El Bolson to campground at National Park Los Alerces
Interesting day, a good one but interesting. Started as usual it seems uphill. Somehow I am ready to ride and then the uphill even though small, still gets me. Beautiful day with mountains around snow covered peaks. I was thinking this is just like home in Alaska, and mentioned this to Michelle at lunch but had to correct to eliminate the grassy fields, pastures, cows, sheep, horses, flamingos in the ponds, different birds. Otherwise just like home. Ok we see what we want to see. An example I suppose of how I mentioned a few days ago this or that place reminded me of somewhere I had been or seen, then realized no,it is like here.
A campground instead of bush camp which is nice. This one has a grassy field with trees and nice showers (i.e. hot water). No electricity but batteries are charged and solar chargers are working. Cannot charge iPad from the batteries but it has enough for a few days, I just need the iPhone and garmin GPS. No wifi here but that is ok too.
Headwinds most of day especially after lunch and now blowing in camp. I must be careful as anything will blow away. Laid my gloves down on ground on arrival and when finished with soup they were 5 meters down the field. But laundry is drying nicely hanging on the fence. And the wind is testing the tent. Seems ok thus far with all lines out and secure. Just a bit noisy with the flapping. My repairs from the other day on the pole and rain fly are holding well.
It has been a delightful afternoon. Turns out just over the small hill from where most of our tents are is a rather large river. Some folks explored first and carried their gear there. I ended up visiting that side and taking pictures mostly of the monkey puzzle tree protected by the hill and surrounding poplars set up for wind.
A great meal of beef stew made with stout beer for sweetness and a great desert of heated prunes, peaches covered with whipping cream. Shortly after dishes done most have retired to tents despite still being light and early. Everyone a bit concerned about tomorrow’s ride. Because shortened today by 18 k due to the closed usual campground our day tomorrow is 18 kilometer longer and is mostly unpaved and into the wind. Plus tomorrow we enter Chili which seems border crossings usually take a couple of hours. Thus it will be a long day. But as I have learned worrying now does not change tomorrow and we are going to do it one way or another. It will be what it will be.
And it was a day. As in the past much of day wondered what the heck I was doing as slow, exhausted and way behind. And dirt road definitely has made my butt sore. Changed saddle back to WTB last week and not as nice. Hoping butt lasts 4 more days. But as thinking about whether I was capable of this I realized I had been through these thoughts numerous times and everyone was tired.
It was an incrediblely beautiful day. Definitely in the mountains now riding along these lakes and wood with snow covered peaks above. National Park Alceres. Everyone commented on how good potential pictures were. I was not stopping as knew it was a long day. Nearly 9 hours in saddle and 10.5 overall. Did stop for the flamingoes as close enough to almost get a picture.
Arrived here in chili, through customs without a problem then into Fuel hu. Only ATM in town only takes MasterCard and I have one but locked in green bag comes out on rest days.
17 November 2014 Futaleufu to bush camp at Villa Vanguardia 105 kilometer
Up at usual 6:30 but late start today (9am) so walked the two blocks to plaza where free internet. Hotel internet as usual does not work once all of us there. Even in middle of night says I am on but nothing happens. Thus at plaza, but alas only had phone and not much time. Phone not working for IM texts and pictures on IPad. Then decided to verify ATM took only MasterCard. Sign on outside says visa but rejected twice and not going to try to hard as Vivian had her card eaten here. So I have no money and owe bike dreams for last nights dinner. (On hotel nights they do not supply food, but had made arrangements to eat at hotel)
Then I hear the hotel manager will change some U.S. Dollars and I quickly grab my bag before packed away for day where there was some stashed $20 notes and a $50 bill. I us wrinkled them the best I could and he exchanged the $110 for 61,000 Chilean pesos. The exchange rate is 500 per dollar. There were no money changers as at past borders. I took 10000 and paid back dinner last night and with cash in pocket we departed.
Dinner last night was salmon which was nice to have as have not had in a while. But it was obviously farmed fish, being a bit flat in taste, but still good.
And the ride was gorgeous through a canyon with pastures, fields, and cliffs to the sides with snow above. Beautiful and felt good so stopped to take photos which of course put me behind. The road was dusty but not bad surface. Came across Michelle with a flat tire. Yesterday her tubeless tire blew out and required a patch made of a water bottle. She had borrowed a tire from Albert who also runs tubeless. Well after Michelle’s flat on Alberts tire she felt inside and found five thorns sticking through. He had been running tubeless and they had patched themselves until a tube was put inside. Jokingly she accused Albert and Joost of conspiring to slow her down as she is proving capable of keeping up with the leaders, which is those 3 and James.
Then I came across Buck and he had a flat tire, but said no problem and waved me on. At lunch 12 kilometers later Michelle came in saying bucks tire had had numerous flats and repairs were not holding. After lunch Walter went back and picked up Buck for ride to camp.
I finished the ride with Carmen although did about four kilometers with Rob. Rob and I talked about the great divide sharing stories. He also wanted to know if this was as hard as expected or harder. (He is the coowner, director of bike dreams). I had to say it was definitely hard and I knew I would have trouble but it had met expectations. I told him my biggest complaint was same as great divide no time to explore along the way. But then as I have said before you can’t really make the trip longer and the divide was long.
Also in the canyon out of Futaleufu runs the river Futaleufu which comes from Argentina but is known as the rio grande there. Saw some river rafters and stopped to talk with the guide who spoke good English and said it was a great float. For 10 kilometers it is class 4 water and the 5 kilometer below them is class 5. Class four is difficult rapids requiring experience, class 5 is very technical requiring advanced level abilities. The scale goes to 6 which is unrunnable except by exceedingly experienced people and is still very dangerous water. In our daily briefing guidebook (we refer to it as the wiki book) it says the Rio Futaleufu is known around the world for its rafting and is a world,class destination. It looked so.
But last 30 k turned out to be paved as the asphalt world continues to expand. It had occasional sections still being worked on where canyon narrowed. Rode in with Carmen, both of us getting tired at end of day and looking for the bike dreams flag along road marking camp.
And a bush camp here at villa Vanguardia which seems to be about 6 houses although no stores and this is not an official campground. Somehow bike dream has again found a shed I which to set up the kitchen and dining. It is open air and the split roof with a meter space between roofs allows rain to blow in. And shortly after arrival it did begin to rain. Luckily got my tent up before too much rain. (I was last to put my tent up due to near last arrival and ate soup first)
But dinner, I was on service tonight so served the food and did dishes after. Then coffee with a few cookies, good conversation and now retired to my little tent. It is quite cozy as big storage bag is inside with me. Bag is usually left outside door, but as it is pouring rain, nicer to have dry stuff available. A bit cramped but everything is close. Home sweet home.
And summer approaching as it is 9 pm and still light. Fuchsias out along road and he says in summer hills are covers with their blooms.
18 November 2014 Villa Vanguardia to Glacier Collante 107 kilometer
And a hard 107 kilometers. Definitely not one of my better days. Rained almost all night and put tent away in rain wet. Ride was rain with some rare sunshine but rain off and on all day. And I missed lunch. Was at village of La Junta but I missed the flag somehow and kept going. About 60 k I was running out of oomph and found Timmwaiting beside road for the truck and informed me I had missed it. Luckily it came by then and Hannie had made sandwiches for those four us us who had missed the lunch stop. Very nice and also some cookies and 4 more breakfast bars which suffice now as energy bars as the nut bars from prior must not be available in Chile. But I was slow although I was stopping to take pictures.
Then at about 65 kilometer the road returned to gravel and construction. It had been paved for about 10 kilometer from La Junta where lunch had been. And it was rough with mud and such. Shifting was an issue for all as the sand and grit was reeking havoc on all components. My chain began sucking right into frame whenever on a hill requiring lower gears, finally stopping me. I had been in a fit of self pity until then, but the Norwegian sisters, Kristen & Hildie came upon me then, which made me feel better as I had thought I was last. Rob came by too and we washed the chain and derailleur in a creek and it improved.
Rode with Rob into village of Puyuhuapi and first thing one sees is the tsunami evacuation route signs. The lake was the end of a fjord from the Pacific. We were at sea level. The lunch truck had stopped at a cafe and I also stopped having a coffee. Chile prices are definitely western as 1000 pesos for a cup of coffee ($2.00). And the usual Nescafé at that.
Then on for final 25 kilometer along the shore and it was beautiful, finally arriving at campground here in the National park Queulat and it’s centerpiece the hanging glacier. Riding up the road before I saw the glacier was a huge waterfall which I stopped to take a picture of. When I set camera down and looked back at waterfall it was at a 45 degrees angle with the wind blowing it sideways. And it is huge I am guessing at least 400 meters in height. The glacier is about 700 meters above us.
But for me it was not a good day. I confess I have no reason to feel down but coming in last is getting to me. Of course I have excuses but still hard to always be slow. Just been on the road for a while I guess and natural to have down times.
And again raining as it has been most of day. I would have liked a hot shower and to wash clothes but apparently only cold water and on arrival just time to clean me, change out of wet bike clothes (of which there were a lot, and they smell) and hike the 15 minute walk to glacier view, returning just in time for dinner. A late start tomorrow as gives us time to hike to lake and better glacier view. 10 am start which is a 9 am breakfast. Oh boy.
“Punished”. 19 November 2014. Glacier Collante to Lago Las Torres 78 kilometers
As is so often the case one day is bad and the next is good. Today was the good one following bad. Awoke at 5:45 as getting light now at about 5:30. Somewhat clear and rained only a little during night so up for hike. Decided on the 3300 meter hike to glacier view. Supposedly takes 2 1/2 hours did it in 2. Walter, the lunch truck driver caught me half way up and we had a great hike together. Whenever he has a day off or free time he likes to go for a hike or bike or just get out and about.
The hike was great through the rain forest with its ferns, huge trees with spreading canopies. And the glacier was beautiful although still in distance. The waterfalls were all still flowing although not quite as much as last night, but still incredibly impressive, one falling onto the massive snow field below the hanging glacier. Judging by the river flowing out there is a huge amount of water coming down.
Depart biking at 10 and felt great, but stopped for construction after about 7 k. All waited maybe 10-15 minutes just standing in the rain, enjoying our company. Finally road cleared and off we went. I was in front and finally got a picture looking back at line of people coming through the construction. Of course that is when all passed me, but today it did not matter I felt great and was having a good time. Bike working but gearing difficult but figuring out how to hold the tongue, twist the foot, and get it to shift with sucking chain into frame. Got to the bottom of steep grade which started at 22.5 kilometers and just started grinding it out. The forest was amazing to watch, wondering what the trees were and the nature of this area. Green with spots of flowers scattered all over. The giant leaf plants which remind me of devils club back in Alaska, but do not have the soft thorns and a solid stalk which apparently is good in soups and such. The leaf is almost two meters across and the plant grows to about a meter or two in height. But getting colder and raining again so rain gear back on as was off for climb. Stopped just after the top and put more on because the descent was proving very cold with wind and it was about 10 k long and steep. Then within 100 meters was the lunch truck. Walter and Annalot offered the warmth of inside but turned down as did not want to get used to heat then come back outside. The Norwegian sisters, Kristen and Hilde, left and I said I would catch shortly as putting on the last of my clothes. Two jackets rain pants, arm and leg warmers, plus usual bike shorts, hoodie and bike shirt.. Plus am very glad I got the insulated gloves in Bariloche last week, they are proving a life saver. Letty departed, I had Walter take a picture of me an departed for the descent and 46 kilometers to camp.
Then 200 meters down the road stopped for construction again and flag lady said do not pass. I tried to ask how long but miscommunication. Finally a local from Santiago on a two week bike trip through the area arrived and translated. He was also stopped and said the road was closed for blasting until 5 pm. It was now 1:15. I realized I was not going to finish my ride and rode back up to the truck where they were just packing up lunch. They wondered at my return but we heard the explosion and realized the closure was real. So put my bike on truck with Brigits and joined Hannie and Vivian who were already on as well as Annalot and Walter. Went down to check and yes road closed and the same three cars waiting.
Decided to go back to try the hiking trail we had seen on way up. It was near the bottom of the hill and only 200 meters in length but well worth the trip. I had seen the sign when biking up but no time for such frivolity then. It went to a gorgeous waterfall nearly 100 meters in height out of forest, into a pool the on down a canyon, all in the rainforest. I was taking a picture of a pink flower and the bicyclist who helped interpret the road closure for me said it was a very rare flower in chile and there were only a few known ones around.
Back to road closure and still not open so thought we would go try and get to lake by the pass. Unfortunately no trail and only succeeded I getting our shoes clean in the bog trying to get to lake. It was now 4:30 so back in the que where we were the fifth car. Opened at five as they had been clearing the rocks for the blasting.
I felt like I was being punished for being late, not that driving with Walter in the truck is bad, but one cannot feel the road or see what is happening as one does on a bike. The forest is pretty and the hills and bumps are there but not the same.
Arrived camp shortly after 6 got tent up and dinner time. Wet and cold as have not been able to dry out clothes, let alone wash them. Tent remains wet and basically everything clammy. Luckily sleeping bag still dry and toasty.
20 November 2014 Lago Las Torres to Coyhaique 122 kilometer via Villa Ortega 58% unpaved
Whew, finally a good day. Left the beautiful lake and very nice riding cruising easily at about 25 kph and soon a granite wall appeared on one of canyon walls. Have been wondering when I would see a wall. Then the flowers began: the hills were in red fuchsia (I am told that is what they are) and the areas not in pasture were covered in blue, purple, pink, and whit lupine. Amazing color.
Lunch at 63.5 and reached about 11 am and decision time. The 10 kilometer longer all paved or the 60 kilometer unpaved. Now what kind of choice is that? Of course I chose the unpaved as did about 7 or 8 others. ( I was last in so they had already left). Rob said he would go with me (as sweep I guess). Derrick, Hilde, Marias, and Hannie left on the paved.
It was a great ride with Rob. The mountains were awesome to look at and enjoyed the pastures of cattle and horses. Up and down with one descent which I clocked at 67 kph, my fastest of the trip, and on gravel. Whew, probably too fast but was a kick. We stopped at the village for a soda and chocolate, then on. Conversation ranged from photography, group dynamics, and bikes. Rob takes most of the pictures put on Facebook and has a good eye, plus he has the strength to ride ahead and set up a good picture. We stopped several times to get some pictures. Was great fun and he commented how this group tends to just ride and get to camp and not stop for pictures. They do stop for soda, or coffee break but mostly just get to camp. As for the bike he has noticed mine and only one on trip to note the Chris King hubs and hope brakes.
And bike being good now that cleaner but still needs some good care. Shifts ok, but still have to twist the tongue just right. Not the way I like it. Rest day and will work on it.
Camp is a nice spot although apparently about 2 k into town. Nice grass, sunshine on arrival and hot shower and electricity. The only thing missing is wifi. But will write and prepare this then into town where apparently plaza has good wifi.
Seems once again people prefer a hotel with a strange bed to tent. On my arrival most had already departed for town not to be seen until departure after rest day. I prefer to just enjoy the day and will walk in later after bike work and this writing is ready. A city is a city.
And as become all too familiar I am going to post this with minimal editing. Sitting in a cafe with wifi which was difficult to find shortens the time for corrections. I have found many and tried but am sure there are many more. Please read between the lines, the mistakes are mine but feel I must move on. Patagonia is amazing, Chile fascinating, in its differences with Argentina. It always amazes me how an artificial political line makes such a difference.