Waking to a beautiful morning on Lago Rivadavia, we set off for Lago Puelo, a recommendation by Andres as a place to find camping for the night. The first stop for the day would be Butch Cassidy's Cabin, as featured in Top Gear's Patagonia Special. With wooden gate locked, we removed panniers to slip the bicycles through a small opening in the fence and rolled down the short road to the cabins (photo 1). We enjoyed our usual lunch of avocado, cheese, salami, and mayonnaise sandwiches - our conversation including Top Gear and the story of Cassidy. After lunch spent joking about our brush with the likes of Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond at the small encampment by the river, we set off to our final destination for the night.
In Lago Puelo we found camping at a family farm/campground on the edge of town. As the sun set over the small lake town, dogs of all sorts began barking. We've realized that barking call and response is a common occurrence as stray (and pet) dogs roam the towns and roads of every region through which we've traveled. The activity in Lago Puelo reached a comical, if not frustrating level, with dogs barking and running through camp throughout the night.
The next day temperatures rose quickly as we cycled north on route 40. The day's ride included two climbs, the second of which had a false summit where the switch backs appeared to crest the ridge but actually continued for several more kilometers (photo 2). After a long day we found camp down a long rocky descent to the edge of Lago Guillelmo. (photos 3 and 4 - the second is a long exposure taken at night by Eli - notice the stars!)
On March 7th, 1990, a little baby named Noah was born. Twenty seven years later he awoke to the morning sunlight on his tent and the sounds of his friends making coffee on a camp stove. The world was coming to life along the lake shore they had camped upon nestled amid the peeks of the Andes Mountains. We laughed and joked and drank coffee as the birds sang and the mist on the lake slowly dissipated. The ride the day before had been long and today's ride would be short and much easier, so we took our time and admired the morning for what it was.
After packing up, Noah announced the rules of the day's ride. First, we would all ride the remaining 35km together. Second, we would play music on his portable speaker the entire way. Third, anytime we passed a sign that said cerveza or beer until we reached our Airbnb, we had to stop and get a round. This plan was agreed to wholeheartedly! We saddled up and took off for Bariloche with high spirits.
The road was beautiful and wound along lake shores and mountainsides. Unfortunately, we didn't pass a single place offering drinks. For the last three days we had ridden past maybe five a day, but today, of all days, none were to be found. Before we knew it, we crested the last climb and descended into Bariloche. It felt strange to be in a larger city again after so many weeks in small towns and wilderness. We reached our Airbnb and checked in. We all thanked the gods of water pressure and hot water on demand and cleaned up before heading out to find burgers and beer. The day ended with full bellies, many smiles, and the embrace of a soft warm bed. Sometimes little things are the greatest gifts.
Birthdays change in meaning as we grow older. Now they seem more like an invitation to reflect than a day of celebration. To take stock of where and who we are. To give thanks for all the gifts that our lives have brought us and to get clearer insight into what we hope the future will hold. We have all reflected on our loved ones back home and the love and support that has enabled us to be where we are today. The gifts we have been given and the blessing of the challenges we have overcome. The way ahead may not be straight or clear, but we look forward to seeing what is around the bend.
After two days in Bariloche, enjoying Rapa Nui (epic chocolate and ice cream shop) on more than one occasion, we departed with the hopes of reaching Villa La Angostura. We fell short by fifteen or so kilometers as evening rains set in. Cameron, Eli and Peter found a free camping area between route 40 and Lago Nahuel Huapi and left road side cairns for Noah to find our camp. The three of us quickly set up our tents and began to make dinner before the rain. Noah rolled in just before dark and joined us while the cold breeze came off the lake (photo 5). The following morning, spirits were low as the rain continued and temperature remained cold. We made our way to a gas station in Angostura with Wifi and a Nescafe machine to wait out the rains. Before riding to a wild camp out of town, we returned to Bahias (bays) Brava and Mansa for lunch, upon specific instructions from our Argentinian guide, Andres. We've learned that it's always best to listen to Andres - indeed, a beautiful lunch it was! (photo 6)
The following day we woke to a beautiful mist coming off Lago Espejo Grande (photo 7). The day's ride was another recommendation by our friend Andres and one we had seen featured in Bicycling Magazine during the prior year of planning. The Road of the Seven Lakes offered excellent paved roads with a wider shoulder than we'd ridden on so far (photos 8 and 9). The day finished with a fifteen kilometer decent to San Martín de los Andes (photo 10), where we decided on a hostel for the night.
It was Monday morning again, but none of us knew the difference. Sunday is often the only day of the week we take notice of, as we often roll into a town and wonder why nothing is open or why there are so few cars on the usually busy roads. We began the ride with a shorter climb out of San Martín toward our lunch destination of Junín de los Andes, where we planned to visit Via Christi sculpture park. The park consists of a network of trails climbing up a mountain side with sculptures along the way that depict a story of Christ, along with other pieces that tell stories of people who have enacted or exemplified the lessons of Christ's story (photos 11, 12, and 13). The park truly was a unique place and we were very thankful that our trusty friend Andres made sure to tell us about it so we wouldn't miss it. After wrapping up our visit around 5:30, we decided that we'd push north just a bit further to a wild camp alongside the river - within an hour and a half of easy riding, we'd found the spot and settled in to wash up in the river and cook dinner before bed.
Tuesday morning met Noah with a nasty stomach situation (whether it was bad empanadas from the day before, maybe some bad water, or what, he definitely wasn't feeling his best). Insisting that he would be ok on his own, Eli, Cameron, and Peter pushed off around 10:00 AM with the plan to regroup with Noah on the other side of the Chilean border in Pucon. While the three weren't quite sure whether they could make it all the way to Pucon in one day, they thought they'd come close, and Noah agreed that he'd hitchhike if he wasn't feeling better soon. After a very reasonable paved climb up the river valley towards Volcan Junin, the road turned to rippio once more for the last 15 km before the border (photo 14). After a short lunch, the three continued over the border and rejoiced when they realized they would be descending (apart from a few rollers) on smooth pavement towards Pucon for the next 70-80 km. Though it was a beautiful ride and a nice evening, Eli, Cameron, and Peter decided to call it a day when they arrived in Curarruhue, just 35 or so kilometers outside of Pucon. During a quick potato chip, beer, and ice cream bar pit stop, a local woman stopped to let us know that she had a small cabaña for 5,000 pesos each - a steal at less than $7.50. We decided to check it out and were pleasantly surprised with our own place and nice beds. We were even greeted with kittens the next morning (photo 15).
The next morning met us with some cheesy scrambled eggs and what we've termed lattes (nescafe with powdered milk) before rolling the easy 35 kilometers into Pucon. After arriving in Pucon, we met up with an Australian, Luke, who we'd first met all the way back in El Chalten, Argentina. Luke was finishing his trip and realized through our Instagram that we'd be pulling into Pucon just as he was concluding his trip. After catching up over coffee, Luke showed us a really nice, reasonable, and relaxed hostel where we'd spend the next two nights. Thankfully, Noah got in touch later that evening and we all rested easy knowing that he was safe and sound and feeling better. Despite trying to hitchhike, he'd ended up riding the same section we did, but a day later.
We're looking forward to pushing on straight through to Valparaiso from here, where we're going to meet Eli's good friend, Ben Brody. Ben's also planning on renting a pickup truck and we'll all be driving from Valparaiso north to Calama, Chile, before getting back on the bikes to head into Bolivia by mid April.
We'll be in touch from Valpo!
-Eli, Cameron, and Noah (and Peter)