The following morning, I took off for Argentina. The Andes are incredible here: densely forested up to their oddly-shaped tops, licked by whispy clouds; wild flowers and fields; the occasional earth-toned home; unspoilt lakes. A gregorious Ecudorian professor with a Desperato look kept up an unbroken stream of chatter behind me, but it's a good day for it.
The customs building looked like a park service cabin. We were held up for a while at the Argentinian border while customs officers pulled out all the luggage and the drug-sniffing dogs (one of whom took his task in zest, and the other who seemed more interested in attention from his handler). The even opened the AC vent. The largest sign nearby read "Drugstore", naturally on the side going back to Chile.
By the time I got to Bariloche, the last bus to Neuquen had left, but I'm happy I stopped. Bariloche is a tourist town again, but with a totally different audience: active tourists, students on break, skiing or nature-loving (bats don't wink there at my huge bag). The whole town looks like it was built by the three bears, all lincoln logs and big stone structures. I didn't go out into the wilderness, but I didn't need to with the a beautiful lake a feather's throw away. Bariloche is very diverse, and appears to love its chocolate. There's a fair amount of English spoken or known, but I hear its epidemic. And I'm definitely getting my tan on (really my sunburn, but who's counting?).
All the hostels in Bariloche were booked, until the hostel desk worker helping me finally found one 18 km out of town. The place was fantastically laid-back: the sleeping room didn't have beds, just two shelves of mattresses, the kitched wasn't clean or organized, and the check-in process consisted of filling out a line on a register (everyone else on my page was Argentinian or Brazilian, except 1 Canadian) and paying at some point: just make do and have fun, the place shouted. Another day, I would have rode that groove, but I tried to make it an errand day. Sadly, Sunday isn't the best day for that, so I ended up mostly just busing around, but that's all the fun of the game.
For the third time in my wanderings, I've come upon two British women talking together about a mutual male friend and how "big" he was or wasn't. Are British women size queens? I've been having lots of other deep thoughts, but not for public consumption.