Finding Balance in El Bolsón

I recently started following a couple new Instagram accounts that provide positive, inspirational quotes, pictures, etc. on ways to think about living life: @elephantjournal, @mindsetofgreatness, and @yogainspiration.  One of my goals has been to set an intention each day – whether it’s big, small, silly, serious.  I wasn’t living intentionally before and truly want to now.  So, reading these quotes on Instagram has assisted me in coming up with ways or ideas in what I want to focus on that day.  I have found it difficult at times to get started or come up with ideas by myself.  I’ve also found remembering to set an intention every morning is difficult so since I check Instagram every morning, it helps jog my memory.

One morning about a week ago on one of these accounts, I read a quote about Balance: “Balance is not better time management but better boundary management.  Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.”  I got to thinking about what this meant and how it applied to me.

Achieving balance is one of the most important things I’ve realized that I need in my life to be happy.  Whether it’s balance in terms of diet, work-life, letting things go vs. holding onto them, or time to myself vs. time spent with the important people in my life; it all needs to equal out to create a peaceful harmony.  I realized that I was lacking boundary management in a lot of aspects of my life before we left for this trip.  So, I consciously decided to change it moving forwards.

We have been on the go now for a little over a month – hopping from city to town, mountain to waterfall, ocean to stream, Colombia to Argentina.  It has been absolutely amazing but after awhile, it becomes tiring.  Constantly meeting new people, figuring out how to get to and fro, checking into new accommodations, and running around to catch all of the “must sees” before you leave.  I find that if I don’t give myself some time to recharge, I begin to find each thing that we do less enjoyable.  Not only did I need more balance in life, but on this trip as well.

With finding a more steady equilibrium in mind, Dan and I choose to spend 10 days in a little town 2 hours south of Bariloche called El Bolsón.  El Bolsón seemed like a place we could really settle into.  It is a small, laid back mountain town that still has strong hippie vibes from when many flocked here back in the 1970’s.  It’s even still a place where hitch hiking (hacer dedo) is common and safe (although we tried and our attempt failed).

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The hostel that Dan found for us, Hostel Mandala, seemed too good to be true.  Located about a 20 minute walk outside of the town, Hostel Mandala has exactly the vibe we were looking for and a perfect base for exploring El Bolsón.  Mandala itself means “sacred circle” or unity, wholeness, totality, and absolution.  Seemed perfect with my balance theme.  Not to mention that one of the owners, Alejandro, brews his own beer and they hold Tarot nights!

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Speaking of beer, El Bolsón is well known for their craft beer (beers we enjoyed at Patio Cerveceria below) and there is a market Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, AND Sunday.

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Along with the relaxed vibe of El Bolsón, there is more than enough to do nature wise.  So much in fact, that we almost felt overwhelmed upon arrival and questioned whether 10 days would be enough here.  Dan and I decided to make a rough plan of how we’d spend the next 10 days, picked a few of the main things we wanted to do, and figured we could modify our schedule if we wanted to.

One of the other great things about El Bolsón is the variety of activities you can do outside. Not all of the attractions take an entire day to visit so we were able to wake up at a decent hour, enjoy coffee, head to the attraction, have ample time there, and be back in time for cocktail hour.  This way, we were able to relax, keep busy and enjoy time outside in the same day!

One example of this was our visit to Cerro Amigo which is a mirador or lookout point over the city.  We were able to stroll along through the market and then walk up to Cerro Amigo which took about 2 hours total (including eating our packed lunch at the top).  Although it was cloudy when we visited, we were able to take our time and not feel rushed.

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The next day (since we didn’t overexert ourselves the day before) we were ready for another adventure and decided to take the bus to Lago Puelo.  There is a private bus company called La Golondrina that runs the 45 minute route to the lake for only 12 Argentine Pesos a person.  Around Lago Puelo there are a multitude of different trails and viewpoints of the crystal blue lake surrounded by snow capped mountains.  All of the trails were pretty flat (which was nice for a change) so we followed them all.

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The day after Lago Puelo, we didn’t have anything planned but the weather was so nice that we couldn’t justify not getting outside at all.  So we made a compromise with ourselves and decided to have a similar slow paced day.  We took a Remis (what they use as cabs here) to the trail of Cascada Escondida.  Again it was another really easy walk. Again it was another beautiful location. And again it was also an adventure because we stumbled accidentally upon another mirador with even better views that Cerro Amigo.

Cascada Escondida 

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Views from the Mirador 

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So to bring the balance back and switch out the lazier days for more active ones, for Dan’s birthday we planned to do a full day kayak trip with Puerto Patriada Kayaks.  It was absolutely amazing and highly recommended.  As you can see in the pictures below the scenery was stunning, the workout was good, they fed us well, and it was a bonding experience for the birthday boy and I.

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Birthday maté!

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The next two days after Dan’s birthday we basically did nothing as we were apparently too spent.  We thought about doing a day hike to Cajon Azul which is supposed to be incredible but we just didn’t have it in us.  We wanted to veg. And we vegged – read, talked to friends back home, caught up on emails, etc.  In doing this, we felt very rejuvenated and quite ready for our last adventure in El Bolsón – the hike to Cerro Lindo.

I can’t remember why we specifically choose to do this hike, I think Dan may have seen some impressive pictures online and I was along for the ride.  After talking to the lady who rented us our sleeping bags, the guy in the tourist office, and the owner of our hostel, we were getting a little worried because everyone kept saying how tough this hike is.  Like a fool I just assumed, “Meh. Nothing can be as hard as the Colombian Andes trek!”

I was right to assume that it wouldn’t be quite as challenging as the trek but wrong not to think twice about it.  It was so difficult.  How do I keep getting myself into these situations and not learning from them?  Anyways, the entire way there was 5 hours of uphill and I’m talking steep uphill.  The kind of uphill where your calves are burning, sweat is pouring from your face, you start counting your steps to get your mind off of the misery, and you are on the brink of just crawling up the damn thing.   After the 5 hours of torture ended, we arrived at Refugio Cerro Lindo and opened the door to an adorable kitten running towards me.  Worth it!

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Dan somehow mustered the strength to scale the waterfall next to the Refugio for some pretty amazing views while I decided to just lay on a rock in the sun and nap.  It was pretty glorious.

Photo Cred: Dan Horvath

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The following day we made the hike back to the city and of course since we were going up the entire way there, we went down the entire way back.  Although down goes much faster, it is really strenuous on my ankles and knees.  Propelled on by deciding to treat ourselves to craft beer and pizza when we returned, we made it down.

Although I’m sad to end our time in El Bolsón, I’m at the same time ready and happy with our stint here.  Dan and I made good, conscious decisions on how to spend our time here so we didn’t burn out but weren’t bored either. Some days we slept in and others we were up to seize the day.  A few nights we decided to treat ourselves to some beer or wine but there was an equal amount that we didn’t.  I had down time to read, write in my blog, practice Tarot but also enough time to get outside and feel like I was being active.  Dan and I also spent a lot of time together and with others but also had many extended moments of solitude.  There were challenges but also relaxation.  You see where I’m going with this.  It was the perfect balance of everything that I was looking for and looking to do.  Moving forwards in our travels and in my life in general, I need to pull more of this balance in order to live more fully, intentionally, and most importantly, happily.

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5 thoughts on “Finding Balance in El Bolsón

  1. I heard a story recently about a blind, retired priest. He would like to take afternoon walks around town. Once, he got a little beyond his familiarity zone and got lost. For a time he had no idea what to do so he asked God what he he should do. God said to him, “sit down in the road”. He doubted at first, but then did so. Within minutes, a car came around, stopped, and it turned out to be someone he knew, who helped him get home.
    So often we are looking for meaning, purpose, or balance. Many times it makes sense that we should consider, rather than look, put ourselves in a position to be found.
    Great blogs Christie. Keep it up!

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  2. Don’t mind me… I’m just over here inner-smiling at 1. your love for all things cat, 2. your swearing at just the right times so it’s cute and not like ‘wow, that’s off-putting’, and 3. your charming and real-talk honesty. Keep on keepin’ on. Miss you much. xo

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