Its full name is San Carlos de Bariloche. It's one of Argentina's biggest tourist destinations, and it's my first stop in this great and expansive country. The town itself is chock-full of tourist accommodation, cheap and dear alike, as well as countless bars and discos. Nearby is beautiful Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. And the biggest attraction of all (for me, at least!): just 20 minutes away, is Cerro Catedral — one of the largest alpine ski resorts in South America. I'm here for a week, and enjoying every minute of it.
The sensational midnight parrilla that I had at Alberto's a few nights ago was simply too good — I had to get me some more! Tonight, a massive group of us had an evening exodus out of Patanuk, and so it was that I went to Bariloche's finest steak house one more time. Our table was piled high with platters of juicy beef cuts, with several pyramids of french fries, and with enough bottles of red wine to sink an aircraft carrier. Needless to say, this was a most satisfying night of gluttony in its most carnivorous form.
My first day of not snowboarding alone: yay! Today, I caught the bus up to the mountain with Ed (who managed to rise from bed this morning) — we also met up on the bus again with Paul, and his Brazilian friend — and together, we all went up the slopes on our funky snowboards. Sadly, the weather was once again pretty shoddy today: snowing / raining all day, and the mountain was a white-out / blizzard by the afternoon. Nevertheless, we had plenty of fun, and we didn't get too soaked in the process.
For dinner at Patanuk tonight, Finlandia spoiled us rotten, by cooking a delicious (and huge) dinner of ceviche (raw fish soaked in lemon juice). Of course, this being Finlandia, it was ceviche chileno — so not quite up there with ceviche peruano (nobody does it like them peruanos); but pretty daym fine nonetheless. Served with bread, salad, and quiche; and (of course) washed down with generous helpings of red wine.
Ahhh, the Oiyrish — gotta love 'em after the first few beers, gotta be ready to catch 'em after a few more. Ed's no exception: he's just like the rest of his kinfolk. Ed's part of the Patanuk crew for this week, and he's a really fun mix in the collection. Always got a joke or two up his sleeve; always got room for another beverage in that Irish stomach of his; and occasionally got the capacity to get up of a morning, and to go snowboarding. A great ambassador of his fine nation.
Paul's a ragged hippie backpacker, from that place in Oz where you go if there's a wedding or a barmitzvah (aka "Melbourne"), and who (like myself) is doing the South America thing solo. I first met Paul while hiking in the Colca Canyon, in southern Peru, about 2 months ago. Today, I bumped into him again, while snowboarding up at Cerro Catedral. Funny guy, and always up for a beer or two.
My fifth day of boarding down the runs of Cerro Catedral was the best day so far. The weather cleared up a bit today — it was still overcast as hell, but at least it wasn't raining or snowing — and my skills on the board are only getting better. Yesterday was the first day that I really started feeling confident on the board — so today was all about having fun! I tried going down some "red" runs (an Argentine special — they're basically hard blues), and even a few blacks ("chicken style" all the way, for now). It's still really hard doing proper turns on those steep bits, but I'm getting there.
Sarah cooked up a beautiful stew tonight, here at Patanuk, which a whole lot of us devoured in its entirety. Lovely big hunks of meat, fat roasted vegetables, and a thick and juicy gravy-like sauce. Perfect dish for a cold, rainy night in Argentina. And went great with the standard several bottles of red wine (goes without saying, really :P).
A very unique couple to be staying in a hostel in Argentina, if ever there was one. Simon's an English IT dude in his 30s, and Anna is his very sweet little 10-year-old daughter. They're in town (in Patanuk, along with the rest of us) for the remainder of the week, and they're hoping to do a bit of skiing and a bit of boarding up at the mountain, during their time here. Simon enjoys crazy snow runs, lots of beer, and rolling his own tobacco ciggies — he's also a vegetarian, when not in Argentina (where I believe vegetarianism is virtually impossible, perhaps even illegal :P).
Another day, another trip to the slopes. The weather was once again less-than-ideal today: yesterday's snow gave way to more light rain; although at least yesterday's dump has improved the snow cover a great deal. When I arrived at Catedral this morning, the staff at the board hire shop told me that almost all the lifts were shut, and that most of the runs were inaccessible — this was extremely disheartening; but fortunately it turned out to be untrue, as they had the main lifts open, by the time I hit the slopes. My snowboarding continues to improve: today is the first day that I feel I can actually say "I did snowboarding". I hit a certain critical point today, where I started to really feel like I was in control of the board, and I actually started to enjoy the feel of what I was doing. So I'm very glad I came out today: it was well worth it!
For the past 10 years or so, Travis has worked every American winter as a ski instructor, in his home state of Colorado; and every American summer as a cycle tour leader. So as you can imagine, he's a very fit dude, and one hell of a skier. Travis arrived here at Patanuk today, and he's hanging round for the rest of the week. His plans include a lot of skiing up on the mountain, and a lot of beer- and wine-drinking back in town, of an evening.