Today was Christmas Day and my mother’s birthday and it was a year ago today that we decided to book this trip so today was a very special occasion. We kicked off the day with a hike through the Arrayanes Forest. The mountains in Patagonia start off very very high in the northern parts and get shorter on average as you progress south. But that’s on average, Mt Tronador is the highest mountain in the Bariloche region at 11,660 feet above sea level!
Glacial activity over millions of years has carved out huge lakes between the mountains. The lakes are very large and full of islands — you can easily mistake this for a coastal view, especially with the wind whipping up the water and causing significant wave action across the lakes. Our hike today was just a couple of hours and was relatively leisurely — we had a local guide named Ezekiel with us who introduced us to a lot of the plants and flowers and trees we passed along the way. One of the most remarkable was a species of bamboo that is suited for cold climates. To survive here though it isn’t hollow like many bamboo plants so the stem pieces look like little bones.
We passed through a stand of Arrayan trees — a fascinating ever-green tree with a bark that is cinnamon in color as a result of tannins in the tree. It is also called a Chilean myrtle and grows up to 49 feet tall with a trunk that is often winding and twisting and contorted.
After the hike we had a special treat and headed to the Gilbert Cerveceria. This was special for us since our last name is Gilbert! We had a quick introductory talk from Tommy Gilbert, the brew master. The cerveceria is a family owned operation — Tommy’s dad runs the restaurant and Tommy runs the brewery. The family immigrated to Argentina from France several generations ago so I’m going to pretend he’s a long lost cousin. The brewery doesn’t add any preservatives to the beer and it is only available in the restaurant. Even so, they brew year round and have a thriving business.
We had a really great home-cooked meal with squash soup, lamb stew, bread and ice cream for dessert and we tasted the three beers they had available during the visit — an English pale ale, an IPA and a stout. They were all great but I personally preferred the chocolaty taste of the stout. We celebrated mom’s birthday with dessert and a birthday song and Tommy gave her a beany with the company logo on it as a birthday gift once he found out she was also a Gilbert!
After lunch we headed back to Bariloche and did some walking around town. But since it was Christmas day most of the stores were closed and we called it an early night with some simple empanadas from one of the local shops for dinner.