Next up on the road was El Bolson, a small hippie city on the slopes of the Andes. Reknowned to most people for its handcraft artists' market, the nice views from the mountains surrounding it, and its local microbrewed beer, and to Israelis for the “Hava” (farm in Hebrew), the biggest Israeliada in Argentina, where people go to eat Israeli food, smoke weed and "relax" from the rigors of their trip. From what I've heard, rarely is a non-Hebrew speaker seen yonder. Surprisingly, I passed.
I didn't do much in El Bolson. I visited the market, had some great ice cream and beer (I remember that dark beer very fondly. Through the mists of memory, deceiving as they may be, it seems like it's a candidate for best beer I've ever had. And that's saying something), and went up to a mountain called Piltriquitron to check out the Bosque Tallado: a small patch of burnt down forest that was sculpted by some local artists into about 30 tree sculptures, some still attached by their roots.
In our hostel there, I met Itamar and Haim. They opened up a window for me to see through and out of the trekkers bubble I was in. It's hard to explain how easily you fall into definitions and social groups while backpacking, and I had swallowed that bait whole. They were the first non-trekkers who I hung out with and had fun with. You can read all about it (much more than you'd like, probably) in the FTTN post.
El Bolson was more of a stop on the way to Bariloche than a real visit, but it was a nice stop nonetheless. I'm sure that if I'm ever down there again, I'll give that place a longer look.
One more little data point about El Bolson: it is a self-proclaimed “nuclear free zone”. What that means in the context of a city, in a country that does have nuclear plants, is unclear to me. But it was nice to know.