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The Argentine Lakes district, Paso Huahum to Futaleufu

ARGENTINA | Saturday, 1 January 2011 | Views [3197]

16/12/10 - 30/12/10 600 km

link to picasa photo album

After a nice boat ride over Lago Pirihueico we ride back into Argentina. The border crossing is a quiet one, and since we are riding eastbound, we have a strong wind with us. The change from Chile to Argentina is apparent. The dense wet green forest changes into drier Cordillera Cypress forest, and the road is lined by thousands of flowers, purple and pink lupines and yellow broom.

In San Martin we have a couple days rest in the 'Bike Hostel', where we catch up with cycling friends met in the past weeks, Hugh and Pauline from the UK, Sergio and Ricardo from Buenos Aires, and new ones, Carlos (Colombia), Dave and Morgan (US), and Emiliano and Federico (Buenos Aires).

Our first night is somewhat of a party, Morgan and Dave cooking delicious Mexican burritos for all of us and with Kelvin hosting us, it feels kind of like being at home.

In a local joint named 'Pizza Kala' we are reunited (three times in three days...) with our beloved Argentine empanadas, filled with cheese, mushrooms, spinach and tomato basil, a welcome vegetarian change to our usual camp cooked meals.

And yes the 'Lacar' beer is also vegetarian

Anna and Kelvin our english mate drinking, spanish speaking host at 'Bike Hostel'. Ali and him were talking about the Ashes cricket in spanish...very amusing!

The next days riding on the 'Ruta de los 7 lagos' are true bliss. They call this area ‘chocolate box scenery’, and for obvious reasons: blue skies, clear lakes, green forested slopes and snowy mountain peaks for the backdrop. To top that off for us a good road (initially paved and then 50km or so of dirt or 'ripio'), free beach camping three nights in a row, and the company of Carlos, Emiliano and Federico.

Anna on the 'ruta de los 7 lagos'...riding bliss

Towers above Lago Faulkner, 'Ruta de los 7 lagos'

Beach camp at Lago Villarino

Carlos enjoying the 'ripio', lupines, blue skies and clear lake views

I try to swim in as many lakes possible. The lakes are freezing cold being glacially fed, a welcome cooldown in the warm afternoons. Unfortunately Ali has had a little accident and scraped off a flap of skin from his heel on a wooden beam, and can’t join the water fun for a few days.

Carlos and Ali 'dry rowing' and then relaxing by Lago Hermoso

Lago Espejo in the early morning

Ali filling his bottle from a small waterfall on the roadside

Bariloche is a busy town and we are happy to just ride through, stopping only to buy some chocolate in one of the famous stores for Christmas.

The surroundings of Bariloche are awesome, although we are somewhat disturbed by yet another Argentine rubbish dump on the southern end of town.

We both choke in the horrendous fumes that blow over the road. It seems that Argentina has serious problems with their waste disposal, we have seen many towns with their outskirts littered in waste.

wild camp between Bariloche and El Bolson

Anna enjoying the colours of the roadside, lupine and broom on the road to El Bolson

For some time we’ve been in contact about catching up with Sarah and Andy, good friends from Australia currently also roaming South America. In El Bolson we finally get together in the nice quiet 'hostel Pehuenia'. Our time together coincides with Christmas, and it’s wonderful to share these days. 

Sarah and Andy have done a great Christmas shop, and treat us with all sorts of goodies we don’t usually get on the road. From Indian curry to chocolate and icecream with raspberries, all very tasty. On Christmas day we ride and then hike to the rio Azul together and have a deli lunch picnic, topped off by some local brew.

Christmas picnic by the rio Azul

On the way back we had to climb a giant hill but luckily there was a local 'cerveceria' with cool home made beer which warranted another pit-stop.

I feel a kind of sadness I haven’t felt before on this trip when we say goodbye. It’s almost a contradiction in my head. These days make me miss being home and having good friends around.

We ride on south to enter PN los Alerces. We had quite high hopes for this park, named after the Alerce, one of the worlds oldest growing trees, up to 4000 years. But unfortunately for us holiday season has started and the curvy narrow gravel road through the park has an enormous amount of traffic on it. The lakes in the park are famed for their trout, so most cars are there just to get to their boat launch, pulling speedboats behind big SUVs. As the weather has been dry for some time, each car that passes leaves us in a cloud of dust, choking for air and rubbing our eyes to get the grit out. We both nearly get hit by a crazy guy trying to give us a scare by turning his wheels our way just before passing us. We both just escape the boat trailer swerving inches from our bikes. Ali lets him know in his best spanish what he really thinks of such stupid potentially life threatening behaviour.

The park fee has also increased by 100 percent since 2 years, only for foreigners of course, which always puts us off somewhat. But besides that, the boat fee to see a stand of Alerces is well above what we had read in our guide. Well, in the end we do a small hike and see one Alerce called 'the lone Alerce', a toddler at only 300 years old, and a few kilometres later we find a lovely free beach camp at Playa Frances where we can wash of the dirt and bad feelings.

'El abuelo' a 2600 year old alerce tree that lives in a remote part of the park only accessible by expensive tour boat. This is as close as we got to it!

From the park we ride on to Trevelin, a town settled by Welsh people in the early 20th century. There are still a few teahouses that offer a ‘te Gales’ (Welsh high tea), so we take a seat at ‘Nain Maggie’ and order tea for one. Nain Maggie has passed away a long time ago, but her granddaughters proudly continue with her recipes and traditions.

I’m not sure how much Welsh people are used to eating, but one ‘tea’ shared between us we had enough pies and scones for two hungry cyclist stomachs! Nain Maggie (on the wall) keeps a watchful eye on the smelly cyclists drinking tea from a proper tea pot for the first time in years.

There is a friendly English/ Argentine couple sitting next to us and the lady says: ‘I’ve been to Chile three times now, but it’s got absolutely nothing on Argentina. In Argentina, the views.....amazing, in Chile, there’s really nothing to see’. We chuckle over the ever present rivalry between these two countries. Whether it be views, friendliness of the people, empanadas, or  wine.

Ali and a (not so) typical Argentine gaucho on his horse

On our last day of two weeks in Argentina we cross the border with Chile into Futaleufu with the Rio Grande, becoming the blue Rio Futaleufu by our side.

I’m not sure what the lady meant with ‘no views’ as we are riding next to the bluest river i’ve seen in my life, and among folded granite cypress covered mountains on both sides of the border. Once more into Chile...and the prospect of rainy days on the infamous Carretera Austral, or our Patagonian summer will continue.

We’ll be back in touch after the Carretera Austral.

Cheers, y hasta la proxima vez

Anna and Alister

Tags: alerces, bariloche, beaches, cycling companions, el bolson, san martin de los andes, te gales

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