2011/02/7-8: In Junin de Los Andes
After six days of riding mountainous gravel roads, my legs appreciated two quiet days of domesticating. We went to the tiny Mapuche museum. My understanding is that Argentina killed off all its Indians early on, so it’s rather like the Tasmania or the Newfoundland of South America. Some Mapuche have moved back across the Andes from Chile again only relatively recently.
2011/02/9: 44 km to San Martin de Los Andes
This was an easy half day of relatively level paved road. We got a good view of Volcan Lanin on the way, and arrived in San Martin early enough to find a hostel that had a sociable yet not rowdy atmosphere. Over a BBQ with burgers, we conversed with several Brits and an Aussie. I think Chris was especially pleased to be able to speak English for an evening.
2011/02/10: 49 km to Lago Faulkner Camping
We set out on the famous Camino de Siete Lagos, which winds its way through scenic forest in three national parks. We really have moved back into a cooler climate, after returning to the open pampas briefly briefly in Junin. We happily ditched our extra water-carrying capacity of 4 litres each. When we stopped at a cafe for strudel, a grizzled cattleman in traditional sash and beret bemoaned the fact that local estancias were being bought by wealthy Europeans and used as lodges from which to hunt ciervo colorado (deer) and javelinas (wild pigs).
It was here that we also met a young Danish family travelling by bike, parents hauling a three year old and an eighteen month old in trailers along with their camping gear. The father had done an exchange year in Buenos Aires, and knew his way around Argentina. They were sensibly taking their days slowly, with relatively short distance goals and plenty of low key playing time for their two tiny lads.
|Danish family’s gear : Imagine pulling all that and 2 children on rough mountain roads!|
We met them again at the lakeside campground, which was at the end of the good pavement and where 50 km of road under construction began. When they heard of the trucks and conditions ahead, they planned to skip that segment by taking the bus which stops at the campground. They also gave us the interesting idea of trying to get from Villa La Angostura to Bariloche by boat across Lago Nahuel Huapi. Note: We’ve been looking into this since arriving in Villa La Angostura, since it would allow us to miss a section of road reputed to be without shoulders and fraught with speeding trucks.
|Lake and tent|
2011/02/11: 64 km to Villa La Angostura
We set out while the air was still cool, covering the last few kilometres of pavement and entering the construction zone. A much improved smooth passage will be available soon, but for now there is loose gravel, construction and tourist traffic, and dust to contend with. To top it off, as temperatures rose and sweat poured from my brow, there were clouds of aggressive deer flies that settled on me as I rode more slowly up the hills than some, an easy target for the voracious swarms.
|Margo and dusty road – The face mask is too hot and not very effective|
Just as I called a halt to explode about the flies, we were caught up with by Nat (Canadian) and Matt (American), on mountain bikes hauling trailers. We had lunch with them. They both were/are professional road racers/athletes and veterans of numerous extended trips. Later, checking Nat’s blog, we realized he had ridden with Michael Schratter of Vancouver on his Ride Don’t Hide tour. What a small world! We were very involved with Michael in Vancouver before he left in August 2010, and are still in touch with him as we ride ourselves.
After lunch, Nat and Matt moved ahead. We’d planned a short day to another lakeside campground, but the storm clouds gathered, the skies rumbled, and the rain began. We kept moving to Villa La Angostura as the downpour gathered momentum, happy to find indoor accommodation.
|Heavy clouds over Lago Nahuel Huapi … such a change from 2 days earlier!|