If you wish to know the Divine, feel the wind on your face and the warm sun on your hand. Buddha
Retraction Chos Malal to Las Lajas 159 kilometer
Rest day in Chos Malal was a rest day, without the distractions of seeing the interesting points of the town. Must be interesting as maybe I am guessing 10,000 people live there. Two plazas neither with wifi. After a week of traveling we all wanted to catch up with world outside of us. Searched and found a hotel with wifi and coffee, hence some postings. Back to camp and much needed bike work for about 3 hours. Then back to town but afternoon and all quiet. Ended up at gas station where wifi worked good and loaded pictures.
Wifi quit when photos done and could do nothing else on internet, but timing was good. Back to camp with a few camp items enroute. (Clothes pins, clothes line, beer, cheese). Then about 6 and hungry as breakfast quite a while before and only 3 crescent rolls and coffee. No cafés restaurants could I find, but found Buck wandering too in the plaza. Agreed it was time for dinner but seems nothing open until 8 pm. Did not want to stay up late as a big day tomorrow. We had been down that route before, restaurant may open but the cook does not start work til 9. So grocery store now open and cheese, salami, and rolls. Back to camp for picnic then in tent for another great night of sleep.
Up for 7 am breakfast depart at 8. Within 20 meters of “Vamos” I was ahead and declared the finish and a stage win for me. No one bought it and we continued on in trepidation of a windy day, and one of our longest with 159 kilometers. GPS track soon had us going wrong way on a one way street which we ignored soon leaving town and onward on route 40 in our ride southward.
Two hills somewhat gentle grade of about 200 meters each of climbing and descent then just long cruise on slow small hills. Worrying about the last 30 k when we turn west generally right into the wind. And it was blowing still. It woke me in the middle of night when had 30 seconds of silence and no wind.
Lunch just after the second summit and Hardy who was only one remaining of first riders (James and Alfred) expressed surprise I was there so soon. I said I had greased my bottom bracket yesterday and could go downhill easier. ( a bottom bracket does not help coasting at all). Whatever, I was feeling good. Took off and again felt good. Windy, crosswinds, and all over but no tailwind. Riding alone basically and Walter stopped again at 122. Barry who had been ahead of me was in truck saying he would wait for pelaton as now in the last 30 k and headwind and crazy to go alone. I agreed and left alone. Rob passed me asked what I thought of wind and I had to respond I had never really cycled in the wind. Headwinds and tailwinds yes but crosswinds no. If you ignore how how fast you could be going with no wind it was not a problem. I was having fun although sort of like climbing.
And I confess I did look back once in a while to see if someone was catching me. Sorry Coach Hislop, you always taught me never look back, just pay attention to who or what s ahead. But I could not help looking back. (Coach Hislop was my track coach in high school and taught me numerous incredibly usefull things)
Arrived Las Lajas and camp and turns out I was sixth for day. As far as I was concerned it was a stage win for me. Wow all I did was, as Joe from the great divide ride, and friend Buzz said ride your own ride. It felt good. Walter the lunch truck driver commented how much I have improved from first days. I guess I am no longer the worlds slowest bicycle rider.
Great dinner, super shower here at campground and tomorrow is a different day. Tomorrow supposed to be harder although only 130 kilometer but 1500 meter climb and 50% unpaved second half. Whatever, I am learning it will be what it will be. Numbers only show so much and there always seems to be a catch.
A 6 am breakfast, our earliest, with 7 am start when light. We want to avoid the winds as much as possible. Some of blogs from two years ago make the day sound horrible. Hunkering in ditches to hide from wind,snowing etc. like I said whatever, it will be what it will be, but best prepare.
Stage 77. 8 November 2014(I think). 130 kilometer 1500 meters climbing
Quite the day departed 7 am and wind blowing. We formed a large pelaton of about 20 and began the slow climb and into headwind. By 20 k I had lost them twice but was slowly able to catch up, mostly when they took a break to pee. Only 150 meters behind but uphill and headwind and I was alone mostly I could only maintain the distance. But when steep section arrived for the 30 k remaining before lunch I realized I could not lose the pelaton. I was exhausted and ready to quit, but realized that quitting would get me no where but as a babbling mass beside the empty road. The truck had already passed so best stick with it. Jorg asked numerous times if I was doing ok and encouraged me. I realized everyone felt that way. We were not just counting down kilometers but counting the meters to the lunch truck.
And Walter had an amazing spot. We had entered a more temperate forest? A very nice change from the ongoing desert of past weeks. But these were monkey puzzle trees. Monkey puzzle trees are evergreens but different looking. Name comes from someone in England who once said a monkey would have a hard time figuring out how to climb it. The needles or leaves are sharp spikes going around the branch which is hanging down. The trunk can be very large, 2-3 meters across are the ones I saw, apparently from their old age. When mature they form into a large umbrella looking shape. The trees are indigenous to this area of the world and Chili’s national tree. They generally grow above 1000 meters in elevation. We had climbed today from the Las Lejas at 800 meters (one of our lowest of trip) to about 2000 meters which seemed above treeline for here. Fascinating trees. As noted I have seen them before but as ornamentals not a forest.
And camp tonight a campground beside the rio alumine, which we rode along after the pass for about 60 kilometer. Now a nice clear river. Of course as soon as I arrived I went in although a bit on the chilly side but felt great on tired and sore legs. Nice showers and electricity so life is good, although swimming pool as usual is empty, apparently due to early in season. Apparently campgrounds will improve as head further south and more touristy areas and wifi will improve. Funny how tourists get more than locals.
There are a few tourists around but for the most part we are still in the back country. Gauchos, ranch land, desert scrub, but beginnings of pine trees around. In the hills tonight in a small canyon where river flows. Willows here at river bed but quickly goes to desert on sides.
Alumine – Junin de la Andes
Things I have learned along the way – the outside of a corner is smoother and the gradient more even, especially on gravel. Makes washboard much easier. Going fast downhill it may not be the best option.
Great ride down the Rio Alumine a gorgeous river clear water apparently good trout fishing. Did see two kids with hand lines, but mostly we just cycled along. Some nice summer or weekend homes. Then up and over the hill and down to Junin de la Andes. Very nice. Heard the grocery store opened at 5 so back from camp for a beer which was enjoyable. Checked for wifi but reported internet but no wifi, and it was near 6 and dinner time.
Several went back to town after dinner and later reported they found good wifi. Seems I was just too lazy.
Junin de la Andes to Rita de 7 Lagos
Beautiful day with no timing so everyone thinking of the surroundings and a supposedly easy and scenic day. Left at 9 am and pelaton of about 25 people and a dog following for about 5 k at 25 kph. Of course again I had a brilliant idea to rush ahead and take a picture. Pushed hard and thought this is plenty of room and even though they slowed a bit was still too late. I never seem to learn.
But group stayed together for 42 k until lunch at San Martin de Andes. The color at side of road was primarily yellow. Used to be the purple flowers on trees, now these yellow shrubs. Even a few lilacs coming into bloom in town. Gorgous and smell quite good riding along. Lunch supposedly in plaza but never found the truck. It is an obvious ski town with lots of cute shops and cute restaurants but springtime and no snow. Came to end of town at lake and no truck. Hardy and I decided might be farther and if not we had several of the nut bars and a banana. Others decided to go back and look more. Thus Hardy and I off on our own and the scenery was spectacular along the lake then climb up pass. Lanin National Park. Reminds me of so many places, Colorado, Yosemite high country. The rocks are now more igneous granite. Has been sedimentary past months.
We descended and arrived at this lake and beautiful campsite. Grassy area with mountains around some snow remaining. Seems like home, Prince William Sound.
Starting to cloud up a bit and setting up tent tried making it really good for potential rain (or snow). Unfortunately a bit tight and broke a pole which went through rain fly. Repaired well but 5 weeks to go.