South America Travelling

Chocolate and Ash in Beautiful Bariloche

The Cerro Catedral resort is one of Argentina’s premier skiing attractions: the majestic peaks of the Andes attract thousands of avid snow enthusiasts every season, which is hardly surprising given its size. Boasting over 100km of ski runs alongside breath-taking scenery, it is no wonder that so many people flock to Cerro Catedral’s slopes when the season begins on June 18th.

The sun begins to set over the Andes
The slopes of Cerro Catedral

Twenty kilometres away, nestled by the lake, lies the town of Bariloche—Argentina’s answer to Switzerland, where replica log cabins, chocolate boutiques, and fondue lunches abound. It is an enigma of a town: whilst the view of the lake surrounded by towering peaks is beautiful and the town square is picturesque, there is undoubtedly a feel of trying too hard and not quite succeeding. Even the statue in the town square looks somewhat defeated. Bariloche is not Switzerland; the log cabins look as fake as they are and the chocolate  shops—some as large as supermarkets—serve only as a tourist trap, albeit a delicious one!

Mouthwateringly good chocolate!

The resort survives on its famous ski season, so imagine the panic  in early June this year when the Puyehue volcano in Chile erupted, spewing ash 10 kilometres into the air, smothering Cerro Catedral’s pristine slopes—and Bariloche—in centimetres of ash only weeks before ski season began. With the airport closed and mounds of ash on the streets of Bariloche, a clean-up operation began. Now, over three months later, the clean-up operation is still evident. I woke up in my hostel room today to find everything covered in a light coating of fine ash, a reminder of the on-going work facing those whose job it is to clear Bariloche’s streets from the ash that threatened the 2011 ski season.

I found this video on YouTube that shows the extent of the ash that fell on Bariloche:


Here are my pictures that show the extent of the ash over three months later:

A man sweeps ash from the pavement
Cars receive a daily dosing of fine ash
The roadside is home to centimetres of ash

Bariloche is definitely worth a visit but you should do your homework first. If you want to ski then you should go in high season. Right now it is the end of the season, and although people were skiing on the slopes yesterday, the snow barely reaches halfway down the slope, and outcrops of rock break through the snow. It is also very quiet here in September; the hostels are empty and in 4 days we have not met anybody else who speaks English. If you are looking for a party then you should probably avoid this time of year. If, however, you want to relax in beautiful surroundings, eat great food, and enjoy copious amounts of chocolate, then this is the place for you!

Have you ever been affected by a natural disaster on your travels? How did it affect your plans? Tell me about it in the comments.

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  1. says:

    Not what one would generally like to see but it is a unique experience :-/

    1. Indeed! Having never lived in a volcanic region, or even anywhere near one, I had never thought of the long-term effects on the people who do. Every day the ash blows around and covers cars, walls, plants and pavements in a new layer of ash – it must be impossible to keep things clean. It blows in your eyes when you walk around and you inhale it as you breathe, I can’t imagine it is good for your health!

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

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