El Bolsón: Hanging with Hippies in Patagonia

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Some ‘alternative lifestyles’ hanging around the market at El Bolson

One day-trip that I took out of Bariloche was to El Bolsón, a small town about two hours away on the bus. Renown as a ‘hippie’ hangout, the place only started to materialise in the 1970s when a few ‘hippies’ turned up in this little valley wedged between two mountain ranges and started forming a community there.

A few reviews on trip advisor said that it wasn’t worth the journey from Bariloche, but I thought it made a fabulous little day out. The market is on at weekends and also on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so you might want to go on those days. There are also some great hiking opportunities there if you have more time.

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To get there, the company Via Bariloche has buses every hour or so, which leave from the bus station.  However I made the mistake of just turning up in the morning to find that the 9.30AM bus was already full and I had to wait until 11AM for the next one. Maybe best to book.

El Bolson

Anyway once I finally got there the little market was in full swing with lots of people banging drums and doing all sorts of other stuff.  There were plenty of unique products for sale (not endless stalls selling made in China crap) and a juice stall that offers sugar as an option (I am so sick of this endless processed orange drink that passes as orange juice and has probably never been anywhere near a real orange).   Also there was some actual fruit for sale (I haven’t seen any fruit since I got to Bariloche).

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Much as I hate the word ‘hippie’ I do always enjoy places that are described that way. It’s just the word ‘hippie’ that I have a problem with; it is usually meant as some kind of veiled insult (as in ‘oh they’re just a bunch of hippies’, the implication being they don’t work or pay taxes and so shouldn’t be listened to or taken seriously).

I prefer to think of myself more as an alternative lifestyler, or maybe a bohemian (although the latter does rather imply that I have some kind of talent). Actually I prefer not to be put in any category really, although I seem to have become a hippie in the eyes of the world anyway.

As I boarded the bus a couple of young women dressed in jeans and anoraks looked me up and down and said to each other ‘oh maybe we should have worn our hippie clothes too’. The dress I was wearing came from Marks and Spencer, that well known purveyor of hippiedom. Can you dress from M&S and yet still be ‘hippie’? Well Anorak Girls clearly thought so.

Anyway I’m only 35% hippie; I took the quiz and that’s what they said. I lost points for not being vegetarian or eating glutton-free, although I gained for playing the ukulele, not having a real job and for my attachment to all things purple.

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A bit misty the day I went, but those are the mountains

If I were planning this Patagonia trip again I would spend less time in Bariloche (maybe just two days) and then move on to El Bolsón instead. Not that I didn’t enjoy Bariloche but El Bolsón is more backpacker friendly, less commercial and has better, more natural food (gotta admit those hippies make great food), whilst still offering the same stunning scenery, lakes and walks.

4 replies »

  1. Hello Sarah …….. you Hippie you! I am with you with the word and label. I have quite a few friends who live an alternative lifestyle yet don’t wear tie dye or are vegan. Society just feels it has to slap a label on everyone! I can see the new M&S collection as designed by Sarah and worn by Twiggy. I am sure there is a gap in the market there. El Boson looked my kinda place with my kinda people and I bet I would not have had any trouble eating there either! As always, with my love my friend xx

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