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.
Tonight was the perfect introduction to this country for me. Only in Argentina can you go to a truly authentic parrilla (special Argentinean steak house) and get the best steak on the planet (along with the best wine on the planet); and only in Argentina can you turn up at midnight, and find the restaurant still jam-packed! The place in question was Alberto's, the best and most famous (and yet quite cheap) parrilla in Bariloche. Turned up at about 11:50pm, and only just managed to get a table. And the bife de lomo (tenderloin steak — three of them in a single order) was so soft and so juicy, I'd say it's pretty much unbeatable.
Madrilas is the gorgeous dog that lives at Patanuk. Not sure exactly what breed he is — he's from the Pyrenees in Spain, but I don't think he's a Great Pyrenees — but he's big, grey, shaggy, very gentle, and less than a year old. Sylvia brought him over from Spain about 6 months ago, when he was a smaller puppy. He'll play with anyone who's got time for him, and his favourite hobby is falling asleep in the middle of where everyone has to walk, forcing them to jump over him.
I was recommended to stay at Patanuk by Erez, the Israeli guy that I met back in Pucón, in Chile. It's only about 6 months old (the hostel, as well as the building — all freshly constructed!), so it's not yet in the guidebooks. But it will no doubt be in all the next editions; and unless the guidebook writers are all complete %$#&s, it should receive raving reviews. It may not (yet) be "the place to stay" in Bariloche — like Marcopolo, or 1004 — but it's one of the cosiest, the friendliest, and the most comfortable places I've stayed so far on my trip. Don't even consider staying anywhere else, because it doesn't get much better than Patanuk.
On the bus to Bariloche this evening, I had a hilarious first introduction to the crazy phenomenon that is Argentinean Spanish. A few seats behind me, a little girl was whinging loudly to her Mum about something. Anonymous Argentinean Mum said this to her, in a heavy Argentinean accent:
"Cashate, o vamoh volveh a Chile" (in real Spanish: "callate, ó vamos a volver a Chile", lit: "be quiet, or we're going back to Chile")
That shut the girl up real quick. I don't blame her: because like, seriously dude, Argentina is like, sooo much better than Chile, ohhh-mygod.
Dave's an Aussie guy in his 30s, who's lived for most of his life on Kangaroo Island (off the coast of South Australia), and who works in tourism marketing (was working for SA tourism — so yes, you can blame him for those crappy "visit South Australia" ads). He's down here in South America for a few weeks, before heading off to London, where he's hoping to spend some time doing what every other Aussie does, and working there. I met him on the bus to Bariloche today, and he hung out with me at Patanuk for a few days, before continuing south.