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January 8, 2013 / JustinKays Porter

Circuito Chico

After our questionable first adventure with Corbin, we hoped things would go a little more smoothly on our drive around Circuito Chico. Circuito Chico is a 30-ish km road that skirts the Brazo Campanario of Lago Nahuel Huapi, through Llao-Llao, past Bahia Lopez, and around Lago Perito Moreno Oeste y Este. Basically, it's a drive with constant scenery and incredible views of the Lake District. We had originally planned to do the Circuit on rented bikes, but after seeing the bikes and the road, I think Corbin was a much better choice!

Our first stop on the Circuit was Cerro Campanario, a chairlift up a small mountain / large hill with 360 degree views. And a very nice cafe at the summit! As luck would have it, we arrived at the chairlift just as the first round of tourist buses were leaving, so we didn't have to wait in line and the top was pretty near empty. The views are spectacular. The morning gave us a cloudless sky (thank you very much, wind) and vivid colors. With Lago Perito Moreno Oeste y Este and Brazo Campanario in the foreground, Lago Nahuel Huapi looked arguably more beautiful. After taking in the views from the observation decks and being subjected to as much wind as we could stand, we ducked into the cafe. Due to the serious lack of people at the summit, we plunked down at a window table and ordered Irish coffee and empanadas (obsessed, I told you). Also, you should know: whenever you get “crema” in your coffee (whether it's coffee or Irish coffee), it's not cream. It's not whipped cream. It's ice cream. And yes, you should order it. Every time. This is the life 🙂

The ride back down the chairlift occurred simultaneously with the arrival of the next tour buses, evidenced by the endless number of screaming teenage girls going up the chairlift. Thank goodness for more epic good timing!

On the road again, we continued along to the famous Hotel Llao-Llao, built in the 1930s on a peninsula of the same name with 360 degree views. It's supposed to be a beautiful place to admire the views, and the architecture and decor inside are supposedly equally stunning. If they let you in… We had been warned that the doorman at the hotel could turn guests away at will, but we thought if we wore clean clothes and big smiles and said the right words (“Miramos solamente, por favor”), we would be let in. WRONG. Apparently clean t-shirts and shorts and big white American smiles don't cut it. Oh well, their loss!

We continued along the drive, drinking in the beautiful scenery, until Bahia Lopez. Here we stopped, thinking the bay would offer some refuge from the wind and some good photo ops. We were right on one point: great photo ops! However, I think the wind was worse here than elsewhere…

After Bahia Lopez, the circuit climbs quite a bit. At the summit of the circuit (which made me really happy we didn't bike), was a look out and a small restaurant. Punto Panaramico provided what it promised: a birds-eye panoramic view. So we had more empanadas (and a delectable waffle with dulce de leche) and local draft beers for lunch. I really believe if we didn't walk so much on this trip, we would have already gained 20 pounds each. Weaknesses: beer, wine, empanadas, dulce de leche, ice cream, chocolate… the Argentines definitely have a penchant for sweets, and we are taking full advantage!

The drive took us around the edges of the Lagos Perito Morenos. We stopped at a locals-only beach (oops.. it was unmarked and looked nice!), thinking we might take a dip in the lake. After dipping our toes in, we thought better of that idea as we did not want to get pneumonia.

When we had successfully completed the drive and enjoyed all the views it had to offer, we decided we needed to go back into town. We needed to conquer Bariloche! So we went. We parked uneventfully, changed our U.S. dollars (that get a markedly higher exchange rate than using ATMs), printed our bus tickets, and found Rapanui. Yes, we finally fell victim to the Chocolate Capital of South America and indulged ourselves. We went for the best of both worlds: 80% cacao ice cream. The Lake District (and all of Argentina, for that matter) is famous for chocolate and ice cream, and we combined the two. And it was the best ice cream and the best chocolate we've ever had!!!


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