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It’s been a long time since I read the Hobbit so I can’t remember the name of the town where Bilbo Baggins lives (apart from it being in The Shire), but in Spanish it’s called Bolson Cerrado, they would like to think in honour of El Bolson, a little mountainous slice of the Summer of Love in the Patagonian Andes. Hippies came here in the 1960’s and liked it so much they stayed. It was declared a Nuclear-Free zone back in the 1970’s (hear that Russia? Now you’re scared) and still maintains a free and easy feel today. Legend has it elves live in the trees in the park. It was certainly a change from Bariloche, and a welcome one. The hostel was full of Argentinians and other Latin American types and I haven’t spoken English to a native English speaker in 5 days.

Lago Puelo

I get complimented regularly on my Spanish which is a very nice thing to hear, although there is a way to go yet. Like learning some verbs in the past tense, I get a lot of mileage out of I was and I arrived, but it would be nice to break out into new areas. Whilst I’m blowing my own trumpet here, every time I get asked my age, there has not been a single person in 3 months who has not said “you look much younger, you could easily pass for 30”. Some people have even asked me what the secret of my success is. Um, well, drink beer, avoid exercise as much as possible, eat whatever you want (not fish, don’t eat fish) and moisturise regularly. Oh, and giving up your job and going travelling helps. Maybe I should start a Keep Your Youth the JontyJago Way programme.

Anyhoo, I digress. El Bolson, like most places round here is in a valley surrounded by big old mountains covered in snow and is all very picturesque. There are plenty of 3-6 hours walks from the town, all of them with fantastic views over somesuch valley, river or mountain. On the first day I took a little stroll up to the Cabeza del Indio, which is a rock which looks like a Indian (of the Noble Savage variety rather than from Delhi). And what do you know, it really does. I then strolled further onto a little waterfall, which frankly was a bit crap. Once you’ve been to Iguazu, not much else does it waterfall-wise. The guy there told there was a “muy lindo” path which went back to town following the river. Well, path is stretching it. And he forget to tell me about the scramble up a virtually vertical 150m cliff. On loose gravel. And the arse-clenching descent on the other side (with a nice view of El Bolson cemetery, which was reassuring). I’m not one for hyperbole, but one little slip and I WOULD HAVE DIED. But thanks to my youth-prolonging lifestyle and superb physical prowess, luckily for you (and me) I’m still here. Muy lindo indeed.

The rest of El Bolson passed much less dramatically. Had a little trip to Lago Puelo with some people I met in the hostel, a National Park with a lake stretching all the way to the Chilean border. A very relaxing place, and I managed not to get into any trouble on the walk, didn’t nearly drown or anything. Next day went up a mountain with Laura, who is originally from Cali in Colombia but who now works in Buenos Aires, to the Bosque Tallado, a wood with loads of sculptures by hippies. Enjoy the pics. Not sure where the next stage is, but you’ll be the first to know. Well, I’ll probably know before you do, but you get the idea.

Bosque Tallado, El Bolson

Oh and a quick footnote, in the Bus post I mentioned that there was only one long-distance inter-city rail line in Argentina. It stopped running last year. Game, Set and Match to the mighty Bus.