Friday, March 23, 2012

Segment 53: Bariloche, Argentina to Coyhaique, Chile (February 9 - February 22, 2012)

one of Bariloche's best chocolates

Before leaving Bariloche, we took advantage of the summer weather and hiked up nearby Cerro Campanario for some views of the region:
Lago Nahaul Huapi and environs

young Israeli girls posing for Facebook shots

Fede, Agus, Santi and Greg, at the bus stop

a parting shot of the Bariloche crew: (L-R) Jeff, Greg, Cat, Agus, Fede, Tom and Santi, having microbrew beers in a local pub

...heading out of Bariloche to great scenery...

Tom chows an alfajor

welcome Cat Magill, ex-Peace Corps volunteer from Senegal who served in the same region as Jeff from 2004-6.  She had been riding solo from Salta south, and joined up with our crew in Bariloche. 

looking for a campsite at dusk

local fisherman running handlines near our campsite

Cat cools off in some very cold water

on the road to El Bolson

once in El Bolson, we biked and hiked up to Puquiquiltron, a prominent peak above the city

our favorite alfajor: Aguila minibrownie - layers of chocolate brownie and caramel.  We've eaten hundreds in Argentina...

we had an amazing day up on the mountain, totally clear weather

looking down on El Bolson from above

... the stunning Patagonian landscapes seen from the summit of Puquiquiltron (2260m)...

... we had the insane good fortune to watch an Andean condor come floating past us at the summit, our first condor sighting of the trip!...

...this condor perched some 40m away and provided us an incredible viewing experience...

Jeff, Greg, and Tom on Puquiquiltron

heading south from El Bolson, we had a funny travelling moment here, in which two Argentinians, a Frenchman, and ourselves all coincided at a random intersection.  We had lunch together.  (photo: Cat Magill)

heading out of Cholila with supplies

entering Parque Nacional Los Alerces

stealth camped in the park, with a fire

Los Alerces is full of conifer forests and lakes.  This is Lake Rivadavia.

this was nearly too good to be true: beautiful, non-desert Argentinian landscapes

a beautiful day in the park, we went for a few-hour day hike at Pasarela Rio Arrayanes (photo: Cat Magill)


flyfishing in the park

pristine waters abound

the park's namesake, the alerce andino, a relative of the true cedar

Greg and Tom chilling on the beach

a view of the Torresillas Glacier

common Patagonian bird: chucao.  Curious and colorful.  

arrayanes, typical tree here, notable for its cinnamon-colored bark

afternoon colors in Los Alerces

cosmic sunset from Punta Mattos

waterfall seen in the park

Lago Futalaufquen

a flyer for a local cultural festival seen in Trevelin, after exiting the park; offering bingo contests, beauty pageant, parade and horseriding activities

... from Trevelin we headed out on some rough gravel roads under memorable skies, on the way to Chile once again...

...nearing the border...

the international border at Rio FutaleufĂș

Tom got snagged by SAG, Chile's notorious agricultural inspection bureau.  Which means he had to eat all his salami and cheese on the spot.

this map shows our relative location in Chile.  We have progressed after all, although Tierra del Fuego remains quite far still.

in FutaleufĂș, Jeff had to replace his back hub, the easiest solution for which was buying a new complete wheel

on our way to Villa Santa Lucia, on some rough, hilly dirt roads

one of the first impressions we have in this part of Chile is that the villages and towns are very authentic, as opposed to the overblown tourism on the Argentinian side (San Martin, Bariloche, El Bolson, etc.).  Here there are families living homestead-style.

we cycled downstream along this wild river
camped here in rainy weather

we had been forewarned: Expect a lot of rain on the Chilean side!  this was to ring true.

...With rain, however, comes rushing wild rivers and deep green forests...

in Villa Santa Lucia, we dried off and warmed up around a wood stove.  Villa Santa Lucia is where we connected with the Carretera Austral, legendary cyclist route.  About 1240km long, it runs from Puerto Montt to Villa O' Higgins, passing through mostly-pristine and sparsely inhabited regions of Chile.

paralleling this river as we head south from V. Santa Lucia

we stayed a night here, safe from the rain, in this half-constructed cabin (photo: Cat Magill)

great riding with low traffic

these are the towns we will cross as we head south along the C. Austral

what had been a very hilly road flattened out a bit as we neared La Junta

what we didn't know was that the locals had been threatening a general strike for months, and were starting to act as we entered La Junta.  This is a roadblock of a bridge on the north side of town.

This arch commemorates the construction of the Carretera Austral, which was spearheaded by ex-Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet (photo: Cat Magill).  We were surprised to see such an obvious monument to Pinochet, considering he perpetrated numerous human rights violations during his several decade dictatorship. 

The Carretera Austral is a popular summer route for young hitchhikers... these ones are stranded in La Junta because of the strike, which has halted all traffic.  Glad to be on bikes!

view of the nearby mountains from La Junta
Agustin and Matias, two Chilean cyclists from near Santiago who are completing a portion of the Carretera Austral.

we took over the town plaza and dried out our soaked gear

Agustin on Jeff's guitar (photo: Cat Magill)

Matias does some bike maintenance

heading south from La Junta, we started seeing various towering waterfalls

entering this park we would see plenty more rain

this is a far cry from the dry Argentine pampas

just after Puyuhuapi we hit the Pacific Ocean for the first time since Turbo, Colombia, more than 10 months ago

... temperate rainforest features in Parque Nacional Qeuelat...

... misty, fun riding...

... water water everywhere, thundering out of the mountains...

Chilean temperate rainforest

... we cycled past these glaciers and peaks in the middle of Queulat...

... Tom (above) and Greg (below) pretty happy about the huge descent out of the park...

we spent the night at this cabin on the side of the road, joined by two Chilean hitchhikers

... a shrine to San Sebastian, and a thank you note (below)...
"Thanks, San Sebastian, for looking after me in those years of travelling"

mountains and rivers without end is the theme on the Carretera Austral

looking down the Rio Cisnes valley

...getting closer to Coyhaique, our next supply point, we passed another roadblock... which started to concern us a little....
fallen logs and burning tires form the roadblock.  The locals are mostly protesting because of rising gas costs in the entire region of Aysen, although over time we would learn that it was more complicated than just gas.

We ran into Craig and Guillermina here, whom we haven't seen since Mendoza in early January

skirting a huge fallen tree (felled and placed by the strikers)

along the Carretera Austral, there are always great mountains lurking nearby

more roadblocking entering Villa Manihuales

we fairly overran this casa de ciclistas... we were 12 cyclists!  A local pastor here, Jorge, operates a casa de ciclistas in Villa Manihuales which is a great help to cyclists looking for refuge from the rain and a hot shower.

drying gear in the town plaza

curious local kids

...jamming out in the casa de ciclistas (photo: Cat Magill) ...

Christophe, a Swiss cyclist also doing Alaska-Argentina.  He has done the whole trip on this German recumbent bike.

Leaving Villa Manihuales, we ran into various other cyclists along the road... Swiss and Italian.  Far and away, the Carretera Austral is the most bicycled road we have seen on this entire trip.  Thanks to the strike there is virtually zero car traffic the whole way.

colorful local homes periodically pop up along the route

as well as plenty of waterfalls

scenes from an elaborate shrine/grotto to San Sebastian on the way to Coyhaique

San Sebastian himself.  Like the other patron saints, he guards the road, travellers, offers luck and protection in general, and complies in performing various requests from his followers.  He is always depicted as being shot full of arrows and tied to a tree... his cult dates back to the 4th century A.D.!

a vast spread of melted candle wax

 license plates dedicated to San Sebastian

flyfishing on the Rio Simpson

coming into Coyhaique from above