Twenty hours on a bus isn't as bad as it may seem when you have comfortable executive seats that recline to 120 degrees or so, and meals served (a bit airline style, but still, it's food).

meal on board the bus to Bariloche

So the overnight journey was relatively comfortable. Only in the last few hours did the plains give way to a hillier landscape. San Carlos de Bariloche is situated on the southern lake shore, and is a bit of an adventure capital.

I arrived just in time for Christmas. On the 25th I walked along to the beach, although it was a bit windy to stay too long.

On the beach on Christmas Day, Lago Nahuel Huapi


On Boxing Day, I hired a bike and did a circle from Bariloche, a bit up and down, and visited several other nearby lakes.

Out cycling by Lago Gutiérrez


The mountains of the Nahuel Huapi National Park are on the doorstep, so I set off with a week's supply of food on a sunny morning from the ski resort of Villa Catedral.

The weather stayed nice for a few days, and the mountain scenery was impressive. It's a place with spiky rocky summits abruptly jutting up from the scree-covered ridges.

rocky summits above a lakeside lunch spot

I was impressed with the cleanliness - very little litter to be seen. And the trails were generally well-maintained and signed too.

There's not a lot in the way of animal life - apparently no sheep, cattle or so on up here. I spied a deer, I think, running off in the forest, but that was about it as far as mammals went. There were a few birds of prey, but too far off for identification... At least one of them could have been a condor. A few families of ashy-headed geese, the adults with their orange chests, were swimming in the small mountain lakes and slower streams.

ashy-headed geese

Heading down a less frequently used path, I had to make a number of interesting river crossings - some with the assistance of stones or trees but most requiring a quick wade in sandals through the cold water, supported by two walking poles fashioned from some of the bamboo which grows through much of the forest.

On the 31st December, the sun at the start of the day became rain, hail then snow. After a tricky traverse of the side of a craggy ridge (I lost the path), I had a little sun while I pitched my tent. So new year was spent all alone probably at least a few kilometres from anyone.

The 1st brought constant rain and snow, so I didn't try moving. By the morning of the 2nd, a centimetre or two of snow covered the surroundings - an interesting summer! It was brighter, though, and I set off. Kicking steps in the snow lying on rock-fields brought me over a high pass, but the path was less than clear lower down and I ended up basically paddling round the edge of a lake. After 3 days of seeing virtually nobody, I returned to more popular trails.

snowy lake panorama

Another high col took me to Laguna Negra, where the strong gusts of wind whipped the spray off the lake towards the refuge, and made the approach to it around the precarious rocky edge of the lake awkward, even with the fixed ropes provided in some places. Refugio Italia was packed, with all the beds and much of the remaining floor occupied, but it made for a warmer night than camping would have done.

Refugio Italia, with the rocks making for a difficult lakeside path in the background

A welcome easy descent the next day, in the company of three companionable Israeli trekkers, took us to the bus-stop just in time for the local bus back to packed Bariloche, where I eventually found a dorm with space at the 6th hostel at which I enquired.