We have gotten a little behind on updating the blog with some of our personal weekend explorations, so thought we’d provide an update on the past two weekends. If you don’t want to read everything below, just know that it was a lot of time spent with Lemmy and the good ole outdoors.
Conguillio National Park
Two weekends ago, we were still pretty exhausted from Sarah’s family visiting as well as a full week at the foundation prepping for International Women’s Day. We knew the weekend would be focused on staying relatively close to home and trying to get some rest and relaxation. On our travel to-do list was Conguillio National Park, which is about two hours away from us in Temuco. Therefore, on Friday night we packed up our camping gear, went grocery shopping and reserved a camping site online within the park.
On Saturday, we got up pretty early and made the easy drive to the park. The weather was perfect. We got to the park a little after 9 a.m. and were the first people to arrive (you have to sign into a guest book to enter the park and the pages were blank). We drove in and were immediately stunned by the scenery and vastness of the park. It has a couple volcanoes in it and the main one had erupted about 10 years ago as a result has a large volcanic landscape. The drive from the entrance into the park was pretty long but the views were great. We weren’t able to “check-in” to our campsite until 3 p.m. that day, so we had planned to hike the Sierra Nevada trail, which online reviews touted as the best hike in the park.
We parked at the trailhead and saw another few hikers preparing to take on Sierra Nevada. The hike itself was supposed to take about 5 hours – 3 hours uphill to the top lookout point and then 2 hours back downhill. Total trek was somewhere around 10-12 miles roundtrip. We packed a lunch with us and made our way along the well-marked trail. There were a couple lookout points a quarter of the way as well as half-way up – both were nice, but I was eager to get to the top knowing the views had to be spectacular. The forest was packed with aracauria trees, which are native to the area. As you got higher up into the trail, the wind picked up and I had to take my hat off out of fear of losing it. There is a patch of the trail where you’re on the ridge of a mountain outside of the forest with non-stop breathtaking views – however, the wind was so strong that you wanted to continue on so that you could just maintain your balance. We finally got to the top spot and the view was fantastic – and well worth the effort. We enjoyed a brief lunch at the top (I must say, there is nothing as tasty as a nice homemade sandwich after a tough uphill hike), and then made out way back down. It took us about half the time to get back down – and all in all took us about 4 hours and 30 minutes.
We then drove to a lagoon that was known for it’s blue and green waters. It was really pretty but the sun was really harsh so we couldn’t see the colors as well as we wanted. We decided to come back the next day a little earlier and check it out. We then checked into our campsite and found that we picked a great location that was really remote from other campers. By this time, it was around 4 p.m. and we didn’t have any more plans for the rest of the day. We set up camp, took a nap in our hammock and then had a nice dinner which consisted of meats and cheese (make-your-own charcuterie board). There was conflicting reports about the ability to cook on open flames at the park, so we went conservative and packed all ready-to-eat items. We walked down to the water which was near our campsite, but ultimately just hung out, ate some food, took multiple naps, and waited for the stars to come out. We hadn’t seen a cloud all day and the night-sky was no different. It was hands-down the most impressive night sky that we had seen since we’ve been here.
We woke up on Sunday and leisurely had breakfast and packed up camp. We stopped back by Arcoiris Lagoon and found the waters to be really bright blue and green. So of course, we snapped some pictures and just looked in amazement. We then drove back to the entrance and did a shorter trail to the Truful Truful waterfalls before hopping back into Lemmy for the drive back to Temuco.
All in all – it was a short little trip – but one that will have a lasting impression on us. 10/10 – we will return.
San Carlos de Bariloche
As the TIP (Temporary Import Permit, or like a passport stamp for our car) for Lemmy was nearing expiration, we decided we needed to cross the border again and renew the paperwork. Argentina is the easiest choice, as the border is just 2 hours from where we are in Temuco. But we already crossed the border closer to Temuco, so we decided to cross a bit further down south and stay in San Carlos de Bariloche, about 7 hours from Temuco.
San Carlos de Bariloche (or Bariloche, for short), is a magical town situated by a large lake, surrounded by the Andes Mountains within the Patagonia region. We first heard about how wonderful it is from this podcast. We were hooked and had to experience it for ourselves. Nick did a TON of research and had bookmarked a lot of places, so we accomplished a lot in a weekend! Here’s the rundown:
El Centro (downtown Bariloche)
We stayed in a super simple but charming Airbnb just a 15-minute walk from downtown, so that was nice to be able to explore the actual town of San Carlos de Bariloche. There are a few shining stars of downtown:
Who knew Bariloche had so many breweries? We heard about it on the podcast we listened to, but I had no idea. As craft beer lovers, we were pretty pumped. Overall, we’ve had no trouble at all finding some delicious craft beer in Chile. And I have to say, it’s incredibly crisp and clean. Must be those fresh mountain hops and mountain water. We stopped at three downtown (of the many they had!); Bachmann, Manush, and Wesley, and tried half pints of a handful of beers. We joked about coming back to Bachmann for their St. Patrick’s Day celebration, since we missed the celebrations back in Chicago this year, haha.
Parillas (or Steakhouses) aka Steak Heaven.
Argentina is known for its red meat, and we didn’t really try any of that when we went camping in Villa Pehuenia. The first night, we put our name on the waitlist for this cute little place that felt like we were in someone’s home. While we were waiting for a table, we met a really nice couple from Charlotte who were on their honeymoon. (Sometimes it can be a nice surprise to have a genuine conversation in English, haha.) They were really nice and were spending their honeymoon around the Bariloche area then going flyfishing for a few days. We were both then seated after we finished the conversation. Nick got the ribeye and I got the entraña, or skirt steak. Both were incredibly delicious and full of flavor. Nick had picked this place after some research and had amazing reviews, but there were parillas on every corner!
Speaking of things on every corner, oh my goodness does this town know chocolate! As we walked along the sidewalk closer to downtown, we passed chocolate shop after chocolate shop. I looked longingly at each one, but Nick said, “Don’t worry, I know which ones we need to go to.” Not two minutes later, he led us to this crazy looking place called Mamuschka with giant Russian dolls on the sign. We walked in and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. SO. MANY. CHOCOLATES. And of every kind! Ones with nuts, mint chocolate, rose chocolate, raspberry chocolate, chocolate in the shape of giraffes, of cell phones, of cameras. It was wonderful. I saw they also had coffee, so I was ready to sit down and enjoy this wonderful place. I ordered a coffee and Nick picked out 7 or so chocolates for us to try. Then I bought a tin to go, because I loved the little Russian dolls. As we were leaving, Nick said, “Well there’s another one that I bookmarked just down the block.” We walked into a place that might as well have been a jewelry store. It was the fanciest chocolate shop I’ve seen and was called RapaNui. It was a chocolate shop, ice cream shop, coffee shop, and ice skating rink. Yeah. We tried some samples and ended up stopping by again on our way back to Chile to get some alfajores and a delightfully delicious coffee with melted chocolate in the bottom.
The hike to Refugio Frey
We’ve made a concerted effort to spend as much time as we can outdoors on hikes and such (as was one of my resolutions this year), and we zeroed in on a particular hike that we heard about on the podcast. It’s a hike of a little over 6 miles from the bottom of Cerro Cathedral to the top, where a refugio sits called Refugio Frey. There are refugios at the top of many of the mountains, and you can camp overnight there and some also serve tasty food.
We left our Airbnb at 8am to drive to the bottom of Cerro Cathedral. It was about 30-40 minutes from downtown. We parked our car and followed the signs along the trail. We passed through some forests and beautiful views, and the last hour was a pretty consistent vertical climb up to the top. It took us 3 hours exactly to reach the top (and we even saw our American friends from the parilla the night before!). I’ll be honest, I struggled that last hour and a half. There are some days where your body just says, “Nope!” but we pressed on. We reached the top and it was quite rewarding. An adorable little house sat among walls of jagged rock, with backpackers and hikers all around, enjoying mate or an early lunch, or just resting after reaching the top. The jaggedness of the rocks were really, really neat. The pictures don’t do it justice. Nick and I popped into the kitchen and asked about sandwiches. The woman in the kitchen was making some sort of dough from scratch, and I was pumped. She said she’d have it in 30 or so minutes, so Nick and I went back outside to snap some pictures. I ordered a coffee, which was the best tasting coffee after a trek like that. We walked around and met an adorable pupper with blue eyes.
We headed back into kitchen area and she was preparing our sandwiches. I figured it would be a cold, standard sandwich, but oh my goodness was I surprised. Homemade bread, of course, ham, and cheese, toasted into melty goodness. It was just what we needed to make our way back down.
After we finished up, we headed back down. We put a little pep in our step to make good timing down, as we wanted to try to make it to another lookout spot before they closed (and will detail in the next section). We made it down in just under three hours, so it was a nice six-hour day hike with very rewarding views!
The area of Bariloche has a road on the outskirts called the kilometers, or the Chico Circuit. It’s a road that takes you on a loop out of the city to some nearby towns with some gorgeous landscapes. Many people hike or cycle the circuit, but it’s very drivable in a day (or less). Here were some of our favorite stops along the way:
We stopped the first day for lunch at Patagonia brewery, which is located on a peninsula with an amazing view of the lake and mountains. We walked up and there were tons of hop plants near the entrance. You walk along the path and there’s an adorable beer garden outside with string lights, then you walk to the right to see a pretty ridiculous building with floor-to-ceiling windows. It was like a giant cabin; we were smitten. They had a little fire going and lots of brews on tap to try. This isn’t necessarily a local brewery, since it is owned by InBev (and we even saw Goose Island beer labels in the restrooms), but that InBev money sure made an incredible facility. We spent a good amount of time there and enjoyed a respite from the drizzle that had come that afternoon.
Cerro Campinario is a bigger hill on the circuit that you can take a chairlift to the top and have a 360-degree view of the area. On the day of our Refugio Frey hike, it was a gorgeous, clear day, so we decided to huff it back in time to catch the last chair lift up to the top. We made it with plenty of time to spare, and the views were fantastic. We could even see Cerro Frey, where we had just hiked that day. We enjoyed a couple jugos naturales and headed back down the lift.
Quiven Patagonian Kitchen
Nick had found this small place that had a tasting menu for about $35 USD. We were able to get a reservation for Saturday night and thought it was a good reward for our hike. Once we arrived to the restaurant, they informed us that they didn’t have any power. There were just two tables seated in the restaurant (including us), so we were curious how this was going to shake out (and how they were going to prepare dinner!). So as the sun set, the dining room became darker and darker. They brought out candles for our table so we could see our food after sunset. The chef was even preparing everything by lamplight – pretty impressive! I tried to take photos to remember everything (as it was a bit hard to see and the staff didn’t speak much English). I could pick up the main ingredients of the dish, which was good. Nick later found a menu online that we were able to reference. We found out we ate sheep tongue, so that’s a first! My favorite dish was the dessert, which was a cheesecake that tasted like dreamsicle, shaped like an orange (and it looked real!) on a bed of chocolate crumbs. Since the power was out still by the end of dinner, they couldn’t take credit cards, so we had a bit of a hiccup there. But we had to laugh and figure out a solution, so we left my driver’s license there as collateral and returned the next day to pay the bill. The chef was super nice and laughed it all off too. Little did we know, as we were driving back to Bariloche, the whole Kilometers region had lost power!
Hotel Llao Llao
There is a super ritzy hotel on the peninsula called Hotel Llao Llao, and it offers a view from a different angle. We decided to head there Sunday morning and check it out.
We were driving up towards it when we passed a driving range, and Nick was like, “What?! They have golf?!” Little did we know, they have a very nice golf course. Nick was having serious FOMO and we ended up stopping by the clubhouse on our way out to inquire about rates for a future visit. But for this weekend, we enjoyed a coffee and hot chocolate in the lobby bar and took in wonderful views of the bay and mountains. It was a picturesque hotel, I could have wandered around for hours!
San Carlos de Bariloche proved to be just as wonderful as we had heard. It’s definitely a destination worth exploring and a great weekend across the border! Now, Lemmy’s papers are all set for another three months.