It was beautiful sunny day and our last big hike in Argentina. After a long walk we finally got all the way up to refugio Frey near San Carlos de Bariloche. Even though it was sunny, wind was very cold and we were freezing. Maybe it was caused by cold waters in nearby laguna Toncek.
It was a long journey back to the mountains. All the way from the costal town Puerto Madryn almost to the Chilean border. Sixteen hours ride with one change at Neuquén. Our bottoms were sore but we made it to San Carlos de Bariloche.
Bus terminal was full of people and chaotic. Map told us that we are far from the center, so first steps lead to the information office where we asked about possible accomodations and prices. San Carlos was one of the more expensive places but it wasn’t suprise as it is major tourist area.
I guess me and Tana were lucky when we met a guy from one hostel. His job was to look for tourist arriving to town and talk them to spend nights in their hostel. He offered us free bus card and his assistance to get to the hostel. It didn’t take us long to agree. Hostel House (that was the name of the place) was not far from the bus stop in town, our guide took us down a long stairacase and we were there.
He handed us to receptionist and was on his way back to terminal, for another tourist hunt. Lady at the reception / bar was kind but asked us to wait a little as cleaning was still in progress. At least there shouldn’t be any roaches or bedbugs. We put luggage down and enjoyed some hot beverages. Chairs were more comfortable than the bus seats and there was even space for legs, nice.
Cleaning done they let us in. We were in a shared room with two bunk beds, there was a small table and few shelves to put our stuff in. There was also a kitchen and shared living room. Nothing special but I guess ok for the price.
We didn’t do much on the first day, even though we traveling during the night and slept a little we were still tired. At least we managed to find a lanudry, grocery shop and ice creams. That was all we needed that day.
High above the lake
It was new day, we were full of energy again and ready for new adventure. Our destination was Cerro Campanario. Short walk to the hill top west of the town with Lago Nahuel Huapi views.
We took a bus and got to the trailhead. Hike is not very difficult and it is even a possibile to go up by a charilift. We loved walking so we skipped that option. It was a nice trail through the woods, although there were loads of sand which had tendency to fill our shoes. Our previous hike was long time ago so we enjoyed it a lot.
Cerro Camapanario is very accessible and popular, which means there are loads of tourists. Nevertheless we found a nice and quiet place behind some rocks where Sun was shining. It was nice and relaxing. We did not spend all the time up there behind the rock but walked around the top. Enjoying the views, fresh air and information about nearby mountain peaks.
Going back to town
Our way back lead around the chairlift station where I had to stop and look for a little while. It was very tempting for me. I like roller coasters and this was little bit like that. But we didn’t go to San Carlos ride chairlifts.
Way down was actually more difficult than the way up as the trail was sandy and slippery. We encountered a lady who fell and hurt her leg. We offered help but she and her friends refused as help was on the way already.
Going back to town was little problematic. Our bus card didn’t have enough credit get us back. Luckily driver was a good guy and let us board the bus anyway. That was nice of him as there were no places to top-up the card. Our first steps back in town were to kiosk to top up the credit.
Fun in town
San Carlos de Bariloche is quite big, compared to towns we visited recently. There were loads of bars, cafés and ice cream shops which we partiall ignored. Except the ice cream and laundry we didn’t need much. Coffee, tea and pastry was available for breakfast in our hostel. And they also cooked, I think you can get Milanesa everywhere in Argentina.
We enjoyed walks around the Cathedral of Our Lady of Nahuel Huapi and along the lake beach. Both easily accessible from our hostel.
Our main plan for San Carlos was hike to Refugio Frey. Twelve kilometers long trail (one way) leading to the lake with nice stone chalet sitting on its bank.
It is possible to spend a night up there, either in refugio or camping near the lake. Place in refugio costs few hundred pesos and camping is for free. However it is necessary to make a reservation, either online or at some information center in town. We didn’t use this option as we knew we’ll be easily able to walk up and down in the same day.
Starting at ski resort
We took a bus from town (not forgetting the credit this time) to Villa Catedral near San Carlos de Bariloche. Small village below the mountains which is also a big ski resort. There were loads of ski schools and lifts all around, this place must be very busy during the season. We couldn’t resist and took some pictures at the ski lift chair, which was ready there for tourists.
Finding a trail to Refugio Frey was problematic for us again but we found it in the end. Once we crossed huge parking space (pretty much empty in this time of year) we saw a sign showing the direction. From there even we couldn’t get lost.
Trail was easy to follow and not very difficult. At the beginning was sandy road which took us through some bushes and other short vegetation. We had a nice view at the lake and mountains around us. There were some metal walk ways on the way, taking us around the mountain. Walking on them provided adrenaline spikes as they defnitely remembered better days. Luckily they didn’t break.
Through the forests
As we were getting highier flora was slowly changing and we entered a forest. No more views at the lake and mountains around but still very enjoyable.
We were more than half-way to the top when we saw a special place in the woods. Next to a big boulder is a small wooden hut. There was a sign which says La Piedrita (pod skalco) – R. Petricek. Name sounds like some slavic language, almost like Czech or Slovak. It was quite surprising for us and we thought that maybe some fellow countrymen did something big and important there.
Our destination was not very far from there. We got out of the woods and started steeper climb up. Sandy trail changed and there were more and more stones. We finally had a view at the jagged peaks dotted with snow around us, it was amazing.
When we got to the top we were surprised by the amount of people. They were sitting around the refugio Frey, enjoying the sun, snacks and beautiful views.
We were happy that we got there and enjoyed our rest, at least for a little while. It was surprisingly cold up there with even colder wind. We found a place with nice view at laguna Toncek.
After the snack was time to explore a little. We walked down to the bank and made some pictures. Even though we had fun we were getting colder and it was time to go back. Last look back at the majestic peaks and we were on the way down.
Going back to town
We made it back safely, no problems with metal walks or accidents at slippery stones or sand. Only issue was with cold, it followed us down from the mountains. Waiting at the bus stop was long, but at least we had a valid bus card this time.
That was pretty much the end of our adventure in San Carlos de Bariloche. Our next destination was in the north, town of wine – Mendoza.