Saturday, March 22, 2008

Trip to Bariloche - Part 1

Finally I’m going to write about my Bariloche trip 2 weeks ago. I apologize for its tardiness, but I had it written, but didn’t have time—or energy—until now to revise/edit it. Now you’ll have the story to go along with the pictures that I posted.

As part of our study abroad program, COPA sponsors a group trip during orientation for each of their programs. For the Buenos Aires, the trip was to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina (Bariloche). Bariloche is part the lake region of Patagonia, and is located on the western border of Argentina very close to Chile. The program flew us there in two groups for a 4 day vacation.

The trip was organized by the program office. On the onset the program director, Mario, made a deal with us: If everyone talked Castellano (Spanish) for the entire trip, the program would buy alcohol, wine and beer, to accompany our meals. I think it left a little bit of an impact. It was a pretty easy deal to make too, since they planned on taking us to a microbrewery in Bariloche.

The focus of the trip was 4 days of hiking. For those of you who know me, you’re aware that hiking isn’t exactly my cup of tea, however, we were told that everything in the trip was option, except one thing: una parasilla.

A parasilla, or chairlift, translates to living hell if you don’t like heights. I don’t like heights—I abhor them. More on this later.

We planned to leave Buenos Aires at Thursday, 28 Feb at 10:22 AM, but we ended up leaving late from Buenos Aires because it was down pouring in BA. We left about 4 hours late. When we finally left, it was about a 2 hour flight from Jorge Newberry Airport in Buenos Aires to Bariloche International Airport. The ascent was amazing into the airport because there are mountain ranges and lakes surrounding this part of Argentina. The view was incredible! However it was really scary for a moment because you couldn’t see a runway anywhere since there didn’t seem to be life for miles. All of a sudden we landed!

We ate our boxed lunches the program provided at our first stop since we weren’t permitted to eat in the bus. We pulled up to this mountain with a huge “parasilla”. Just seeing it made my heart quiver. I sucked it up, closed my eyes, and prayed as I ascended up the freaking thing that all would be well. I think I would like chairlifts much better if they didn’t do the creaking and intermittent stopping—the creaking is 100% worse at each of the transfer poles. My heart still raced the whole time…

The view definitely was worth the pain of descending up the stupid chair lift. You really could see the entire area. I got some of my best pictures from the whole trip from that vantage point. Still I would have rather just compared my pictures to the other people than actually experiencing it for myself. Of course what goes up must come down, and the descent down was worse than going up the damn thing.

Next we went to another area for a small hike before dinner. This was a trail that was close to several lakes and we hiked for about 15 minutes to get to the first vantage point. Later we did another 25 minute hike to get to a better view. We ran into a snake during this hike. I took a picture of it for my favorite—and only—cousin since I know she LOVES reptiles.

Later we went to a restaurant for dinner—it was about 8PM by now, early for dinner by Argentine standards—to a microbrewery that served a family style meal. The waiters brought all kinds of things to our table: bread, meat, cheese, nachos (argentine style), lamb, stew, etc. They also brought 2 pitchers of beer per table. They had light, dark, and raspberry beer; I’m not a big beer fan, but I did like the light and raspberry flavors. Then they served us ice cream for desert. Afterward we went our Hotel Amancay (the web site has great pictures) and my roommate and I talked until 2AM.

Sadly that killed us the next morning when we had to get up at 8:30 for the hike.
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