I am a fickle fiend. I hold my hands up and admit it. After a wonderful couple of day’s hiking Bariloche has taken on a very different appearance. The garish shopfronts now seem colourful and fun, the apartment blocks less imposing. The lake sparkles in the afternoon sun. The cervecerias are calling to me with the promise of cold beer…
I may have been too quick to condemn Bariloche to the shitheap, after all one should never judge on first appearances, cities, books, men, women.
What I have learnt from my excursions is that when people refer to Bariloche as being like Switzerland they are referring to the area rather than the town itself. A short bus ride to any of the villages in the surrounding mountains and suddenly everything takes on an Alpine loveliness.
Bariloche the town is a launchpad rather than an endpoint and on its doorstep are untold treasures.
I am now a little annoyed I don’t have longer to explore this area, known as the Lake District. The clue is in the name.
The mountains, their rock faces still betraying the dark lava flows which formed them many aeons ago, are studded with deep turquoise lakes.
Bariloche is also competing with Buenos Aires for the ‘most charming city’ award. Everyone here appears to be happy. Everyone smiles. Apart from the bus drivers, and they don’t count.
Hippy circles sit around on the grass in the town square playing the obligatory mysterious assortment of weird tribal instruments.
On this subject, Argentina, I feel, has more than its fair share of hippies. In Britain sadly they are a dying breed, largely killed off by Thatcher and her unbridled capitalist legacy. And I’m not talking about ex-public school kids who go off travelling in south east Asia and come back with dreadlocks and elevated egalitarian ideals about challenging the system, before going off and getting a job in the City. I’m talking about people who chose an alternative way to live their life in pursuit of some kind of creative or personal fulfilment other than just wealth or influence. Earning enough money to make ends meet. And those who make a success of it I applaud. It cannot be easy.
My hostel here is run by a wonderful ramshackle bunch all of whom give me a huge dopey smile and wish me a lovely day every time I come or go. None of them are ever likely to be sitting in an office from 9 ’til 5. The wifi password is Rastafari. Yes, I did have to stifle a giggle when they told me – but that’s my British cynicism for you and I probably can’t blame Thatcher for that, although I would like to.