The One Less Traveled By: a chronicle of my yearlong sabbatical

Hiking, Biking, Boozing and Busing Through Argentina
May 16, 2010, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Argentina

Now that it’s months and countries behind me, I figure it’s high time I update my blog with the rest of my trip through Argentina.  So….  After Bariloche, where I hung out until March 14, I headed a few hours south to the town of El Bolson.  El Bolson is situated in a ridiculously picturesque valley, with beautiful lush mountains on either side, and is probably best known for its hippies and microbrews.  It didn’t disappoint as to either.   (Picture, for example, barefooted, knotty-haired toddlers running around the organic section of the supermarket, and a weekend market with nearly a dozen vendors selling homebrew.)  I stayed at a fantastic hostel called El Pueblito whose innumerable charms included two proprietary beers brewed by the owners, a barn converted into a bar, and delicious nightly dinners prepared with ingredients from the organic garden.  It was the type of place where people stayed for weeks and, in the case of two dudes I met, months.  I stayed for about a week.

El Pueblito

Marcel, one of the owners of the hostel, tending bar

During that time I made two trips to the mountains – one for a day, the other for three.  The day trip was to Mount Piltriquitron, the highest peak on one side of the valley.  The hike passes Refugio Piltriquitron and winds through El Bolson’s “Carved Forest” where artists have carved figurines and objects into the trees in an effort to bring life back to this area which had been racked by fire.

Refugio Piltriquitron - this place served excellent homebrew

Dude who carved this one must have been on something strong...

Hands from the Carved Forest

On the summit of Piltriquitron with the Andes in the background

Two days later, along with another American girl named Chrissy, who had attended the same Spanish school as me in Bariloche, I hiked to Refugio Cerro Lindo.  Unfortunately it was the day after Saint Patrick’s Day:  all of the drinks and all of the not sleeping did not make for a particularly pleasant hike up the steep trail.  Nevertheless, we made it in about 4.5 hours when everybody told us it would take 7, so we were happy.  The next day, the man who runs the refugio – the refugiero – took us on an incredibly beautiful hike around the area and up to the top of Cerro Lindo mountain, where we were rewarded with panoramic views of the Corderilla de los Andes.  The next day, after a trip to a nearby waterfall, we headed back down the mountain and back to El Pueblito, just in time for an incredible Argentinean asado (BBQ), where the quantity of meat cooked and served bordered on the obscene.

The lush forest through which we passed on the way to Refugio Cerro Lindo

The refugio

The refugio's 5-star accommodations

The refugiero pausing for a moment of reflection

The Chilean Andes from the top of Cerro Lindo

Lago Tres Colores

More of the beautiful scenery around Cerro Lindo

Sledding down the snowfield on the way back to the refugio

Not having any plans of any sort, after El Bolson I decided to head back to Buenos Aires (~20 hours by bus; Argentina is huge) to see some friends, check out the city some more, and decide where to go next.  I stayed about a week, during which time I ate ridiculous amounts of steak and walked a ton (like Argentina, BA is massive).  I mulled over heading to Brazil next, but decided I didn’t want to deal with the headache of applying for a visa — which is required for US passport holders — and waiting for it to be issued, and also realized that I needed more mountain adventures.  The beach would have to wait.

After about five days in BA I boarded an overnight bus to Cordoba, in north-central Argentina.  There wasn’t much to do there so I stayed only a couple of days.  I did meet some great people at the hostel where I stayed and walked around the city blah blah blah.

From Cordoba, I traveled further north in Argentina to Cafayate.  Cafayate is the type of place that does not get much press – thankfully – but is an absolute gem; the type of place where a Canadian couple came for a few days and immediately looked into buying a house there.  I was nearly swayed in the same direction, too.

Cafayate's main church in the small's town's diminutive central plaza

Cafayate, like all of Argentina, relishes alfajores - a snack that's a cross between a cookie and a cake

In Cafayate I met up with Chrissy again – with whom I had hiked in El Bolson – as well as a couple from Ireland, Susan and John, and a girl from Switzerland, Silvia.  Together, we took a bus 50km out of town and then biked back through the gorgeous countryside, which looks like a cross between the red rocks of Arizona and the badlands of South Dakota.  There were several wineries along the way (the area being a principle wine making region, though less well-known then Mendoza), so we stopped and indulged in several bottles of excellent wines, including the regional specialty, Torrontes, a beautiful white wine I had never had before.

On the road

Working hard for our reward...

... which was several bottles of Torrontes..

... at this fantastic winery...

...where they grow their own grapes.

The countryside which we passed through on our ride

At last, back in town, 50km later, at the last winery

Sylvia and I contemplating the first of five bottles from Bodega El Esteco

Back at our fantastic hostel, Rusty Ks, we had a delicious barbeque prepared by the staff and enjoyed more of the fine local wine – until, that is, we delved into the 5 gallon jug of rot gut that the hostel provided, probably more for their entertainment than our own.  After a few more days hanging out in Cafayate and enjoying its laid back vibe, the five of us headed north to Bolivia.


1 Comment so far
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Hello, I’m heading to Argentina in a few months and will be going to El Bolson to do some hiking. I definitely want to go up to Cerro Lindo. Quick question: were reservations necessary to stay at the refugio cerro lindo, or was it first-come first-served? What about the hostel in El Bolson?

Anyways, any help would be much appreciated!


Comment by globalartroom

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