Sunday, 18 March 2012

Feeling the feelings in Switzerland, I mean, Patagonia....

Want to hate me even more that you might already? I'm serious, are you ready for this?

I was disappointed with Patagonia.

I know, I want to hit myself too.

We took a 20-hour overnight bus from Buenos Aires to Bariloche, in northern Patagonia, and even though I was a little sad to leave the capital city, I was excited to go to the famed region. After all, Patagonia  is mythic. Mysterious. The end of the earth. I mean, half of my travel clothes are named for the place. If that doesn't warrant a little excitement, I don't know what does.

We arrived in Bariloche and I admit, it was beautiful. Green mountains dropping abruptly into deep blue, crystal clear mountain lakes that surround the town. Tiny, tree-covered islands jut out from the water and pebble-covered beaches line the lakefront. To give you an idea of the area's geographical set-up, here's what Google Maps has to say on the matter:

See that snow-capped mountain range? Those massive, Alpine lakes? The forest-covered landscape? It looks like New Zealand or Canada or the Northwest US.

Or Switzerland.

I have to admit, there was a part of me that said, in a tiny, embarrassed voice, "We came all this way just to be in a place that looks like home?"

As if to mock me, the architecture in Bariloche (which was, I later discovered, founded by the Swiss) was primarily log cabins and wooden chalets. The streets were lined with restaurants selling chocolate and fondue, and hostels with names like Chalet Suisse, Alpine Hostel and Hotel Chamonix. It's like they felt my pained disappointment and just wanted to twist the knife a little deeper.

That's the trouble sometimes with travel. You know you are lucky to be doing this. You know you should be grateful for every second. You know that you are a sh-t head if you complain or you aren't wowed at every turn. But you can't help it: sometimes you are simply disappointed.

Luckily, my bad attitude changed after about twenty four hours. We went on a lovely hike along the lake and up one of the smaller mountains, giving us incredible views over the area. It really was gorgeous and I realized that even if it looked like Switzerland, Switzerland is beautiful and it's not a bad thing to have a little taste of home during the trip.
Our last evening in Bariloche, we took a few beers and snacks down to the beach at sunset and had a picnic. We had been on another hike that day and took the opportunity to cool ourselves off with a quick swim in the clean, frigid water. The lake was as clear as a pool and between the stunning mountain views and the soft light, it was just about the most romantic thing ever.
But of course, instead of spending the last moments of the dying daylight gazing lovingly into each other's eyes, Vincent and I spent the evening drinking our beer while making fun of the people around us, who were all engaging in activities of varying degrees of ridiculousness.

You see, Bariloche is known as a bit of a hippy town. Everywhere are either over-the-hill flower children who came as backpackers and never left, or youngish bohemians with dreadlocks, flowing pants and a baby on their hip, selling handmade jewelry on the sidewalk and not thinking about their retirement plans. The area attracts the kind of people who eat only organic soy bran and interest themselves in things like obscure Far-East religious sects and interpretive dance.

That particular evening, on the beach near us were several people watching the sunset and feeling their feelings so profoundly that for them, the rest of the world ceased to exist outside of that one miraculous moment. Or something like that.

There was a lone biker, covering his face in meditation, which caused him to completely miss the spectacular view he came to the beach for; a middle-aged, barefoot couple doing Tai Chi; and a solitary young woman in a prairie dress of all things, gazing out into the distance as if she was posing (which in fact she was, as we couldn't resist the opportunity to take a picture of these yahoos.)
So, as if I wasn't enough of an a-hole for being disappointed with Bariloche, here I am making fun of people who are just trying to get in touch with their inner light or whatever.

Feel free to slap me the next time you see me.


  1. Oh, yes. You are one-of-a-kind, Elissa! I love it. And somewhere along that beach was someone taking pictures of you and Vincent while simultaneously making fun of you for making fun of the people you were taking pictures of!

    1. Hahaha! I can only hope so, Kate- that would at least make me feel better!

  2. ha nice post- did you hit calafate?

    i remember one time in portugal we hit a place similar to that beach you describe that we nick named pot-head hill... hippie travelers just seem to help set the scene sometimes :)

  3. I love those moments where we have so much fun having fun of people and in the same time feel awful to have fun of people. I guess that reason why they were trying to the inner light to avoid to love to have fun of other people because they know this is bad...
    Elissa, Vince this is time for you to look for your inner light ;-)