In the north of Argentina I had encountered mostly French tourists. Here, in Bariloche, it was different. Most people I met here were Israelis. Remember that not all Israelis are Jewish, but the ones I spent most time with were. The first one was Eduardo. For most of the year he lives in Buenos Aires, but for the summer months he is renting a cabin at the lakeside, where he also takes in couchsurfers. He’s learning Hebrew to rediscover his Jewish roots, so it was perfect that he had enough space for another couchsurfer, Dan.
Dan is Jewish and comes from Israel. He is traveling South America now, after finishing his military service back in Israel. We spent the next day on bikes, discovering “Circuito Chico”, a loop road at the end of town. The road is very scenic, going through thick forests, passing by beautiful lakes and some hills with excellent views over the landscape.
Compared to the rest of my trip it was quite cold here, so I was happy for all the warm clothing I got in my Christmas package from home (thanks again!). Luckily the forests protected us from most of the heavy winds, which were blowing that day. Not so protected is the luxury hotel “Llao Llao”, which towers on top of a hill amidst the surrounding lakes like a fortress. Next to it stands a picturesque old wooden church, but unfortunately it was closed when we passed by.
In the evening we decided to organize a two day trip to Mt. Tronador for the next day. Dan and his two Jewish Israeli friends, who were staying at a hostel, had planned to do it anyways and I was able to join them. We had a lot of hustle getting a tent and the bus tickets, as well as shopping for food and packing our bags. In the end we managed to get everything, except for enough sleep, and were ready for our next adventure.
The over-priced bus took us to “Pampa Linda”, the starting point for various hikes in the valleys around Mt. Tronador. The fact that we arrived here around midday didn’t keep us from adding another short hike (>300 m of altitude and around 2.5 km one way) to a viewpoint over the valley, because we had the rest of the day to reach the “Otto Meilinger Refugio”, where we were allowed to set up our camp.
I consider myself quite fit and experienced in hiking in the mountains, but Dan, Dor and Nadav showed me a new level. There might be other reasons, but I think it has mostly to do with their age (22) and the fact that they just finished their three years service in the Israelian military. This also had an effect on our diet during those two days, which consisted mostly of canned tuna and lentils as well as cookies. It was not my usual trail food, but it worked quite well and was weight effective.
Even if I was slower than the others, we managed to pitch our tent and cook our dinner before the sunset. Afterwards it cooled down pretty quickly, as the hut is located right at the foot of the massive glacier that covers Mt. Tronador. In the end it was crowded, but probably warmer in our 3-person-tent, which had been rented to us as a 4-person-tent.
The way back down was easier and allowed us for a little detour to the bottom of the waterfalls, which we had seen from the top the day before. In the afternoon the bus picked us up again in “Pampa Linda” and brought us back to Bariloche. And we were back in town just in time to go to Beit Chabat, a place where Jewish people get together for different occasions. Every Friday the Beit Chabats around the world offer the possibility for traveling Jews, or those without a family in the area, to celebrate the beginning of the Sabbath. I was curious how it would be, so I came along. First, the men pray and sing together, then they join the women at the tables for a story of one of the rabbis and in the end everyone shares a big dinner. As everything was in Hebrew, I didn’t understand most of it, but it was still a nice experience! (Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures, because it wasn’t allowed and didn’t feel appropriate.)
The next day, Dan and I went back to Eduardo’s place to pick up the rest of our luggage, which we had deposited there for our trip (thanks for that again!). As the weather was quite nice, we decided to do the short hike up to “Cerro Campanario”, which offers an even better view over the area than the “Circuito Chico”. And in the evening we met up with Dor and Nadav at “El Boliche del Alberto” to celebrate the end of a great week with one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.