Craig’s been doing an excellent job of updating the blog with pertinent information, so I’m just going to give some extra details in this post.
I was very sad to leave Frutillar… mostly because we had to part with our new volunteer friends, who were so amazing! I really hope to see them again someday, if not on this trip, then in France or Australia… or wherever!
Our hostel in El Bolsón (La Casona de Odile) was really nice, except for the fact that it was 7km from town. You either had to take an unreliable, slow, and infrequent bus (3 pesos) or a taxi (30 pesos) to town. Guess which one we decided was the better option? Click here or in the sidebar to see my Instagram pictures (my username is @hopsee) and find out!
We enjoyed some great weather for hiking the first day to Refugio Hielo Azul… it was nice to feel warm on a hike again after our cold cold days in Southern Patagonia. I only needed to wear one layer! What a welcome change.
When we got to the refugio, the sun was out and it was still warm, so we felt a bit guilty about not bringing our tent and camping like “real backpackers”. There were also hot showers (which we took advantage of… sorry for being wussies) and flush toilets! I think I could get used to this glamping after all… Forget that feeling of accomplishment, ruggedness, and dirtiness… I think I’d rather be clean and warm!
The downsides to the refugio’s sleeping porch, however, was that the mattresses were all side-by-side and not very thick (see instagram), and the loudest snorer always placed himself RIGHT NEXT TO ME. I think there must be a special place in hell reserved for snorers who choose to sleep in public places when there’s an alternative… like freezing in a tent… or missing out on beautiful scenery. I’m pretty sure snorers shouldn’t get the same sleeping rights as non-snorers. I also maybe need to get better earplugs for myself…
The hike the next day was also fairly difficult… extremely steep uphill and downhill both. Craig and I got pretty tired and frustrated with the constant little slips going down. (We must be getting soft with all this glamping and not sleeping in a tent.) We finally made it to Refugio El Retamal, a 40 minute steep (South Americans have never heard of switchbacks, apparently) hike up from Refugio Cajon de Azul, which was this huge compound/farm/garden… we were happy to skip this for the more laid-back, less-crowded Retamal (even though it also harbored a loud snorer… they’re following me, I swear).
We met a fun French couple at El Retamal, Pierre and Marie (whom he called “Mary” when speaking English… so funny!). They went halvesies with us on a bottle of wine and some delicious pan casero (homemade bread). They also introduced me to a cream-cheese-like product with the brand-name of Finlandia. On the package, it’s described as queso procesado. Yum!
Our last day, we walked past the beautiful Cajon de Azul, which was wonderfully lit with morning light. It was a relatively easy walk back to the trailhead, where we called for a cab to share back to town with the Frenchies. Like most people we’ve met here, they were incredibly friendly and we became email friends and exchanged blog addresses. We’ve friended dozens of people on Facebook, gotten loads of email addresses, phone numbers… it’s a common theme for everybody to be very friendly and giving.
On the other hand, there’s also always one American nay-sayer. We end up defending the U.S. more often than you would think from a couple of hippie, liberal Seattleites. In truth, I think being Estado-unidense has incredible advantages. There’s a reason that my parents chose to emigrate to the U.S. and ended up becoming successful middle-classers. But you always meet somebody who claims that America is full of intolerant and ignorant people and sure, there are some, and sure, we have our problems, but doesn’t every country? And it’s kind of hard not to have an incredible spectrum of perspectives and beliefs in such a huge country. Give us a break, you tiny European countries! It’s not easy being green!
Spending a couple of nights at our hostel to regroup was wonderful. Going trekking is always such a difficult endeavor in regards to packing… We have to take everything out of our packs, repack it with trekking stuff, separate out everything else to store at the hostel, and then redo everything over again when we get back from the trek. Such a pain! But we wanted to go trekking during our travels, so you have to make sacrifices for it.
We’re now having a great time at another work-exchange in Bariloche. The weather’s been beautiful and warm, although the leaves are changing color and reminding us that we’ll need to be heading north soon to follow the sun. But it’s a great, laid-back, and small hostel where we can spend a week, have a lot of laughs with the owner and the other volunteers, and “save” some more money. I’m currently hanging out with a spastic (but cute) cat on the sofa, about to begin the second leg of an X-Men movie marathon (not our idea), after only doing a few hours of work this morning. We also had time to take a hike to a local mirador (lookout) and jump in the hostel’s pool afterwards! Seven weeks into our trip, and life is good.