Bariloche, Argentina Scenic Tour, Dec. 15, 2020

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Bariloche, Argentina Scenic Tour, Dec. 15, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Dec 20, 2020 6:00 pm

We flew from Buenos Aires to Bariloche Dec. 13 and you would not know it was summer when we landed, as it was less than 50F with strong winds. Six of us took a cab to El Mallin for lunch as we didn't want to deal with late Argentine dinner hour with the next day 6AM departure for the eclipse. Then we went for a walk around town. It was blowing even harder down at the lakefront.
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We got splashed getting pictures at that sign.

A procession from one of the local churches was passing through the Swiss-style arch here.
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Rolando St. is Bariloche's answer to San Francisco's Lombard St.
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Fortunately the weather improved each day and the bus tour day Dec. 15 was clear with temps in the 60's. Our first lakeside stop featured a hardy local swimmer (lower left) in Lake Nahuel Huapi.
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We passed by the mountain military training center named after Juan Peron.
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Next stop was the Campanario chairlift.
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Many of our best views were from the top of the 1,200 vertical lift. This bird stayed here a long time while many people took pictures of Lake Perito Moreno.
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I was surprised to see that largest snowfield but guide Xavier said it was exactly leeward of prevailing wind. A similar exposure is probably helpful at the Catedral ski area.

The western half of Lake Perito Moreno is at center, with the Llao Llao Hotel just to its right.
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The water at lower right is an arm of Lake Hahuel Huapi. The top rated Quiven Patagonia Kitchen is near the end of that arm and is where we had a multicourse tasting menu dinner the previous night after the eclipse. The dinner was about $20 per person thanks to the blue dollar exchange rate, 140-1 vs. 14-1 when I was at Las Lenas in 2015.

Liz enjoyed a couple of settings at the top of Campanario.
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Descending the lift:
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Farther down the road we get a closer view of the Llao Llao's setting.
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A helicopter is flying to the right of the hotel.

Admin would have liked Abhishek Jain from NYC, who brought his drone along for pictures.
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Abhi is an avid skier and had time in 2020 for his first eclipse trip due to ski season being cut short.

Even on nice days there's some wind in Patagonia.
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Our guide Xavier said his son windsurfs and that championships have been held on Lake Nahuel Huapi.

Liz is with Judy Flayderman, whom we met on the Damai II scuba/eclipse cruise in Indonesia in 2016.
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Judy was with us in 2017 at Jackson also. She lives in Ft. Lauderdale so we saw her at the Mars Rover launch in Florida this summer too.

The next stop was Bahia Lopez.
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Any takers for the couloir at right distance?

An Andean condor was flying above the cliff behind us.
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Driving away this fox was very cooperative for photos.
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The lupines were in bloom many places. They were brought in from Canada, not a surprise as we saw lots of them in Waterton National Park in June 2013.

The next stop was by a chapel near the Llao Llao.
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This was the only spot on the tour where we had a view of 10,000 foot Tronador volcano and its glaciers.
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About 1:30 we boarded a boat where we were chased by birds most of the time.
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Our first stop was at the Arrayanes forest.
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These rare trees are concentrated on the Beatriz peninsula projecting south into the lake from Angostura.

Then we spent about 45 minutes on Victoria Island. Liz is by a monkey puzzle tree here.
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In the 1920's several sequoia trees from California were planted here.
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That's our informative guide Xavier.

Patagonian goose with chicks:
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Sun reflecting off the lake about 6PM:
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Sunset was after 9PM. With the clear weather we drove half an hour out of town for stargazing. Here's a time lapse picture of our group.
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The Southern Cross is a top center with Alpha and Beta Centauri to the right. Exact south is at the intersection of the major axis of the cross and the bisector of the bright centauri stars, above the top of the picture.

Originally we had planned this trip independently. Mountain guide Jorge Kozulj arranged apartments and transport to the eclipse path for about 20 people. But we were lucky to get into Argentina at all with the special permits arranged by AstroTrails. Judy was the only other person of our group to come along with AstroTrails. Jorge and some of his friends camped near Route 40 the nights before and after the eclipse and were also successful. Originally Jorge planned to lead climbing clients on the Lanin volcano. But the clients couldn't get into Argentina and Lanin was socked in with cloud as it was too close to the bad weather around Pucon/Villarica in Chile.
So we met Jorge for breakfast on Dec. 16. Here he is with Liz on the plaza in Bariloche.
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The painted scarves are symbols of the mothers of the 30,000 "disappeared" during the 1976-1982 military dictatorship. The yellow symbols are for indigenous people.

On the bus ride to the airport we got our only full view of the Catedral ski area (right half of picture).
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We also got a more complete view of Tronador.
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Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Bariloche, Argentina Scenic Tour, Dec. 15, 2020

Postby sierra_cement » Mon Dec 21, 2020 9:33 pm

Nice report Tony. I have heard Bariloche is a very German/Swiss town based on spy thriller by Daniel Silva.
https://www.audible.com/pd/A-Death-in-V ... B002V57RIU

I have read that the economy in Argentina has been struggling for decades. How are the prices in Argentina? Can you have a luxury vacation at affordable prices?
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Re: Bariloche, Argentina Scenic Tour, Dec. 15, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Dec 22, 2020 11:13 pm

I have been in Argentina 4x.
In 2005 exchange rate was 3 Argentine pesos to 1USD
in 2011 it was 4-1
In 2015 the official rate was 9.15-1, but there was a blue dollar rate if you brought cash, 14-1
In 2020 the official rate is 85-1 and the blue dollar rate is 140-1 :shock:

This trip reset the bar for value gourmet dining (previously Cape Town in 2002).

Excellent Italian dinner at Basa in Buenos Aires for 4 with 2 bottles of wine: $100
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Lunch El Mallin in Bariloche for 6 with 2 bottles of wine: $70

6-course tasting menu at Quiven Patagonia Kitchen, top rated in Bariloche by Trip Advisor: $25pp.
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We decided to splurge on reputedly the best Pinto Noir in Argentina, more than the 3 dinners combined.
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Finale Buenos Aires dinner Cabana Las Lalis steakhouse. All 4 of us had filets that were probably at least 12 ounces, plus sides and appetizers and a bottle and a half of wine for about $40pp.
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We did not have the 1.5 kilo ribeye flamed in cognac the table.
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For carnivores, there is surely no better dining destination than Argentina.

I also brought home 6 bottles of wine from the Lo de Joaquin Alberdi wine shop that I had previously patronized in 2015. Leather is the other noted shopping value. Liz bought a jacket and purse in 2011 but only some Rosa del Inca jewelry this time.

Hotels and air travel will generally be quoted in USD, not to mention guided tours like we took. Anything you pay with a credit card is at the official rate. I paid cash (meaning exchanged blue dollars) for lift tickets at Las Lenas in 2015.

Abhishek Jain thought our tour was expensive at $3,000pp for a week. Specialty tour operators are not cheap, but among the astronomy/eclipse specialists AstroTrails is one of the more reasonably priced. They certainly earned their keep this time with the lengthy negotiations to get the special permits into Argentina.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 10916
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

Re: Bariloche, Argentina Scenic Tour, Dec. 15, 2020

Postby sierra_cement » Wed Dec 23, 2020 2:06 am

Nice Tony. That sounds amazing. Someday we will get there.
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Re: Bariloche, Argentina Scenic Tour, Dec. 15, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Dec 24, 2020 12:25 am

Food porn added to previous post from Liz' phone.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 10916
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
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Location: Glendale, California

Re: Bariloche, Argentina Scenic Tour, Dec. 15, 2020

Postby ChrisC » Sun Dec 27, 2020 11:07 pm

I thought Argentina lifted controls and the currency was allowed to float - so there are still blue dollars?

In Latin America, I found the remote International touristy areas (Patagonia, Chilean ski areas, Machu Picchu) or (Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, Cabo San Lucas, Yucatan) are more expensive since everything is priced in US dollars, so you receive no benefit from the exchange rate / strong dollar. Meanwhile, if you go to larger metro areas (Mexico City, Lima, Santiago, Rio, Buenos Areas) there are deals to be had on food/lodging/shopping.

Did Catedral look interesting? They seem to not have installed snowmaking on its lower pistes so skiing gets confined to the top 50% in a lot of years. You can just look at webcams.
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Re: Bariloche, Argentina Scenic Tour, Dec. 15, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Dec 28, 2020 3:43 pm

ChrisC wrote:I thought Argentina lifted controls and the currency was allowed to float - so there are still blue dollars?

That was after the the 2015 election. But there was another election a year ago, the Peronists returned to power, and currency controls and the blue dollar soon returned.

ChrisC wrote:In Latin America, I found the remote International touristy areas (Patagonia, Chilean ski areas, Machu Picchu) or (Manuel Antonio, Tamarindo, Cabo San Lucas, Yucatan) are more expensive since everything is priced in US dollars, so you receive no benefit from the exchange rate / strong dollar. Meanwhile, if you go to larger metro areas (Mexico City, Lima, Santiago, Rio, Buenos Areas) there are deals to be had on food/lodging/shopping.

I have never though Chile was conspicuously cheap, aside from Santiago hotel prices in 2007. The wine was a good value in 2007, but not so much by 2017. In 2011 we were mostly in the far south of both Chile and Argentina and pricing while expressed in local currency was to international tourist standards. But the Argentine peso was only 4-1 then with no blue dollars. We spent 4 days in Buenos Aires in 2011 and dining and shopping were good values but not the amazing bargains they are with blue dollars.

Once you have a blue dollar situation, you can exchange in Buenos Aires, then take the local currency to remote International touristy areas. In 2015 I had to pay my Las Lenas hotel in advance, but I bought lift tickets and all food with exchanged local currency.

Bariloche has a population of 120,000 and my understanding is that you can exchange blue dollars there. I would not make that assumption about remote places like El Calafate or Ushuaia.

ChrisC wrote:Did Catedral look interesting? They seem to not have installed snowmaking on its lower pistes so skiing gets confined to the top 50% in a lot of years. You can just look at webcams.

I never got a close up view of Catedral as secondary foothills block the view from town and even from the boat cruise on Lake Nahuel Huapi. So that view out the bus window on the way to the airport was the only clear view I got, but I believe that Catedral's terrain quality is very good.

Season snowfall per the ski area's marketing materials is 240 inches at the top, 120 inches mid-mountain and 60 inches at the base. Lift served elevation range is 3,378-6,888 feet at latitude 41. The town is at 2,930 feet and gets 24 inches of rain per year, 60% of it May-August. IMHO the disparity between upper and base snowfall is due to a lot of rain on the lower mountain.

Compare temperature ranges to Bend, OR:
Warmest month, Bariloche 71/45, Bend 82/47
Coldest month, Bariloche 43/30, Bend 41/24
Patagonian winters are likely similar to comparable altitudes/latitudes in the Pacific Northwest, but the summers are not nearly as warm or dry. We found this out the hard way 3 years ago, but we were probably lucky with the weather in the far south in 2011.

Catedral's primary exposure in northeast. I've critiqued that in the past, but it's probably a benefit being leeward of the strong prevailing winds of Patagonia. The exposure is surely a problem in September, but nearly all of the ski tourism is likely in July/August.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 10916
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California


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