Patagonia Part 1: Bariloche

After getting married in a raucous mountain affair in July 2023, Marty and I planned a five week Patagonian adventure for our honeymoon.

How’d we pick Patagonia?

We didn’t have any time to plan a honeymoon while planning the wedding (anyone who has done this, wow just wow. you’re amazing), so once we were duly wed, we turned our attention to the honeymoon. Marty had the unique idea of listing all major countries and eliminating ones we didn’t want to go to. Turns out, there’s a lot of countries. We eventually narrowed it down to a couple criteria:

  1. We wanted to be in the wild in the mountains
  2. We wanted something rugged that we couldn’t do with kids
  3. …But not too rugged because we also wanted to vibe

Then, based on the time of year we could go (December/January) we settled upon Patagonia! We called up Mel and Alan who had travelled through there extensively, and my friend Natalie who has climbed there, and got all the beta. I wanted to take 3 months off, Marty wanted to take 2 weeks, so we met in the middle on a 5 week journey. Marty was between jobs, and my work has “unlimited” vacation days which I definitely got to make use of. So with our destination set, we got to planning.

Our wedding day!


Here’s the big picture of what we did:

WhereHow LongHighlights
Buenos Aires2 days, 1 nightAte amazing pizza
Bariloche12 daysClimbed at Refugio Frey and went on a fishing road tip
El Chalten9 daysMini backpacking trip, climbed in town, day hiked
Perito Moreno Glaciar2 daysWalked on a glaciar
Torres Del Paine National Park11 daysBackpacked the O, ate 4000 calories/day in town
Punta Arenas2 daysPenguin island
The three big destinations were Bariloche, El Chalten, and Torres del Paine
Patagonia travels: red is flights, blue is buses

Patagonia spans both Argentina and Chile, and we had a phenomenal time in both countries. We loved the passionate and welcoming culture of Argentina, though life was a bit more chaotic. Luckily my alignment is chaotic neutral, so I loved it. Chile we didn’t see as much of, but we romped through Torres del Paine National Park and greatly enjoyed the mountains and the food. Unsolicited advice if you’re thinking of going – the real draw of Patagonia is the incredible nature. Don’t worry too much about spending time in the little cities themselves, you’re really there for the hiking, the backpacking, the climbing, and the sitting on top of mountains watching the sunset with a cerveza. It really helps to speak Spanish, especially in Argentina. A warning though, Argentinian Spanish sounds like Italian, and they speak very fast. I still got that AP spanish vocab, and Marty can mumble French, so we got around just fine :).

Buenos Aires: A quick cheesy stop

We arrived in Buenos Aires bleary eyed and half asleep, with sunlight pouring in through the the airplane windows as we got our lil sugary yogurt breakfast. After getting picked up by our host at the airport and taking a much needed nap, our stomachs started growling. On the flight we had watched a Netflix special about Argentinian food, so the only thing on our todo list in Buenos Aires was to visit las chicas de la tres, who serve up cheesy pizzas and Argentinian comfort food. We caught a very cheap uber ($6 for a 45 minute ride!) to an seemingly abandoned warehouse/wholesale food market. We wandered around for a while before finally finding the chicas in warehouse 3. We were a bit unsure of ourselves, but the very warm chicas welcomed us in, sat us down at the counter, and proceeded to feed us the richest, tastiest food. We stuff our faces with fugazette, papas con queso, spinach tart, pizza muzurella, and more while chatting in Spanglish with the owners about food, language, soccer, and all other manner of life. The chicas were so kind, so passionate, and made us feel like family. We were starstruck! We were basically rolled back to our bnb, where we laid by the pool before turning in early. We were in general disbelief to be on our honeymoon!

Also, because we brought mostly climbing and camping gear, you’re looking at shirt 1 of 2 that I brought for the 5 week trip…

Bariloche: Paradise in Refugio Frey

After only 4 hours of sleep and a wildly crowded airport at 3am, we landed in Bariloche! Bariloche is located in the lakes district of Patagonia, and has been described as “Lake Tahoe of Argentina, but bigger”. As soon as we landed at 7am I took us on a hike up to a rotating cafe. We were exhausted and definitely took a nap on the big deck, but then woke up and had little sandwiches as our cafe slowly rotated around, astounding us 360 views of the incredible lakes all around us. That night our dear friends Dan and Shannon arrived. They were on a 6 month extended honeymoon, and we were honored that their trip had started with our wedding in June lake, and was ending in Patagonia with us! Our plan was to hike into Refugio Frey and stay there for 4 days of climbing, chilling, and vibing.

We hiked in the next morning, stopping to scarf down empanadas and share a matcha with some friendly park rangers. We arrived along with a big ole storm. We hunkered down in the warm, cozy refugio and shared some strange pizzas, wine, and played chess amongst ourselves and some friendly fellow climbers. We had a pretty rough night of sleep that night, the bunk room was the attic of the refugio and had long beds where everyone slept together. The big storm had destroyed several people’s tents, and the refugio workers kindly let them crash, raising the number of people in the bunk room from the max of 30 to 45 or so. That coupled with not being able to open the windows meant it was hot and loud. I panicked and thought we would have to run down back to town to get our tent for the next few nights, but luckily, no other night was nearly as crowded, and they were much cooler and quieter as well.

The refugio in the storm

The next day after maybe 3 hours of sleep, Dan and I climbed some steep, cold, perfect granite towers. All the routes around the refugio were 1-5 pitches and had a wild alpine feeling despite being only 30-45 minutes away from the Refugio. Marty and Shannon climbed too, and also just came along for approaches. One of the highlights was seeing the huge Andean condors circling us as we climbed, and as we were hiking down, we saw two of them sitting on the rocks maybe 20m away from us! They were huge and ancient looking, and they were definitely checking us out to see if we were edible.

Gotta take some cute couple’s shots – It’s our honeymoon after all!
Marty took this amazing video of me topping out on a climb to three condors circling above

At the end of the day we discovered a perfect little wooden platform overlooking the lake, and sat there watching the sunset and split a bottle of wine. Laughing, watercolor painting, and catching up – we all felt so full of joy. Our new friends Chris and Annabelle were walking by, and they joined in as well, and we had ourselves a little party! I didn’t want the moment to end – good friends, wine, warmth, and beautiful mountains.

We had bought full board with the refugio, so every day we got cereal for breakfast, a packed lunch, and a home cooked meal. Some nights the dinner was just pasta with pesto, but we got really lucky and got the famous lentil stew the second night. All of the food, wine, and beer had to be hauled in on people’s backs, and it was so impressive what they were able to whip up 5 miles into the backcountry.

The next day the four of us climbed together (dos de dos was our self given nickname), then Marty and I ran up Aguja Frey. As we were topping out, it started pouring rain. We laughed wildly in the pelting cold rain and wind, and I felt so alive and sparkling with life. After warming up a bit, and letting the clouds part, Dan and I got out there again! The climbing was so fun, and felt like a mix of Tahquitz and Yosemite granite. That night we had a delicious meal of mushroom cream pasta, calabazo soup, and mousse. We also had a good long chat with some young Argentinians at our table about the inflation issues in Argentina, and came away with a new appreciation of our privilege to live in the US. It was a really engaging cultural exchange.

The third day opened with perfect blue skies, and Dan and I knew it was our chance to climb the big route – Frey Principal. Marty came along to vibe, and as we approached we got to see stunning views of the backside of the towers. The Andes stretched all around us with their black and white snow covered tops. The route was stupendous, with a mix of splitter cracks and ridge traversing. At the top we met Mélissa Le Nevé and her partner and we chatted while we set up our rappels. Dan described the day as having “splitter condies”.

On our way back, Dan and I got on one more bonus pitch, then Dan went to hang with Shannon, who slept in to go on a nice jog. Marty and I meanwhile took a dip in the lake, which felt sooo nice but quite chilly! Back at the refugio we splurged and got the nice bottle of wine ($12 instead of $8) and lounged on our favorite platform in the sunshine. We met some traveling Canadians, and were having so much fun. Once again, I didn’t want the beautiful moment to end! But dinner was being served, and we had a rolicking good time with Chris, Annabelle, our Canadian friends, and Melissa and her partner. We talked about bee keeping, plants, paragliding, and (of course) climbing. It was a perfect day with incredible friends new and old.

an impromptu Argentinian dinner party

On our final day in Frey, it was sunny but windy and cold. Marty and I climbed a route with an irresistible name – Ñaca Ñaca Crunch Crunch. Dan and Shannon opted out due to the high winds, so they lounged by the lake before heading down. Marty and I eventually topped out, took in the views, then came back to the Refugio. I wasn’t ready to go, so we did one more lap around the lake and visited the magic fairy pond, which was an elevated spring right by the lake. But alas, our time had come, and we hiked out with hearts full.

Marty and I hopped from rock to rock across the criss crossing streams

We met up with DanShan in town, and found two things: 1. Frenet and Coke, a drink recommended by our Argentinian friends, 2: Dinner packed with as many vegetables as possible. We feasted and reflected on what a magical place Frey was. The remoteness of the climbing coupled with the warmth of the refugio were unlike anything I’ve experienced. Argentinians know what’s up!

    We ended up climbing the following routes, and I’d highly recommend all of them!

    • Aguja M2: Del Diedro (5.9, 1p), Socotroco (10c, 1p)
    • La vieja: Del Frente (5.9, 2p)
    • Aguja Frey: Sifuentes Weber (5.9 4p), Diedro de Jim (5.8, 2p), Lost Fingers (10c, 1p)
    • Torre Principal: Ruta Normal (10a, 5p)
    • El Abuelo: Ñaca Ñaca Crunch Crunch (5.9, 4p)

    Bariloche: Harry Potter and the Ruta de 7 Lagos

    The next morning DanShan headed south for the W trek in Torres del Paine. Suddenly, it was just Marty and I! We had neglected to book the second half of our trip (Marty calls it “leaving room to improvise”) so we holed up in our hotel and booked everything for the next 3 weeks. I would not recommend this – things were more expensive and many hostels were booked out. It’s also tough to compare stuff on a little cell phone screen. The highlight of the suffer day was emerging to find lunch. There was a vegetarian restaurant that Mel and Alan had been to 5 years ago, and we found the same place right next to our hotel. And – the owners were Taiwanese! They spoke Mandarin and Spanish, and I ordered in a mix of both languages. I have never before substituted Spanish words for Chinese words that I didn’t know. They told me there was a tiny Chinese community in Bariloche, and that naturally they all knew each other.

    After that we walked around town, catching sunset at a really cool bar over looking the lake. Bariloche was a bumping summer destination. The town has the feel of a little Swiss village, and was replete with nice restaurants, breweries, chocolate shops, and ice cream. We ran into very few foreign tourists, it was mostly Argentinians.

    The next day we rode bikes on the Circuito Chico – a 23km loop around some beautiful lakes northwest of town proper. We jumped in the icy cold lakes, ate incredible vegetarian food, and took a nap on the lake beach. We grabbed a pizza dinner that night with our Frey friends Chris and Annabelle who are really rad folk. We ended up crashing their cragging the next day, and we had a blast climbing then swimming in an ice cold lake.

    One thing that we kept having to do in Bariloche was to cambio, aka exchange money. In Argentina there’s two exchange rates – the government set official rate, and the unofficial “dollar blue” rate. In order to get the much better dollar blue rate, you had to walk the streets of Bariloche until you found a sketchy looking dude whispering “cambio cambio” on a street corner. You negotiate a price with them on the street, then they take you to a secondary location. We were shocked to realize that most of the little souvenir shops that sold terrible t-shirts and printed mugs were actually fronts for money exchangers! They close the door (which was sometimes barred) behind you, pull out the safe, and you can then exchange crisp US hundred dollar bills for Argentinian pesos. Because of hyper inflation, the largest denomination you could get was the $1000 peso bill, which roughly came out to $1 USD. So you would walk around town with a fat fanny pack stuffed with $1000 dollar bills. We learned from locals we met at Frey that everyone in Argentina pays with credit cards if they can – inflation rises so quickly that their debt is reduced by the end of the month. On top of that, everyone converts their savings into USD as soon as possible. It was a pretty wild and challenging situation for Argentinians. We ended up cambio-ing every couple of days to pay for things in cash.

    After exploring the town and getting all our cambio’s sorted, Marty and I picked up our rental car (that we booked during our suffer day) to go on a little road trip along the Ruta de siete lagos! This was a well known route that can be driven in a day or two depending on how fast you go. Armed with a fishing rod, tent, Harry Potter and the Goblet of fire on audio book, and zero plans, we set off!

    Our first day we drove into a beautiful windy canyon where the water was aquamarine blue. Marty fished while I lounged and read a book. Marty caught a beautiful rainbow trout, but the fishing was tough because the wind was so strong.

    We drove through some stunning vistas that took our breath away, and ended up camping at the side of a beautiful lake. As soon as we pulled in Marty ran off to fish a little stream by the lake, but they weren’t biting. We shared a campground meal of tortellini and fresh Mendoza wine, and passed out listening to Harry Potter in our little tent. The next morning, inspired by some rises I saw in the lake we were camped by, I ran out, cast a few lines, and reeled in a fish! Marty was astonished, then quickly grabbed the rod and started casting. No luck for him, and you know I teased him about that mercilessly.

    We drove up all the way to San Martin de los Andes, and tried to find a creek, but sadly it was dried up. Marty only had 3 days left on his library loan of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so every minute we were in the car, we were also furiously listening to the audio book. This was Marty’s first time reading (listening) to Harry Potter, and I, a former HP addict, was more than happy to read the book for the 11th time. We would even fall asleep at night listening to the audiobook. So the driving was quite enjoyable, though we were both distracted at times, especially once shiz really started to go down in the fourth book (if you know you know).

    After our failed river attempt, we turned around and started heading back down south to Bariloche. We stopped at a beautiful waterfall and jumped in, then camped that night again at a beautiful, secluded green lake.

    The next day we went for a day hike along a peninsula. There were “evacuation routes” that actually led to secluded little beaches. We jumped into the water at each one, took little naps, and admired the lakes and scenery. After filling up on the last of our lentils from the camping trip and some ice cream, we returned to town to return our car.

    A note on food in Argentina – we were warned that it would be very challenging to be vegetarian in Argentina. While some of the best food is definitely beef, we found that it was possible to be vegetarian there. Most places we went had a vegetarian option, even if it was usually carbs and cheese, and almost all served fish. We are pescatarian these days, and ate some incredible trout in Bariloche. The grocery stores in Argentina are interesting as well – different stores have different things, and the selection differs day by day. Our friends Chris and Annabelle gave us a lot of grocery store beta in addition to climbing beta, as they had been traveling in Argentina for a bit. We often found ourselves at little grocers that would carry fresh eggs and some vegetables. It was impossible to find backpacker meals, so we got dried tortellini, dehydrated spinach, and sun dried tomatoes as our camping meals. And forget about finding hippy dippy foods like tofu and hummus. Ok last complaint, hard cheese were not great either, soft cheeses like mozzarella were plentiful, but we had some mysterious “cheddars” that I would not go back for. All that being said, actual Argentinian food was quite tasty – the wine and empanadas were *chef’s kiss*.

    By the time we left Bariloche, we felt like we had lived two lifetimes already, and we were still only 1/3 of the way through our honeymoon! Next up, El Chalten!

    So long Bariloche, and thanks for all the fish!

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Discover more from Julie's Excellent Website

    Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

    Continue reading