Feb. 28, 2012
We spent two nights in San Carlos de Bariloche. This is a favorite tourist destination for Argentines and people all over the world. It is part of Argentina’s famous Seven Lakes District. Unfortunately, the weather was rainy and windy both days. We still managed to get outside some and walk around town, window shop and eat lots of chocolate when the sun decided to show itself. All over Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego there are tons of stray dogs. They appear well fed and friendly. While we were in Bariloche four dogs followed us all over town. You will see them in some of the pictures.
Perhaps it was the weather, but both Jim and I were ready to leave after 2 nights. The kids seemed indifferent as well. I guess we wanted to leave this town because of the poor weather and our funky lodging, which I will tell you about now.
When we arrived at the Bariloche bus station we had no place to stay. We had the names of a couple of hostels and grabbed a taxi to take us to a couple of them. We ended up staying at the one the taxi driver recommended. I can’t even defend myself for making this choice. There wasn’t anything good about it except the location, which was close to downtown. It was completely empty, dark and very old. The rooms were tidy and possibly clean, although it was hard to tell through the old, stained carpet, thread bare bedspreads and historic brown tile and grout. After the owner told me the completely inflated price, I took it. Of course I took it! Why would I spend five more pesos on a cab to look at other hotels (B and B’s or hostels) that would have been cleaner, cheaper and more comfortable when this one came with a free, creepy owner? After spending 2 nights there in beds with see through sheets and pillows that were filled with a strange lumpy substance we were at our breaking point. We were all sleep deprived from the uncomfortable beds and pillows (Lia chose not to use a pillow). So you can imagine how excited we were to finally get a car and drive ourselves to the beautiful San Martin de los Andes. The owner of the hostel arranged the rental car for us and had it delivered to the hostel doorstep. Convenience! I was thrilled. The price was $200 pesos a day, unlimited kilometers, with insurance. This price and these terms were definitely a reflection that we were no longer in high season.
The car arrived and the owner of the company had us fill out some paperwork. Easy enough. At this point all of us were ecstatic to be leaving in a car of our own. I was getting ready to sign the rental car papers when I saw the price…$300 pesos/day with a charge if we go over the limited number of kilometers. Once again, I found myself disputing this change in price and the unfair practice of slapping tourists (us) with higher rates after securing a commitment at a lower price. Now try to envision the scene:
In the dank lobby were four large duffle bags, three backpacks, two exhausted parents, 2 hopeful kids, a car rental lady with half-signed papers, car lady’s fifteen year old son, shady hostel owner, and a passing maid (who was immediately sent out of the room with a stern look and a dismissive wave of the hand by her sideways boss). During the ensuing ten minute heated discussion, in Spanish, between the (now confirmed) dishonest hostel boss and myself I managed to lower the daily price by 50 pesos (yes, still 50 pesos higher than the original price), embarrass MY kids, the fifteen year old kid, and get the kind maid banished to the upstairs.
Scene two: We are all packed into our “grande” car ready to flee the scene with the small amount of remaining dignity we thought we had left when we realized we couldn’t get the car started. It turned over properly but wouldn’t start. After a couple of minutes, we had to ask the rental car lady for help. Did you know that a trunk key to a Fiat in Argentina will actually fit nicely into the ignition and turn the engine over without ever actually starting it? Well now you do.
We are now thoroughly enjoying our cute house in the charming town of San Martin de los Andes which I will write about next. Unfortunately, it does not have internet so posts may take longer.
Click on images to enlarge