August 18th, 2004


2 Tourist towns

The last two towns I visited in Argentinia both depend on tourism. Yet one sees a huge difference. La Calafate didn`t exist until a few decades ago. It still is very small. The closest town to the glaciar Perito Moreno, it almost is a `one purpose town`. Main street, a few side streets, souvenirshops and restaurants and a bit further away from the main street the people who live and work there. Walk three blocks from the center, you`re guaranteed to be walking on an unpaved road. The hostel I stayed in was even situated in a part that must be the most recent addition to town. The shortest road to get there was over a little bridge, around some fence and suddenly there is a new street again. A bit further than that there are houses that haven`t even got a road, just some muddy field in front of them.

The nearest town is Rio Gallego, provincial capital and over 300km away. 4000 according to Lonely Planet, 8 according to the hostel owners, 12 already according to a taxista who considered himself a tourguide. Few people anyway. But a nice place, at the Lago Argentina, apparently completely full in wintertime. Without reservation not necessary to travel there.

Bariloche is a completely different story. 3 hours flying further north, hence only a oneday busdrive away from Buenos Aires, it became the first mountain resort in the Andes. Wherever you walk in this city, it seems that there is no other business then tourism. Activities to be done everywhere, excursions, an incredible amount of hotels and other places to stay, souvenirshops wherever you go, it depends for nearly a century on people visiting it. For those of you who know Austria, Zell am see would be a good comparison. Mountains close, lake just in front of it, nice area, but just a bit over the top.

I decided not to stay for more than a night in Bariloche. If I want to see something of Chili, I need to move onwards. Hence I booked a trip to get me into Chili via a scenic route. More about that one tomorrow.