29 July 2008

Back From Bariloche

Bariloche: great views, plenty of sleep, good meals, a few nice trail runs through the trees, and even a little road trip. Not much snow. I was hopeful but have learned to lower expectations. Still, I would have been better off leaving the twenty kilos of ski gear at home.

Not only is the snowpack a tad thin but we also rolled into town smack in the middle of winter break. That means that not only were two spoiled gringos looking for snow but also a bazillion Brazilians and their once-a-year chance to play with something cold and refreshing (caipirinhas notwithstanding). But the missus and I haven't skied a full day together since the terremotito was born so we were willing to try to plow our way through the crowds in search of that hidden high-alpine shot that we could take laps on for the day. We tried. We still haven't skied a full day together.

The grass is never, ever greener on the other side of the fence. The bunny slope:

Mid-mountain madness and the ascent into the clouds:

It cleared out a bit at the top but the flat light and road hazards kept the action slow and cautious and trepid:

With only the top half of the resort open and, for some reason, only about half the available top chairs running it meant that all the ski schools, all the snowboarders, all the beginners--roughly equivilant, I figure, to the total population of Chile--jammed onto a select few runs. Wendy quit after the first run. I followed.

Back at the bottom we threw back a bottle of cheap white wine and some fried meat thingys and in vain I decided to try to hack out the rest of an afternoon. What started off as soft morning snow was blown into a thick sun-baked crust by afternoon. I took one and a half more runs and decided to call it quits for good. Then I spent the next hour and a half (just slightly longer than the actual time spent on snow) waiting for tram back down the mountain.

Probably a great place to ski when there is enough snow to ski and the Brazilians have retreated back to the beaches. We focused the rest of the trip on grilled meat, road trips, swimming, and reading which, in reality, are really the only ingredients necessary for a pleasant vacation.


The trip to the old hippie town of El Bolsón was especially nice and offered us an hour and a half of perfectly uncrowded (common) and perfectly pothole free (uncommon) highway driving through the Patagonian Andes. We toured the open handicrafts fair, inhaled secondhand pot smoke, were greeted by a frothing pero de calle, and wished we were twenty-one again so that we could pull a bender at the Green Fairy Absinthe Bar and internet cafe.

Then we sat down for probably our best meal of the trip at restaurant Jauja. Now, in the US, restaurants that double and triple themselves as ice cream shops and chocolate shops are typically the kind of restaurants that spell country with a 'k' and I'm always a bit suspicious. Jauja proved the exception. Rose hip (mosqueta) oils and jellies are common in Chile and Argentina but this is the first time we've had a sopa de mosqueta, or rose hip soup. And it was fantastic. As was my rabbit and Bodegas Weinert tempranillo and espresso and ice cream and chocolate. A cool collection of dried flowers hanging from the ceiling, too.

After a quick spin on the merry-go-round (two for one rides!) and a duck into the Dumbo store for supplies it was back on the road and back to staring at big lakes and big, rocky mountains.

The rest of the week pretty much followed the same pattern minus the road trip and with the addition of a giant plate of grilled meat from the famous parilla house El Boliche de Alberto. I like to live by the multi-functional creed that if you can't ski you might as well eat meat (picture to follow). That and the view from the balcony were the constant pleasures.

Visit the Radar Bros. website! Buy their music!

(If you can't see a small, blue square and triangle that resembles a play button, go here and follow directions. Installing this will allow you to read and listen to music at the same time--like a real live multitasker!)

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