We knew that after we left the busyness of Buenos Aires we would be better off for seeking adventure. And by all means we were right. This outdoor adventure mecca called Bariloche in Patagonia, AR is where we have spent the last week of our trip. Since setting foot in Bariloche we’ve made the most of the outdoor activities and meeting a few locals. The first adventure (leg one of our triathlon) was on the 17th when we biked The Circuito Chico 18k. I have been looking forward to this beautiful, hilly ride for months and were excited to be taking in the views and side hikes along the way. We rented our bikes from the Hostel Refugio Cordillera where the owner who knew the loop like the back of his hand gave us the run down of the loop on a map. As he marked the map with hiking trails, numerous view points, a beach stop, and a lake swim along the way we were giddy to fit it all in. How much adventure could we fit in before we had to return the bikes at 7pm? Turns out all of it! The ride started off with 7k of busy road traffic, which was not ideal as we’re still getting used to our mountain bikes, but we could tell by traffic passing us this was nothing new, they gave us plenty of space and we rarely felt like our lives were in danger. The first stop along the ride was at an impressive resort, the Llao Llao. While we weren’t there to stay, we were there to get a view of the massive peak know as the Tronador, know for it’s amazing climbing and sits on the boarder of Argentina and Chile. We then backtracked 100m to a kiosko to pick up some lunch supplies and headed for our second stop: a short hike to an impressive forest of arraynan trees.
In true Jenny and Will fashion we jogged most of the trail, took in the forest and headed back on the Circuito. Next stop was our first hike, Cerro (mount) Llao Llao. In order to reach the hike, though, we had to head down a dirt road for 800m, and as we were still getting used to our bikes the major downhill was a rush! We found the trailhead and again stashed our bikes in the forest and began the trek. When we reached the top after 45 minutes we found a spot atop a rock with a view to eat a snack, take in the impressive views, and enjoy some fresh air. Trainer Jenny did a few impressive yoga poses, it’s hard to keep up with her. The wind started cooling us off a little too much and we knew we had to keep moving so we trekked down and biked a short distance to a small beach to eat the rest of our lunch. We relaxed (and I meditated) for little while before deciding we had to venture up the dusty, steep road back out to the main route. We biked up and over a few more rolling hills to Lago Escondido.
This was the lake our rental guy said was the one we could swim in, if we dared. I took that dare. It was hot, of course, since we ran to the lake which was about 800m. What a refreshing dip in the lake! The temperature and atmosphere reminded me of Priest Lake. Drying off with the cool breeze and warm sunshine was great. But, as you guessed it, time to bike on! We jogged back to our bikes and headed to the next viewpoint. We stopped quickly to soak in the sights and to do some push-ups (that’s what happens when you travel with a trainer). After the first 5 ½ hours along the circuit, I finally got to my first craft beer in Bariloche at a little brew pub called Gilberts while Jenny befriended a local golden retriever (one of the many somewhat stray dogs in AR). The beer was a smooth and creamy IPA with plenty of bitterness and a perfect amount of quenchability. We finished our ride and returned our bikes just as we were hitting the wall and ready to be done. The last hill seemed to suck all our energy! In total the ride + adventure extras lasted 7 hours!
On the 19th we completed the second leg of our triathlon, Cerro Catedral to Refugio Frey 20k. With no shortage of mountains to trek we decided on the most classic for the area, Refugio Frey. A ‘refugio’ is a shelter or a hut for hikers and climbers. Most have the ability to house a few overnight guests and cook food as well. We bussed to the parking lot of a winter ski resort at around 11am. We had copied and pasted the hike directions into Notes on our Mac, but forgot to sync it over to my phone before heading out, so we went in a little blind. Lucky we started the trek just behind a recently retired couple from Denver, CO. They were in great shape and had been doing a long venture from Santiago down to the tip of South America then back up in Argentina and this was their last outing before heading to Buenos Aires the next day. We found the trail with them and walked the first hour together; swapping stories and sharing experiences from both our travels and our lives back home. We gave them some advice on Bend, then told us how Denver is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts. We will have to visit! Our initial hour was a slight uphill traverse over some wooden and metal bridges until we reached a really beautiful forest full of brilliantly blooming orange flowers, lots of bamboo (which we fashioned into walking sticks – amazing), and a wonderfully winding path leading up, up and up. Our ears were treated to the rushing sound of a nearby creek for most of the forest as well. Jenny and I were able to use the hiking time to connect about our lives and discuss a little about our future and why the heck we’re here anyway (we didn’t figure that out, BTW). The trees broke and we could now see the more of the smoke from a forest fire in a nearby town that we’d been smelling all day. We knew this might sour our vistas, but it didn’t stop our hunger for reaching the top. Now exposed to the sun, we began to heat up and the dusty, smoky, rocky trail began to wear on us. We rationed our water and utilized our bamboo hiking sticks to keep our balance. Along this stretch were plenty of bumble bees, lizards and did I mention dust? 3 hours and 15 minutes of hiking and we reached the refugio steps and an amazing view of the surrounding peaks, the lake, and some toprope climbers reaching their summit whilst another group was repelling down for theirs. This Refugio is a homebase for many climbers and trekkers, and we saw many carrying up backpacks the size of a couch, full of gear that they might use for the next week. We found a comfortable spot by the little lake to eat lunch, and as we started to replenish we had 3 friends join us. The first were the two were the American couple we talked about earlier, and the 3rd was a skinny, black Argentian begging cat. We figured no whine equaled a cat that was worthy of a little of our tuna lunch, and a selfie. After lunch we circled the alpine lake, but not before we both parted ways: Will to engage in some breathing meditation and Jenny to perform some fitness meditation/practice. The scene here was incredibly soothing; magical peaks all around, soft lap of the lake water on the shore, and a soft breeze to keep the flies and bees away. On our walk again we came across a pair of interesting ducks, a zen-like grass bog, and more picturesque peaks showing their beauty. We took a quick peek inside of the Refugio before starting the journey down. We took a variation down along Lago (lake) Guitteriez which got us to the flat sooner where our tired, but strong, legs allowed us to do a light jog off and on to get us to the bus stop in 2 hours 44 minutes. We had a total hike time of 5 hours 59 minutes, and we spent about an hour and a half either up top resting or along the way. An incredible hike that I may revisit via chairlift + a shorter more technical hike next week.
Leg three of our triathlon on the 20th was a three and a half hour kayaking excursion on Lago Nahuel Huapi, the lake we are staying on. Once again, it paid off to stay in an Air BnB: our awesome host, Sam, hooked us up with her window washer’s kayaks for the day at an unbelievably low cost. We set out on the calmest water we’d seen at about 11am, which is lucky considering most days have winds of 15 to 25 mph. Our goal was to go out around the two islands in our view, and so we were off. We stopped off at one of the islands to take some pictures of the picturesque lake and surrounding peaks. I took a chilly dive into the lake (really chilly!) and we took a short walk around part of the island. It reminded Jenny of the Georgian Bay. Back in the boats (and fresh sun screen applied to our white thighs) we finished rounding the second island with our sights set on the back side of the larger, closer peninsula. As we passed by the second island a duck of some flavor came swooping in right next to my kayak, almost looking like it was coming in for an attack. Quacky, we’ll call it, then began to coo and quack in what seemed like an attempt to lure us towards it. Jenny mentioned that “if that thing comes near me, I’m going to whack it with my paddle!” We couldn’t shake Quacky for about 10 minutes as he would “run” in front of us and kept swimming back and forth, always keeping at least one eye on us. Finally Quacky left us be since we were further from the island. The only explanation we could think of was that it was trying to protect its nest. With that experience behind us, it was back to paddling. An hour and fifteen minutes after our first stop we arrived at a rocky white beach that encouraged us to stay for 90 minutes. What a lunch spot, couldn’t ask for anything better: a soft breeze, warm rocks and the soft sound of the lake. The temperature was perfect and we both took time to relax our muscles and minds, including time to shut the eyes and drift away in thought. After the rest, I went on a short beach walk. As I rounded a corner, I spied a white seagull (and let Jenny tell you, the seagulls here are really clean and bright white) which soon started to fly, squawk in 3 different tones, attract it’s mate and swoop close. Once again the only explanation was that they were protecting their nest. The seagulls escorted me back to Jenny and then proceeded to perch on nearby rocks to watch that we both stay. With 4pm just passing by our watches, it was time to paddle back so Jenny could catch a spin class. The wind had started to pick up, but luckily for us (well, we planned on it actually based on observing the wind patterns from previous days) it sailed us in the right direction. Another hour and a half of paddling landed us ashore, again exhausted. Unlike the dropping off of the bikes in the first event, we had to haul our heavy boats up a 100m hill to the house, which took all the arm strength we had left.
Our triathlon of events was really thrilling and is far from over. With all the peaks, lakes, and trails we can’t get enough of the outdoors in Bariloche. Thanks for following along and we have many more stories to share soon!