Friday, February 20, 2009

Bariloche to Pucon.

Leaving Barichocolatey behind we had to cycle around a big lake. This road took us to the start of the "7 Lakes" route which would lead us eventually back into Chile. Our first stop along the way was a place named Villa La Angostura. Although it´s February, they still think it´s Christmas there.

Despite of their obvious lack of calender control, the town is very nice. We decided to make a days detour and ride out to Peninsula Quetrihue which apparently is home to the last forest of Arrayanes trees. The trail seemed to be made entirely out of the roots of these trees ,which Ian reckons he´s seen growing in Australia.

After the mini detour we headed north to San Martin de Los Andes. This 7 lakes route was initially unpaved and although the views were probably great from a vehicle with suspension and comfy bouncy seats, all we could see from our iron-donkeys were blurred hills, the insides of our heads and huge clouds of dust and gravel being kicked up by the numerous tourist buses.

Following a nights stay at a lake side campsite watching fish jump out to eat flies we got back to the road which then turned back to pavement. It´s amazing just how much difference it makes to your day - riding on tarmac makes us happy, makes us smile back at drivers who beep and wave at us, makes us take lots of photos, we talk to each other lots and it leaves us positive for the next days riding when we camp. However, on ripio, rubble, rubbish and rocks we cycle with our heads down, no talking, we gesture rudely to nearly all vehicles (well, Ian does), we curse even the slightest of gradients and feel terrible when we camp.

So the tarmac into San Martin was great, it also helped that the last 16kms (10 miles) were all down a very big hill. Happy, smiley, speedy fast, wonderful, everything was perfect until out of nowhere..... bbzzzzzz ..... whats´s that big black dot ... . . bzzzzzzzz ....... BANG!!!!


Gemma had managed to avoid speeding drunk truck drivers all the way, dodging huge rocks in the road, whizzing round pedestrians as they blindly meandered into the road. But after all this, she couldn´t avoid the meanest wasp looking for a fight on a hill while travelling at 40mph. The wasp managed to sting Gemma´s eye and leave her blind for a couple of days.

Another visit to another hospital (that´s 2 in just 3 months!) and this time poor Gemma was subjected to a cortisone injection right in her butt-cheek. Ian winced while taking photos - obviously we can´t show these, kids are watching too and we wouldn´t want to scare them.

Fortunately San Martin was a beautiful place to spend a day resting, made more entertaining by Gemma walking with a funny kind of limp and occassionaly bumping into lamposts.

Once Gemmas eye had reappeared we enjoyed a great day riding along flat roads with a big tailwind to Junin de Los Andes. The fun didn´t last long as from here we headed up (now with headwinds) to the Paso Mamuil Malal which at around 1,300m was our highest pass thus far.

A wonderfully clear day gave us magnificent views of the huge Volcan Lanin most of the way up. The road also went through a forest of giant monkey-puzzle trees. Ian was rather confused here. If monkeys can´t climb these trees, why are they not all jumping around on the floor, scratting each other, flinging stuff at cars and heckling cyclists?

Overnight the winds bought in colder weather and by morning the summit was gone, hidden in huge clouds.

Over the pass we found ourselves back on ripio, rocks and rubble. A swiss cyclist coming the other way had warned us the road on the other side was much worse. He was absolutely spot-on. On the Chilean side they are in the middle of major roadworks, (or is that ripioworks? - these shouldn´t be classed as roads!). Descending a major pass at slower speeds than you went going up was depressing. The gravel was deep. The deep gravel was deeper. The piles of gravel next to the deep gravel were bottomless. It was downhill hell.

The sufferring lasted for a full day. We arrived eventually at Curarrehue and camped in a nectarine orchard. It would have been great to try some after the hard days work but they had all been eaten by the cows, goats, sheep and wasps. We sat in the tent instead, eating chocolate while it hoofed it down. And hoof it down it did, all night, and all the next day as we cycled the last 40kms into Pucon.

It´s not that bad though. We found a giant empanada shop to keep us warm and full. Also, in Pucon we are next to Volcan Villarrica which is waiting for us to climb it. At the 2,800m summit we hope to peer down into the crater and have our eyes and lungs burned by sulphurous fumes coming from the red liquid hot magma. And when we´ve just avoided death by suffocation we will grease our bin-lids up and leave a trail of fire on the side of the volcano which Chevy Chase would be very proud of. Who knows, maybe the locals will think it´s magma coming down from the crater and we might end up having the whole town evacuated. Now there´s a plan....
We will update again before leaving, so lots of love to everyone back home. We could say we miss you but we´re off to go climb a volcano... woohoo!!!


anton said...

Hello you Gemma and Ian,
bad luck to Gemma; again!? A wasp!? Could it have been anything different? When i see these nice photos, especiallay image 192, there are some doubts...

Back at home i'm "jealous" that i missed this nice roads you managed. It is so sad cycling on chilian roads on this conditions.

It is fun following (stalking) your trip and read your blog. Here everything is like it should be: grey, cold and rainy.

Good luck and greetings from Germany


Correct writing, prepositions, grammar and the other stuff, i lost on the way back to work or never exists?

anton said...

edit: it is image 191