Its confusing, a little, as Patagonia is a region that covers two countries (Argentina and Chile), and includes series of islands, the southern end of the Andes mountain range, and the high steppe they call Pampas.
There’s not many people, and I’ll tell you why tomorrow.
There’s not many animals, because well, volcanoes.
But you know what there is a lot of? Volcanoes. Mountains. Lakes. Eye-scrambling beauty in every direction. The kind of view that makes you forget who you are, why you came, but man, you are so certain this is precisely where you ought to be.
Bariloche (pronounced Barry-low-chay), is an easy gateway to the drug of Patagonia. It’s cute, super-friendly, and you can speak Spanish, German, or English here, and either way, someone stoned to the gills is going to answer. Probably in the language you just addressed them in. The place looks like the Von Trapps from the Sound of Music had a very nice life here, after that whole business with the Nazis in the cemetery. Funny, see, because this was the home of a few high-ranking Nazis–yes, actual, for real, Hitler-saluting, goose-stepping brown shirts–more on the Hitler-away-from-Hitler aspect tomorrow.
We’ll talk about some nasty history later. Today, let me tell you how beautiful it is.
In the center of town, there is a gothic stone church, left purposefully unfinished inside, as it was already so beautiful, finishing it and covering all the rebar would just make it blend into the long stretches of European gothic churches.
Downtown is only a few blocks of tourist shops, a large square that doubles as a craft market, and a statue of a dude on a horse who is not well appreciated (more on that tomorrow).
Naturally, we decided on fondue. Because of all the absurd things one can do on an outlandish trip like this one, fondue seemed like a great idea.
We had a large party of eight or so, and we went to La Marmite a mite bit early. So early, in fact, that the waiter seemed downright angry at us that we wanted to get wine first, and order after the clock ticked to eight pm. But that was the least confusing thing that happened all night. Multiple parties of indecision plagued us, and the waiter spoke some English, but not a great deal. I can understand some Spanish, but not at all with the Argentinian accent.
I attempted to order the bottle of white wine, only to have Mary Joy ask, “But is it too oaky?” That was definitely something I did not know how to convey in our weird, gestured Spanglish.
All said and done, I had the handmade gnocchi in cream sauce, Mary Joy had the trout, Jan and Erich were the only ones brave enough to try the fondue.
After dinner, everyone else wanted to just taxi back to our pretty, tidy Swiss chalet looking hotel. But me and Mary Joy? We were in clean, fresh air, a bottle wine down, and ready for whatever bits of trouble we could drag into the light.
Fortunately, we couldn’t get up to much, so we settled for ice cream at the chocolate shop Rapa Nui (yep). We sat on the bench outside, traded stories, and let our hair down a little, watching people and dogs cruise past us.
We taxied home, too, with a driver who wished us Happy International Woman’s Day (he was right, it was) in Spanish.
It was a good evening, we felt close to each other, and good about our trip and food and our place in the Universe.