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.
Another big day on the mountain, for a small and fledgling newbie snowboarder to keep tackling the terrain. Today was a very white day: it was snowing all day — not just on the mountain, but also in Catedral's alpine village; and even back in town as well, in Bariloche! Snow is fine by me, of course — unlike rain, it doesn't make you wet, and it makes the ground-cover better rather than worse (plus it looks beautiful when it's falling) — although a post-snowfall clear blue day is certainly better. I kept practising, kept venturing further up the chairlifts (and back down the slopes), and kept stacking it every five seconds. But hey, still getting there, little by little.
The spag bol last night just wasn't enough: tonight, we were up for some more Italian! My mate Dave cooked up a fantastic gnocchi tonight (gnocchi being my favourite food on Earth), with the rich tomato sauce full of fried, chopped-up chorizo (sausage). Because Argentina has had so many Italian immigrants over the years, foods such as gnocchi are widely sold in supermarkets everywhere. Sensational dinner — and accompanied by plenty of the red wine that seems to be standard with every meal around here.
This brother-and-sister couple arrived in Patanuk today, and they're staying for the rest of the week. They're both from Colorado: Sarah still lives there, but Jordan's living in LA, where he's going to "school" (i.e. Uni) at UCLA. As with all Coloradans, they love their mountains and their mountain activities. They're here to do a bit of hiking, a bit of snowbaording, and a lot of partying.
Went back to Catedral today, after yesterday's debut, for my second ever day of snowboarding. Sadly, the weather was not very good today: it was raining in the village and on the snow all day, and I got soaked through by the freezing-cold precipitation; so much so, that I had to return to Bariloche at the early hour of 3pm, in order to get myself warm and dry, and to avoid catching pneumonia or something. But anyway, I managed to get myself another lesson, and I got in a fair bit more snowboarding practice. So it was a wet day, but a day of progress nonetheless.
It's been way too long since I've cooked up some of my world-famous, home-made spaghetti bolognese. Back in Oz, I do it once a week. Last time I tried it while travelling, it had rather unfortunate consequences (thanks, Cusco market ingredients!). Tonight, in the Patanuk kitchen, Jaza's Spag Bol returned, as massive in size and as uncompromising on quality as ever. This being Argentina, I decided to use cut-up steak instead of mince-meat in the sauce. And sadly, I couldn't find any mushies at the shops (but I found some nice eggplant). Shared it with Dave and Finlandia, and I received nods of approval all-round.
Despite my best efforts, I simply can't remember what his real name is: anyway, we all call him "Finland", or "Finlandia". Finlandia is a giant of a dude (must be about 6"5'), with shoulder-length blonde hair, and an angular face that shows his Nordic heritage. He's a mountain guide (climbing, hiking, etc — he's fit enough to do it all), and he's been working in northern Chile for the past nine months. Thus, when we're not calling him Finlandia, his other name is "Chileno" (or just "juebon" :P). He's an extreme adventurer, as well as a great chef; and he's been an all-out partygoer during his time here at Patanuk.
I already heard that Cerro Catedral is one of the first ski resorts in the world to have implemented an electronic lift pass system. Today, in my first day of snowboarding on the mountain, I saw the new system myself, and it is very cool indeed. Every lift has a little scanner at the front of its queue; and you just stick your ticket in the scanner, and hold it there for half a second; and then the machine beeps, and the turnstiles open for you. Much more funky and efficient than ye 'ol punch-a-hole-in-me tickets, which need to be checked manually (or not) by lifties, and which need to be visible at all times. Catedral has a nice new hi-tech system on their mountain.
Today was the first day of my life that I tried snowboarding. And as such, I was pretty keen on getting lessons. I'd heard that you can get group lesson and board hire combinations, up here at Cerro Catedral. Well, let's just say that the ski/snowboard school situation here at Catedral is nothing like what I'm used to, and nothing like what I was hoping for. It's an absolute mess, and an expensive one at that. There are almost 10 separate, privately-run ski schools operating at this place — there's no official, resort-run "Catedral ski school" (unlike what every ski resort in Australia has) — and none of these schools are cheap. None of them operate proper, public group lessons, either. Well, I'll be daymed if I'm shelling out megabucks for private snowboarding lessons — don't need them, and can't afford them.
I'm staying here in Bariloche for a full week: and from today until next Saturday, I have seven days to spend on the snow at nearby Cerro Catedral, one of the biggest ski resorts in South America. Now, as anyone who's been to a ski resort in the past 10 or 15 years should know, these days skiing is only half the fun on the mountain. The other half of snow-goers are now ditching their skis, and doing snowboarding instead. I've only ever been a skier up until now; but this week, I'm trying snowboarding for the first time. Today was an interesting day: very slow, and very sore; but fun nonetheless.
I woke up this morning, in my dorm room at Patanuk, to be greeted with an amazing view of the lake, straight out of my window. Daym, this has gotta be the best view out of any hostel dorm room in the world! Patanuk is not a bad place to stay, not a bad place at all. Downstairs, that much-anticipated free breakfast of croissants and scones (with fresh, home-made strawberry jam on the side) was the icing on the cake; and the view of the lake was just as divine from the dining room.