The next day it’s time for Marian and I to part ways after nearly a week traveling together. He’s going straight on to Santiago via a 12-hour bus ride. I’m in no particular hurry to say goodbye to Patagonia just yet, and so I take a bus via Osorno back over the Argentine border to Bariloche, arriving a week after the bus from El Chalten would have taken me to the same city, had I not gotten off halfway for the Marble Caves detour.
Bariloche is purely a tourist town. Ushuaia is mostly a tourist town, but it’s also a shipping center. Calafate is a tourist town to some extent, but it’s too remote to be fancy. Bariloche is the first place I visit in Patagonia that cannot be described as being rough around the edges. Founded by German immigrants, the streets are lined with chocolate shops and alpine architecture. While there’s plenty of surrounding natural attractions, the town itself is enough of a destination to have scores of tourists, domestic and international, everywhere you look.
It’s also the weekend. I figure it’s time to go to a proper Argentine steakhouse. Things start off on the wrong foot when I’m ordering wine – their menu only has half bottles or full bottles, no wines by the glass … and they’re out of half bottles. Fine, full bottle it is. To accompany my full bottle of wine, I order the “full portion” of steak without asking what that entails, because I’ve never been the kind of person to order a “half portion” of meat. With this I order a side of fries, and pour myself a glass of wine as I wait for my food, reading up on my next destinations.
The side of fries is a full dinner plate. The full portion of steak is three steaks. I am sitting there alone at a dinner table with an ungodly amount of food and a full bottle of wine all to myself like some kind of unusually pale mafia boss.
I finish all of it in about 15 minutes.
There’s nightclubs here. And brewpubs. And of course chocolate stores, and even some sort of street festival to mark the town’s birthday, complete with parade. It’s true that I’m still in Patagonia, and although my primary objective is to be doing things outdoors, it’s rainy, foggy and cold, and I’ve had about enough of braving the elements. As a result I don’t really take any photos in Bariloche – I’ve gotten somewhat burnt out from taking hundreds of photos every day for more than two weeks, to say nothing of the hiking and travel.
Fun as Bariloche is, it seems like the weather has taken a permanent turn for the worse as winter begins to set in. It’s probably time to close the book on Patagonia and start a somewhat more urban life for a while. I head back to Osorno, where I’ll have a day to kill while waiting for a bus to Santiago.
I had seen Osorno in passing on the way from Puerto Montt, but I arrive back in the evening and have to search for lodging in the rain. Osorno is not huge but it’s still big enough that hoofing it from place to place is a bit of a pain, and on top of that, the first place I try seems to be out of business. Eventually I secure a bed and crash.
The next day, the weather has improved. I spend some time checking out the city, which doesn’t have a ton going for it except a pretty interesting cathedral across from a park with colorful fountains. There’s also some pretty modern shopping centers, so after I’m done taking photos, I settle in at a cafe to catch up on some errands and do some blogging before I take the overnight bus to Santiago.
As I wait for the bus I am hit, for perhaps the first time on the trip, with a sense of loneliness. Bariloche had a bustling social scene, before that, I had Marian and the Dutch to hang out with, and before that, I was too thrilled with the scenery to care that I was on my own. No doubt the fact that I am saying goodbye to Patagonia has something to do with it. The path between here and Lima is mostly undecided as of now, and I have a lot of ground to cover in less time than I’d like.
There’s not much to do about it except to down a couple of beers to make me fall asleep faster on the bus ride. It’s 11pm and time to head to the bus station and bid Patagonia farewell.