos de Bariloche in the first place.

After our awesome experience in Las Leñas and Pucón, we were really looking forward to spending at least a day on the slopes where we could fall not so glamorously on our faces.

So, you can probably imagine how we felt when we reached Cerro Catedral and saw this…

Yes... that is a snow machine... and that is the total amount of snow at the ski resort even WITH the snow machine in full operation mode

Yes… that is a snow machine… and that is the total amount of snow at the ski resort with the snow machine in full operation mode. The snowfall, even in the middle of winter is bad this year.

At this point, we had basically two choices. We could

a) Pay 300 ARS (about US$65) for a ski pass, take a ski lift to the mountain top and hope that there MIGHT be enough ski-able snow higher up the slopes.

or

b) Laugh this off and just walk around the ski resort.

I know the choice might seem rather obvious now, but on the ground, we were seriously debating whether we should go for Option A since we had made a bit of a detour to reach Bariloche.

In the end, my appeal to Jo’s low tolerance for pain and her reminding me of my cheapskate-ness won out. I imagine it would literally and figuratively hurt having to pay through our noses to crash into dirt.

And that’s how we ended up spending an afternoon wandering AROUND the ski resort, eating waaaaaay overpriced pizzas and laughing at little bundled up puffs of kiddie skiers (who could probably kick our asses ski-ing… good thing there was no snow around) bariloche argentinian flag

Walking... walking... just keep on walking...

Walking… walking… just keep on walking…

Easy to imagine how beautiful it must've looked...with snow...

Easy to imagine how beautiful it must’ve looked…with snow…

Monster...

Oh yeah…. there was some cam whoring with monster trucks too…

Stumbling Babies

Little Stumbling Balls

And then we headed back to the main town of Bariloche for the NEW main reason why we were in this part of Argentina… Our third trip to Alberto’s in three days in a (futile) attempt to eat up all the cows and drink up all the grapes in this country.

Oh... yay...

Oh… yay…

The Dog that Wanted to Eat the Sea

Wouldn’t that make a nice Dr Seuss story?

But it’s actually the story of one of the dogs we met along the bank of Lake Nahuel Huapi.

Although it is called a “Lake”, Nahuel Huapi is HUMONGOUS. You can barely see the shoreline of the opposite side of the bank. More incredibly, the lake was large enough to have its own wave system. This could be partly due to the (at times) insanely strong winds in the region (apparently, that’s the price to pay to be at the edge of flat, barren, beautiful Patagonia). And since it was winter, the average temperature around the lake, with the ridiculous wind chill could go down easily to -15°C DURING THE DAY.

And it was in this special, frozen part of hell that I found out that one of the things WE love most in the world was to go for strolls along the lake. Specifically, strolls along the lake at sunset when the temperature is the coldest and the wind the strongest.

To be fair, the scenery around the lake was something else. The trees that were recently “botak” from winter provided a nice foreground to the impossibly clear lake. Across the water, the snow capped mountains of the Andes was the perfect setting for some truly spectacular sunsets.

At the side of Lake Nahuel Huapi

At the side of Lake Nahuel Huapi

Well... Jo can do her Rocky pose

Also… Jo can do her Rocky pose along the lake

Seriously... the sunset were ridiculous

Seriously… the sunsets were ridiculous

Anyway, one day, while we were doing our “usual” sunset walk (where I was NOT bitching about being dragged around in typhoon speed winds), we saw this…

And he/she/it carried on dashed madly/happily up and down the coast trying to eat up the lake for the full 20 minutes we were waiting standing there, waiting for the sun to set (this was right before my nose fell off from the cold).

Before you say anything, I have to mention that the temperature of the lake never goes above 15°C… even during the summer.

So, that is one very determined, or incredibly stupid dog. I am sure that there is a parable about finding the simple joys in life, or a lesson to learn about chasing your dreams fearlessly, but at that moment in time, the only thing I can think of was that Chumbawamba song – right after “extreme brain freeze”.

Switzerland!

Actually… we’re still in Argentina.

But you can’t blame us for thinking otherwise.

To us, Bariloche will always be remembered as the Land of the Godly Meat. (Yup… I am aware that came out slightly wrong). But to many Argentinians, it’s the premier ski resort in the country. The town is situated at the foot of the majestic Andes and surrounded by the HUGE Lake Nahuel Huapi.

The buildings in town are primarily made from stone and wood. Along with the crisp mountain air and the sight of snow capped mountains in the background, we could almost hear yodeling in the distance.

The town hall.... yeah... a town with a Town Hall...

The town hall of San Carlos de Bariloche

Jo... taking a decent photo for once... only to be photo bombed by Drogo from Game of Thrones

Jo in the town square. She’s taking a decent photo for once… only to be photo bombed by Drogo from Game of Thrones

The townfolks certainly did their part to help perpetuate the “Swiss-ness” of the place.

Happy, shiny people walk around the town with snowboards and skis; touts with huge-ass adult and baby Saint Bernards (the dog, not the 11th Century monk) roam the town square; tourist trains ply the narrow alleys, and (very importantly) chocolate boutiques and breweries line both sides of the streets in the main drag of Bariloche (Av San Martin and Av Belgrano… of course)

Tourist Train in Bariloche

Tourist Train in Bariloche

What's better than chocolates? Chocolate IN Ice Cream

What’s better than chocolates? Oodles of Chocolate IN Chocolate Ice Cream

Yup, I think we could stay here for a little while longer…

A Bite of Heaven

This is a bit embarrassing to admit, but upon arriving back in Argentina, we felt the pinch on our wallets… unfortunately, that feeling only lasted for a grand total of one night.

On our second night in Bariloche, we found ourselves heading to one of the more expensive restaurants in the resort town for our dinner.

For Some Reason, after a day in Bariloche, we felt it would be more than a little unfair to ourselves if we spent the rest of our time in Argentina munching on cheap (but good) panchos and oversized (and also good) hamburgers.

Warning: May alter brain waves

The view as we walked out of the hostel. Or as I call it, “Some Reason”. The crisp,and sometime heady mountain air probably didn’t help in our powers of decision-making as well.

Anyway, the restaurant we were headed to – El Boliche de Alberto, was supposed to serve the best steaks in Argentina. And since Argentina is supposed to serve some of the best steaks in the world, theoretically, that would mean that we could have the best steak in the world at this restaurant.

See! Mountain Air Logic.

I’ve never been a big fan of steak, seeing that I… don’t normally eat them. But even I could smell that there was something special cooking in Alberto’s from two blocks down.

We arrived at the restaurant 10 minutes after they were opened. It’s not that we WANTED to be early, but even after all this time, we were not really used to the South American dinner time yet. Anyway, this meant that there wasn’t much of a queue and we were whisked straight to our table.

For (allegedly) the best steak restaurant in South America, the decor in de Alberto is surprisingly low key and down to earth. It conjures up a “family-restaurant-I-have-been-visiting-since-I-was-a-kid” kinda atmosphere and not the “you-are-going-to-give-us-all-your-money-while-we-serve-you-tooth-pick-sized-servings-and-we-will-be-looking-down-our-noses-while-we-are-at-it” snotty vibe.

One of the things that I love about El Boliche de Alberto is its open concept kitchen. Monster sized slabs of meat are barbecued in the Godzilla of ovens behind the counter, and the (rather good looking) chefs slather on the seasoning and slice up the beef in front of our eyes. Great stuff.

Secret shot of le Chef de beautifique at work

Secret shot of el harmosa de beautifique at work… Now I know how those Japanese old men who take upskirt shots feel

So what about the food?

Well… I don’t normally eat beef back in Singapore, so I am not really an expert on the matter (I suddenly came to the realization that for me, steak falls under the same category of “things I don’t normally eat” along with dishes like rotten horse meat and rabbit heads).

I just know that somehow we ended up with a steaming plate of blood and meat in front of us. To be honest, this was the point when I started to panic a little. The smell of the bife de lomo we ordered was AMAZING, but it’s not every day that the meat I am cutting into would ooze/squirt blood in my general direction.

It was all very Dexter-esque for me, but apparently this type of meat is quite common for the rest of the dinner crowd.

We’ve since learnt that beside being totally incapable to take an order for steaks that are cooked beyond “medium”, the scale the Argentinians use to measure how cooked a steak is is one rank off the one that we are normally used to. So if you’ve ordered a “medium rare” steak, expect it to be “rare” by normal standards, and if you ordered your steak “rare”, I wouldn’t be surprised if they just left a live (still moo-ing) cow on your table.

Well… it took some time, but I finally cut a sliver of the bife de lomo and took a tentative bite into it.

The meat was ridiculously tender and every bite of the bife released a literal burst of herbs and blood. The fatty portions of the meat melted in parts of my mouth I never even realized I had.

I think I might have peed myself a little.

All along, I’ve always pooh-pooh-ed at some people when they describe how certain wines have certain characters and how some wines must be paired with particular foods. I’ve always found this to be more than slightly pretentious.

I am a pretentious douche bag.

Impossible as it may seem, the overwhelming experience of eating our dinner was brought to the next level when we accompanied it with a sip of the $12 bottle of Malbec that we bought.

Oh... if only I could find the words...

Oh… if only I could find the words…

It was the first time that I think I can understand what people mean when they say that the wine adds a new “dimension” to the food they are eating. Or in my own words, damn friggin delicious, can?

So far, much of our trip had been pretty much unplanned. We would wake up and go wherever we felt like. But right there in that restaurant, I started drawing up a schedule for a meal at de Alberto EVERY DAY we are in Bariloche.

The Steaks of Alberto

The Steaks of Alberto