Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Segment 52: Pucon, Chile to Bariloche, Argentina (January 31 - February 9, 2012)

our few days in Pucon featured more rain than we have seen since Colombia many months ago, but we were able to identify an excellent route heading south from there, passing through Parque Nacional Villarica.

Volcán Villarica from Pucon, 2847m

... heading out on dirt roads up towards the park, deep beautiful forest...

Buff-Necked Ibis, very common in Patagonia

you don´t see this on the Argentina side

wacky beetle that Greg encountered along this route (photo Greg Altman)

capitalist greenwashing alive and well in Chile.  So, we´ll buy up virgin and near-virgin forest, carve it up into lots, build high-impact roads and various accesses to it, sell it at ridiculous prices, and call it a protected and conserved area.

... just after entering the park, we embarked on a 9km old jeep track ride that was one of the best, and roughest, of the whole trip..
¨Dear Visitor, this road is in very bad conditions; don´t continue towards Coñaripe¨.  Yeh, whatever.  (photo Greg Altman)

groovy trail through wet bamboo and decidious forest

... we did have to push alot...

totally worth it though

especially when we entered the Monkey Puzzle forests!

Monkey Puzzles and mist

definitely some of the coolest trees on the planet

(photo Greg Altman)

Greg and Tom clowning around on the trail.  We left the bikes near the road and headed out on a several kilometer hike up to the Pichillancahue Glacier on the slopes of the volcano.
this Monkey Puzzle is blooming

a view of the summit from near the glacier

looking back down the slopes over amazing scenery

we explored the terminal moraine of the glacier for awhile...

bubbling ice

ice bridges and freezing cold streams

curious gaps in the moraine.  Greg called this an Ice Shrine to Yoni.

... more Monkey Puzzle moments on the descent...
whitish bark and flaming cones

dusk in the forest

we camped in the Monkey Puzzle forest- this fire is Toms work.

Patagonia's Black Woodpecker, (male left, female right) several of which were active in our camp area in the morning

the day started on this amazing old abandoned jeep track in the national park

we didn't see anything like this in Argentina

now out of the park, a look up at the summit

humitas, a gift from a friendly lady in Coñaripe

some tough climbing here

dust, traffic, and big dangerous log trucks on steep tight curves.  We ran into a German cyclist going the other direction here.

...Southern Caracara, very common in these areas...

crossing the huge Rio Quilmo

looking back at Villarrica from a distance

late afternoon climbing on a great dirt road

arrived at Lago Neltume, the less-than-clear skies are a result of the eruptions of the volcano Puyehue (Chile) south of here

Tom tried his hand at fishing here, no luck

the morning here was sublime, camped on the edge of Lago Neltume, with lots of birdlife...



foreground: Great Grebe; background: cormorants


we made fresh mint tea here from lakeside herbs, with some Doug fir needles thrown in Puerto Fuy (backed by the huge twin stratovolcano Mosho-Choshuenco at 2420m) , we waited for the ferry to take us towards the border at Huahum...
Lago Pirihueico at Puerto Fuy

La Barcasa, the ferry which runs on Lago Pirihueico

... incredible natural beauty nearing the Argentinian border...

bizarre Roman cultural relics here in the middle of nowhere

the border at Huahum, one of the the lowest passes in the Andes at 659m

... in Argentina, some cool forest riding to welcome us back...

Argentine gendarmeria (border police) truck

we cycled along a very hazy Lago Lácar, hazy due to Puyehue eruptions.  These eruptions began on June 4, 2011, and since then have belched over 100 million tons of ash, sand, and pumice into the air!  Most of it has blown eastwards over western Argentina...

Cerro Colorado in the background

San Martín de los Andes as seen from above, and before a rollicking dirt descent

wicker sales in San Martín de los Andes (photo Greg Altman)

From San Martín we headed out along the very famous 7 Lakes Road, which leads towards Bariloche further south...
Lácar Lake, just after San Martín

some rolling hills navigating the lakes road

a popular cycling route, we met several Argentine cyclists here

Tom working on broken spokes

the beautiful Lago Villarino

the first part of the 7 Lakes Road had been pavement, the second part was all dirt

...Lago Correntoso in early morning...

some of the now-infamous Puyehue ash mounded up along the route.

Lago Espejo covered by a disturbing film of Puyehue volcanic ash

Lago Nahuel Huapi (photo Greg Altman)

Lago Nahuel Huapi is huge, and backed by terrific scenery (photo Greg Altman)

El Tronador, 3491 m, a definitive peak of this area

Bariloche as seen from above, sprawling along the southeast shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi

reconnecting with Hwy 40 for a spell, we had flashbacks to barren desert cycling on the last 20km into Bariloche

arrived in San Carlos de Bariloche, an important commercial and tourist center in Argentinian Patagonia.  The plan is to stay here for nearly a week and relax and organize ourselves for points further south...

 in Bariloche we were welcomed by Fede and Agus, two Argentinian friends of ours whom we had met in Huaraz, Peru, six months previous...

this beautiful plate of oven-roasted vegetables was prepared by Agustina!!  For us, nothing less than ambrosia...

Bariloche was to be quite the meeting place.  Here Greg and Jeff are flanking Santiago Ugolini, ex-flatmate of Jeff's from Barcelona (2008-9).  Santiago is from near Mar del Plata, Argentina.

full moon rise over Lago Nahuel Huapi

one of Argentina's premier charango players at a cultural festival in Bariloche

somehow, Bariloche managed to whore itself to such a level that McDonald's is advertised on all its street signs.  BOO!

later that evening, we stumbled upon this wonderful wall art, a sort-of-antidote to the last photo

...chilling on Playa Bonita near Bariloche...

at Fede and Agus' flat we jammed a lot of music... some folk music, some latin folk, some reggae, some rock.

homemade pizza

L-R: Jeff, Santiago, Fede, Anita (friend from Germany), Tom, Agus, Greg

the next appearance in Bariloche was a brief one, by Stephane, our French travelling friend last seen in La Paz, Bolivia some months ago.   (Pictured left to right: Santiago, Tom, Stephane, Romina - Argentine friend of Stephane's, and Greg).  Here we are having coffee and chocolates at the Rapa Ñui chocolatería in Bariloche.

Bariloche is famous for its chocolates, deservedly so.  Pictured here is a chocolate/almond pastry eaten at Rapa Ñui.

almost full moon over Lago Nahuel Huapi

Agus and Greg

As Fede and Agus also play guitar, we filled the flat with lots of strings and music, making our Bariloche stay unforgettable.