Lagos District

13 01 2008

Is living up to it’s name as a great tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the Argentinians have also heard of it and it is currently summer holidays. So I am meeting many, many cycle tourists each day – mostly Argentinians from the big cities (read: are city folk who don’t respond to a friendly wave or hello most of the time). The campsites are FULL and the roads are also relatively busy with mad Argentine drivers. I’ve also bumped into a few more long term cyclists – a Dutch family, a couple from Lithuania and two couples from Germany. Looks like the further south we head, the more cyclists are around!

After the comparative boredom of the highway south from Santiago to Victoria, the roads have been far more pleasant. I have also managed to drive myself into the ground with a desire to get south quickly. In ten days of riding I’ve travelled 1300km, with only one rest day. Not a bad effort if I do say myself. But now I am tired, really tired. The sort of tired I can only compare to after a hard lot of exams at uni. I don’t really know, but it’s probably not that far from the same tiredness as those with new children. My legs are buggered, and I can hardly stay awake. The best news is that I’ve caught up to Jorg and Rahel, and the next few days will involve several (relatively expensive) ferries – and not a whole lot of riding. So I’ll be back to my old self soon.

After Victoria the road I’d chosen headed straight at Volcano Llaima. The military control informed me that this one was, indeed, the volcano that had erupted on 1 Jan this year. So? Well, the lava had flowed far enough down the volcano to cut off the road. Ahhh. Change of plans. In a burst of usefulness, the soldier told me about a similar dirt road that went more to the west, and had (so far) been outside the lava flow, and more importantly was open to traffic. It followed the “Ruta Interlagos” a sort of ‘tourist drive’ (and wasn’t on my map). So, rather than go back the way I came, I took it. The road deteriorated. and then seemed to hit a cliff. I rarely have to walk, but this road was steep. Lock the bikes brakes on, take two steps, haul on the bike, lock the brakes on. Repeat. Was real fun at the end of the day. Someone (on horseback) told me about a lookout at the top that would suffice as a campsite, so I kept looking out for the top. After a while I noticed I could again see the volcano, only 15-20km away. I didn’t hear anything, but suddenly there was a significant cloud of smoke. Another eruption. No danger, but a pretty special occasion.

I camped within sight of the top hoping for a lava show after dark – but the clouds had better ideas and instead sent me to bed early.

I continued to follow the Ruta Interlagos for the next day, since I had no better offer, and it continued to head toward Villarrica (the right way anyway). The dirt road, lakes, views of volcanoes, trees, green farms, flowers… just kept coming. Pretty nice stretch.

In defiance of the blue skies, I performed a (successful) rain dance by washing my cycling gear – while camping, alone, at a great spot by a river. Not even any bugs – sometimes you just get lucky. The next morning, everything was wet, but I was prepared – I have a second set of clothes now. So no real drama, the rain cleared in the afternoon, and I though that might have been it. The next night I camped next to a waterfall, much higher in the mountains, as I was heading back toward Argentina. Again, nice campsite. Again rain in the morning. Except this day, the rain was more like a bucket of water had been emptied over me, more or less continuously. The whole day I only managed 80km, and a two hour ferry ride. I was cycling along the edge of the lakes, but occasionally though maybe I was in one of them. It was wet!!! Pity that my rain coat really is too old. So I got cold and wet. Remember the washed clothes? Well, the main set were wet, the spares were wet and it was still raining – not so comfortable now. But I did avoid the snow that I later found out was only a little way south. Of course snow always looks great in the mountains, and huge forests cannot survive without rain – so you take the bad and hope that the good is better. The forests and terrain around here are worth a day or two of discomfort. It’s just a pity that I kept going through the bad days – if I’d stopped I could have been reasonably comfortable in a campsite somwhere and seen the views after the weather cleared. One lives and (hopefully) learns.

So after many miles of grinding my chain away (rain does wonders to the dirt roads, and doesn’t assist in maintaining a clean bike), I arrived in San Martin, and another two days (one of more exceptional views of lakes and mountains, and dirt roads, one of wind) took me to Bariloche. From here, there are several options, but Jorg, Rahel and I narrowed it to two. Take the asphalt road in Argentina for several hundred kilometers past more lakes, but on a road that essentially looks, err… long and cut out some of the Caraterra Austral, or take a reasonably expensive ferry back into Chile and head toward Puerto Montt and the start of the Caraterra Austral. The views promise to be worth the ferry (and legs took a small part of the vote – moving without further killing the legs seems like a good idea right now).

So we’re on the edge of Patagonia. The weather has already given us a taste of what is to come. The cyclist heading north haven’t yet scared us off (100km/h wind – pah!). The scenery is just getting better. I think I’m getting to the good bit 🙂



5 responses

14 01 2008
Doreen Fiedler

If someone of Stephen’s new argentinian “friends” or anybody else on bike happens to read this: I’m looking for a partner/s to ride south. Starting around the 25th of January in Santiago, with intentions of avoiding the Panamericana. Contact:

16 01 2008

Real sorry I’m just a bit too far south… Otherwise I’d go with you!

Shouldn’t snow be white? Or a murky brown after a while… If it’s red, I’d say there is a problem somewhere.

5 03 2008

“…if I’d stopped I could have been reasonably comfortable in a campsite somwhere and seen the views after the weather cleared. One lives and (hopefully) learns.”

I seem to remember staying an extra day in Melrose at the base of Mt Remarkable waiting for the rain to clear… Which it didn’t… And then when we finally did leave we rode out of the weather in half an hour! I think it’s always a difficult decision to make and one where experience probably doesn’t help!

5 03 2008

Come on! You remember the REAL reason we stayed in Melrose an extra day… It had nothing to do with the weather.

5 03 2008

OK OK so there may have been another reason… But the rain didn’t help!

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