The landscape surrounding Bariloche is absolutely stunning. The lake shimmers, surrounded by jagged mountain peaks, and bright yellow bushes add a splash of vibrant colour to the scene.
The Chico Circuit Bariloche is a 25km route that passes by numerous panoramic view points, lakeside beaches and impressive hotels.
While it’s possible to take the route #11 bus the whole way round in the summer, it’s so much more rewarding to travel independently so you can stop off along the way and really take it all in.
I saw one couple parked up by a lagoon drinking red wine at 2pm, but generally what I mean by ‘independently’ is something a little more active. Most people choose to rent a bike and cycle – and that’s exactly what I did.
Having put myself in the vulnerable position of paint balling with 7 ex-military Israelis the day before…and survived…I figured I could just about keep up with the same guys on a bicycle.
We took the route #20 bus from town to around Km19 on the Avenida Bustillo and searched the main road for the bike rental place. Cordillera Bike Rental had come recommended. It’s one of the cheaper places to pick up a bike, at $95ARS, and the guys had managed to wangle it down to $85ARS per person.
The guy in the office made sure we had the right sized helmets and bikes, and talked us through the worthwhile stop off points en route. We set off a little later than planned, at 1:10.
Our first mirador was from someone’s private property. The boys in front had turned off the main road into some woodland and the rest of us followed without questioning it. It soon became apparent we were in a very rich person’s back yard. I felt awkward trespassing, so I sat at the side of the path with my bike, while the rest wandered all over the grass taking photos.
Sure enough, the family pulled up in their classy 4-wheel drive only moments later and started yelling at us in Spanish, asking why we’d ignored the ‘Private Property’ sign and demanding that we delete all our photos!
So, for the record, it’s probably not worth straying from the recommended route, although, in our defence, there was no sign.
Only 30 minutes later, we stopped off at a roadside cafe, only to realise we’d lost one of the boys. None of his friends seemed concerned and they went about ordering hamburgers, destroying any chance of catching him up as he waited for us further along the road.
As we waited for the smallest burger imaginable to arrive at our table, we met the most amazing, and enormous, fluffy dog.
There are a few beaches, hotels and lakes you can detour to along the way. Hotel Llao Llao brings new meaning to the word ‘luxury’. Surrounded by water, snowy peaks and an 18-hole golf course, you can imagine it filling up with Argentina’s richest residents in the ski season.
There’s a pretty lagoon only 10 minutes’ walk from the main road, where you can leave your bikes locked to a tree. We managed to lose a second guy there, who was cycling ahead and had missed the turning. One of the guys jumped in then climbed straight back out.
As he stood blue-lipped and shivering, asking if anyone wanted to ‘give him a hug’, the rest of us decided against taking a dip.
As you cycle around the lake, there are a lot of hills. The downhill rides are fast and exhilarating, while the uphill climbs are almost unbearable. Even the toughest guys in our group were screaming out in agony as their thigh muscles threatened to seize up.
A couple of the guys refused to walk with their bikes at any point, but most of us resigned ourselves to the fact that this was probably par for the course for most people.
The highlight of the trip was stopping off in a local brewery. Our legs were close to giving up and we all felt we deserved a drink. Somehow, on the way in, another guy missed the turning – and then there were four!
We tasted a light beer and a red one, either of which would have satisfied our appetites. With a full glass in hand, we relaxed into our chairs and admired the lake view.
One of the guys we’d lost earlier arrived, looking very pleased with himself. It turned out, as he’d stopped in a tiny village to find coffee, he’d been invited into someone’s house for a meat feast and free-flowing Heineken.
When we returned the bikes, 30 minutes late, the owner didn’t bat an eyelid. He even showed us some stretches to help ease the muscle ache, and handed us each a free chocolate.
The only disappointment of the day was finding out that the hostel jacuzzi had closed by the time we’d got back.