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The best camping spot we could find in three days driving across Patagonia’s desolate scrub was a gravel pit. Not even the fist-sized stones protruding though our thin sleeping mats could persuade us that this wasn’t the best camping site ever. We liked it so much that the following night we went out of our way to ask a local landowner if he wouldn’t mind too much if we slept in his gravel pit.

Our destination, Bariloche, is an oasis of scenery in Patagonia’s wastelands. Majestic snow topped mountains dwarf hills that roll down to picturesque lakes ringed by tasteful chalets. This is Argentina’s Lakes District and it is more like the Patagonia you see in brochures and travel magazines and nothing like the Patagonia we had spent the last three days enduring.

Bariloche town centre is a honeypot of chocolate shops, restaurants, cafes and bars catering to foreign tourists and Argentineans who, despite the country’s economic crisis, can afford to while away the day sipping submarinos and nibbling dulce de leche confectionaries. Bariloche isn’t all decadence and if you really feel you have to earn your artery-hardening delights then there is hiking, paragliding, mountain biking and reputedly the best rock climbing in South America.

My broken ankle had forced us to split with the Hot Rock climbing expedition we had been travelling with, but we had arranged to meet up in Bariloche for a rare night out on the town. After spending so long on the road and rough camping the Hot Rockers were keen to get out of their dirty and presently discoloured clothes and into something a bit more exuberant. A fancy dress theme of Glam was promptly declared.

Living in close quarters with each other and generally wearing nothing but filthy outdoor gear, fancy dress nights offer a prized opportunity for self expression and Hot Rockers latch onto them with an enthusiasm that would get them up the hardest rock routes. The local second hand stores were pillaged and glitter supplies raped. But it didn’t stop there; four heads went blue, two blond, two red and one purple. Some of the guys spent more getting their hair dyed than all they’d spent on hair care in the last five years.

Later, dressed in new clothes and hair done up, it was clear that the theme’s target of Glam had been missed. While the girls alone wouldn’t have looked amiss in a trendy club, in the presence of the boys’ pimps and rent boys costumes they looked more like high-class call girls. A new theme for the night was spontaneously declared – Pimps and Prostitutes – and we all fit right in.

Argentineans live life late: they eat late, they go out late, drink late, come home late and presumably get up late. By the time we deemed it a suitable time to hit the town we had already lost one of our party to the ravages of too much too early. She was escorted to bed demonstrating her grasp of Spanish by shouting “Bueno! Super Bueno! SUPER DUPER BUENO!” Even though we had put off going out for as long as we could there was still only one place that would be lively enough for us this early – the dreaded “Irish Bar”

Over the last twenty years, like some kind of infection, “Irish Bars” have sprung up in seemingly every place of habitation on the planet. While pubs are something the Irish are justifiably proud of, these perversions bear as much similarity to the genuine article as a bottle of embalming fluid to 18-year-old single malt. “Irish Bars” are characterised by a clientele of poseurs leaning on polished oak and brass direct out the “How to Build an Irish Pub” catalogue with over priced Guinness incompetently poured by some Aussie who doesn’t have enough cash to finish their around the world journey. Perversely the only place in the world there are no “Irish Bars” is Ireland.

The pub we ended up in was no different. It was midnight and distinctly unlike a pub in Ireland - half of its patrons were sitting down to a candle lit diner and enjoying a fine bottle of red. The Guinness was five times the price it ought to have been and was poured out of a bottle with a flourish totally out of character with the nature of the drink – I suppose I should have been thankful that they didn’t draw a shamrock on the head. The only thing out of place was that the collapse of the Argentinean Peso meant no self-respecting Aussie could be arsed working there.

Eagle eyed management quickly spotted that we were there to party and ushered us to the back away from their more discerning customers. Seated at a long table with a background of cheesy dance numbers it looked like a decidedly mediocre night was on the cards. However, a critical mass of alcohol and a change of DJ had us all on the dance floor showing the locals how to party. Three short hours of shirtless, crutchless, frenzied dancing later we showed them how to go home early.

Pictures - click to enlarge
Picture of the truck at a good camp site in Patagonia on its way to Bariloche - Argentina travelogues
Photograph of the boys dressed up for the night Bariloche - Argentina travelogues
The Truck in the gravel pit

The boys in their party gear

Picture of Colin and Liz Bariloche - Argentina travelogues
Photograph of Barbara on a bouldering wall Bariloche - Argentina travelogues
Colin and liz
Barbara posing

Photograph of Colin's hair Bariloche - Argentina travelogues
Picture of sunset over Patagonia on our way to Bariloche - Argentina travelogues
More hair fun for all
Watching sunset from the pit