El Bolsón – Bariloche’s ‘Organic’ (Hippie) Cousin

April 29, 2013 at 12:25 pm

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

A town full of hippies, hops and the freshest produce, it is definitely one not to be missed. Although a little quiet this time of year, we were sure it had the right vibe to go off during the summer! The autumn colours made for spectacular views everywhere we went. With numerous hikes to refugios (that were still open this time of year) El Bolsón had plenty to offer. Unfortunately as we were only staying one night we didn’t get to explore beyond Bosque Tallado, but you can check out Trek El Bolsón for more info.

Driving to El Bolsón was like being in a movie. The dramatic cliff faces and ridges make you want to stop every 10mins to get a photo. Alas, we had a baby sleeping and Alec wasn’t about to stop and jeopardise making it to our destination in ‘good time’.

As you get closer to the town itself you begin to feel like some sort of time warp has taken place.

Old school lorries struggle to get up hills, laden with cargo. Lines of cars jostle like V8s in a street race as they take turns passing on blind corners. Then there are the old beat up cars that anyone would think do not have any life left in them.

One such car was weaving aimlessly, slowing down at any irregularity in the road (of which there are many), like a timid mouse searching for cheese. As we passed the car we noticed that not only was the driver most definitely drunk but he had a car full of passengers including young children bouncing around the back seat.

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

Disappointment at the El Bolsón Markets

Nothing to write home about, we were a little disenchanted by the El Bolsón markets. Particularly after I’d read on Interpatagonia.com that,

“El Bolsón Arts and Crafts Market has already gained an important position among the most popular and oldest South American markets.”

Perhaps this was because it was their quiet season and the weather was a bit average. We did however manage to pick up a cool woodern owl carving used for resting hot plates on. Even in the quiet season the vendor was not prepared to negotiate on price.

A little perturbed by this disappointing start to our arrival in El Bolsón we sat down in the main plaza (park) for  a bite to eat. Usually managing to put a smile back on my dial, that day was no exception. The empanadas de carne were very tasty, although slightly cold.

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolsón’s Lago Puelo

Lago Puelo was definitely worth the drive. We arrived quite late in the evening to calm waters and a cool wind that was just starting to pick up, but there were a few groups of people walking the bays of the lake or sitting and enjoying their ‘mate’ (traditional South American infused drink).

Bumping into an Australian couple the next day, that Alec had met on a hike in Bariloche (small world!), we found out that the drive on the ‘ripio’ (unsealed) road to Lago Epuyén is worth it also. We were pushed for timing Ollie’s afternoon sleep with our drive back to Bariloche as it was, so we decided to notch this up on our list of things to do when we return one day.

On the drive out to the lakes striking statues (a few a little creepy) remind you of the creative streak that exists in El Bolsón. Again, sleeping baby (or blinkers on arriving at the destination) we didn’t stop to read about these, but they were interesting none the less.

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

Roaming the Streets

As the evening grew dark, the engines of the street cars became louder. Unsuccessful in our attempt to eat out at a recommended cerveceria Outter Tapp, we made our way back into town. Walking down the ripio roads gave us an eery feeling that we were on the wrong side of town. But the manicured gardens and friendly pets begged otherwise. A brisk walk through the main plaza to get to the main street where hopefully something would be open at 7pm for a bite to eat, you could smell the ‘cheeba’ warming the air.

“What’s cheeba?” I asked naively.

“Wacky backy, weed, marijuana.”

“Oh, yeah I can smell it now that you mention it.”

The main street in town (aka the only street) was dead with only one restaurant and a bakery open at that time. Even the cervecerias that El Bolsón is so well known for didn’t open for another hour. We decided to go for the bakery option as there weren’t any patrons in the restaurant, and the success of feeding Ollie these days seems proportional to the number of people to entertain (i.e. distract) him. Good choice as it turned out! The empanadas were even more delicious than the ones from the market, so we ended up buying a few extra to through in the freezer back in Bariloche.

El Bosque Tallado

El Bosque Tallado was magical! It is totally worth the 15-20min drive on an unloved ripio road full of ruts and potholes, plus the 1km climb through the bush to the forest. Looking in one direction were unobstructed views of the valley below, looking the other way were the most amazing autumn colours lining the forest below the steep towering cliffs of Cerro Piltriquitrón.

According to Fodor’s:

“Bosque Tallado, about 1 km (½ mi) from the base of Piltriquitrón, is a forest of dry beech trees (resulting from a fire in 1978) that have been carved over the years by 13 of Argentina’s notable artists. Thirty-one monumental sculptures transform the dead forest into a living gallery.”

This, coupled with the spectacular autumn colours was heaven for taking some snaps. Luckily for me, Ollie slept the entire time so I was not in a rush to take shots from all different angles, trying to capture the magic of being there.

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

El Bolson - Bariloche's 'Organic' (aka Hippie) Cousin  //  intrepidmonkeys.com

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