Change in weather
One of the reasons that we like to stay somewhere longer than the Contiki one night stopover is that the place usually changes. One of the main factors impacting the impression of a location is the weather. And nowhere more dramatically so than in rugged Patagonia.
Day 5 brought with it strong winds, so we decided to stay in our glass house, enjoy the view and have our own little church service (we hadn’t managed to find anything nearby). It was a nice relaxing day and we topped in off by opening one of the bottles of wine we’d bought in Mendoza.
Chocolate & shopping
We hadn’t yet realised that when wind starts in Patagonia it keeps going! We should’ve known better based on what we’d experienced and heard in Ushuaia, and even more, what Martin our guide in Mendoza had told us about his time guiding trips to Torres del Paine. Somehow, the idyllic lake setting and fact that we weren’t so far south had lulled us into a false sense of security.
So on day 6 when the wind hadn’t let up, we cancelled our hiking plans and chose to catch the bus into town instead. It was fun to pop into the chocolate shops to sample their wares and buy some gifts. There are a number of quaint arcades and stores dotted through town that were interesting to wander through. We also returned to Rapanui to watch some of the ice skating and indulge in another chocolate fondue.
Finally back to complete the Circuito Chico
By day 7 we had eventually woken up to the fact that the wind wasn’t going away so if we wanted to complete our exploration of the Llao Llao peninsula, we had to do so. In addition, the weather forecast was getting worse rather than better, with heavy rain predicted the following day.
After breakfast we headed down to the bus stop to hop on the #20 bus. When it arrived, it was full as usual. Glenda stood on the stairs, holding on for dear life and hoping she didn’t get squashed by the doors when they opened. Open they did – to let on more people!! Sadly, it was so full that it was impossible to get a photo. Eventually someone got off and a young guy gallantly offered Glenda his seat.
The rest of the day was spent completing the part of the circuit we’d missed the time before, some of it on the road and other parts along the bush tracks.
As it was a public holiday – Carnaval – there were more people out than would be otherwise, but it was still peaceful. We even had another Condor sighting! After a little under 20km, we were ready to get on the bus and head back – and fortunately this time we both had a seat.
We couldn’t resist another visit to the German restaurant up the road – although this time we chose to share one of their rather large main meals and were seated inside out of the wind and away from the scavenging dogs!
Experiencing more of Patagonia’s wild weather
We had decided to hire a car for our last couple of days in Bariloche. It was cheaper than renting a bike, it would enable us to venture further afield and we could save on taxi fares as we could drop it off at the airport. The added bonus was the fact that the hire company would deliver it to the hotel. So as we were finishing breakfast, the guy arrived and sat down with Walter at one of the tables to sort out the paperwork. Soon we were on our way, armed with down jackets, gloves and rain jackets – the wind was blowing even stronger than before and the rain was on its way.
After passing through town and heading northeast, we crossed Rio Limay (the Limay River), leaving the province of Rio Negro and entering Neuquen. As we turned west and backtracked along the other side of Lago Nahuel Huapi, the vegetation changed radically and we were quickly exposed to some of the dramatic weather conditions Patagonia is famous for. The terrain was arid and the rain hadn’t arrived. However, the wind was still howling, shaking us around and sending huge plumes of dust flying across the road and towards us.
By the time we reached the pretty village of Villa la Angostura, the rain had arrived. We continued on the road towards the Chilean border, but as the visibility was such that the views were almost non-existent, we turned back to the town of Hansel & Gretel buildings. After finding parking, and determined to explore the pretty village, we donned our down jackets and rain jackets and set off. Sadly, we didn’t last long and were happy to find a quirky little bar to get out of the cold and rain and sip on a hot chocolate. We were soon on our way back along the lake road to return to Bariloche. This time there was no dust as the rain had spread there too – although not as heavy.