From El Calafate, my Dad and I took a 25 hour bus ride (my record until now) to Esquel. At the beginning we wanted to hire a car but the price was absolutely ridiculous. In winter, the buses don’t use on the Ruta 40 even though it’s open. We had to go all the way down to Rio Gallegos, the capital of the province of Santa Cruz, then back up to the town of Perito Moreno, then to Esquel. It took ages but it wasn’t the end of the world, the buses are comfortable and I was able to sleep well.
For our first day in Esquel, the weather wasn’t great so we went hiking. We walked all the way up to the Cerro de la Cruz which as an elevation of 1000 m high. It’s not a difficult hike if you follow the road that goes around the mountain but it’s longer, so we decided to take some shortcuts through the rocky outcrops. Close to the highest point, we were walking in the snow and it was getting cold. The walk back down was fast as we took a few shortcuts as well. When we got back to town we went and had lunch as we were hungry.
Monday July 18th one of my dreams became reality: we went skiing in Patagonia in the resort named La Hoya. Even if conditions weren’t great we had a fun day. It’s a small resort that has about ten lifts. Unfortunately not all of them were open. Snow is in short supply so far this season.
For the first time of my life, I had to ski with rented equipment and I first thought it was going to be a nightmare because I’m used to having my own pro gear, e.g. I was given ski boots with a flex of 70 when I usually have 120. The skis were suppose to be competition skis but they weren’t. However, decent skiers can ski on any type of skis. It wasn’t the most comfortable day’s skiing, but I had fun and that’s what counts.
We took two chair-lifts to get to the top part of the slope which was open and we skied there for a while as conditions were quite good. Snow is of a different quality here than in Europe: colder and more powdery. On the top part of the ski field, there are no artificial snow machines: natural snow is the best! Around 12 o’clock we stopped for lunch at the Refugio deal Esquiador, a nice, rustic and welcoming place.
In the afternoon we enjoyed a few more runs and we met a ski teacher who works in a resort close to ours which was fun ! Around 2:30 pm we decided to stop and return the gear to the shop as the clouds came in visibility became rather poor. We took a taxi back to town where we bought our bus tickets for Bariloche the next day.
Before we left for Bariloche, we did one last special activity which made my dad really happy. We went on a tour with a steam train trough the fields of Patagonia. It was nice beginning of the day and it really felt as if we went back in time.
I really enjoyed our stay in this little town of Esquel that looks more like a village, there’s a nice atmosphere in the streets. To be honest I preferred it to Bariloche which is a big, charmless city of 140’000 inhabitants. In short, I won’t write an article on Bariloche as it was disappointing: it wasn’t like I thought I would be at all. The architecture is awful and I didn’t like the touristic direction it’s taken. It has become a tourist factory. For instance, my dad who spent a fair amount of time there 30 years ago didn’t recognise anything apart from the civic centre. Everything has changed in order to welcome the mass tourism, which is sad because I think the city has lost its soul even though I never visited before.