Thursday, 28 November 2013

2013-11-28 click for more photo's
Calafate Puerto – Natales

Calafate attracts many many tourists because it is the nearest town to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier. It is much smaller then El Chalten and has a very different feel to it. It caters more for mass tourism than for serious mountaineers. Having said that, it is not for nothing that the Moreno glacier has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. It's 5 km wide front rises 60 meters above the water and it is a spectacular sight and sound when great masses of ice crash into the lake. There are ramped walks so you can see the glacier from all angles and we spend a very relaxed and pleasant day. I wouldn't have missed it but neither Malc or I are very good at just sitting and looking at beautiful sites we would rather be doing something. Even though the Viedma glacier in El Chalten wasn't as big walking on it in crampons and crawling into the caves left a much bigger impression. Next stop will be Torres del Paine National Park where we hope to walk the 'W' a four or five day trek.

We decided after long deliberations to take the bus to Puerto Natales. The logistics of cycling into the park where just to complicated because you have to cross the border from Argentina to Chile. And Chile doesn't allow you to bring in any fresh food. Since buying food in the Parc is very limited and expensive it would be better to enter the Park from Puerto Natales which is in Chile. We also thought it would probably be easier to find somewhere to store our bikes and bags. We were so glad we went on the bus because it turned out to be the windiest day so far on the whole trip. It would have been totally impossible to cycle in this wind strength and we would have had to stay in Calafate until it died down. On top of that the Chilean border staff were on strike so there were long delays predicted. When we arrived in Puerto Natales much later then anticipated because of the strike it was cold and raining hard and as usual we had nothing booked and no idea where to go. But within minutes of leaving the bus station we were approached by a very kind man who invited us into his shop. He offered us coffee and rang around for a cheap hostal with space for bicycles. The owner was an ex trekking guide and was able to offer us all the information we needed regarding the trekking. We really landed on our feet in Puerto Natales. 
Puerto Natales
2013-11-25 click for more phot'os
25/11/13 Stage 70 Hotel La Leona to El Calafate
25/11/2013 Stage 70 Hotel Leona to El Calafate by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
This was a day we had been worrying about as there was going to be a lot of headwind potentially. The day didn't start to well as all the hotel staff were still in bed when we were ready to have breakfast and go. Eventually the landlady turned up and to compensate the breakfast was better than expected. 
The riding to start off with was sinuous and gently undulating which makes it more interesting than the dead straight dead flat roads of the pampas. The feared headwind was in fact crosswind and didn't slow us down too much at this stage. On the map there were several place names which we vainly hoped would be villages but whenever we reached one of the names it was either a bridge or a single building Estancia set back from the road. There was going to be nothing until we got to Calafate. The first 60kms were really nice and not too hard but having reached the SE tip of Lago Argentino we had to join a different road heading West. Kerrbam!!  At this point there was no protection from the wind which was now directly against us. Our speed dropped to 3mph at times on the flat and there are few things more demoralising than having to pedal hard to go downhill. The cuttings which have been created for the road through the hills are often the worst as they create a funnel effect increasing the strength of the wind. We were both blown off our bikes at times but we were learning to be prepared and always got blown off the road and not into it fortunately. The thought of shops and a hotel in Calafate helped motivate us to continue but it was very slow and besides there was no protection from the wind which made camping impossible. The tourist information office helped us find a nice place and we made plans to visit the glacier the next day.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

24/11/2013 Stage 69 El Chalten - Hotel Leona

24/11/2013 Stage 69 El Chalten - Hotel Leona by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
24/11/13 Stage 69 El Chalten to Hotel Leona
Leaving El Chalten in sunshine we were pushed along by an increasing tailwind and followed the lakeside with a quiet gently undulating tarmac road. Perfect. Across the lake we could see the Viedma glacier we had walked on yesterday and behind us Fitzroy and Cerro Torre were fully exposed.
This far South it is definitely a lot colder and we struggled to find a shelter from the wind for breakfast which as usual happens at the 30 km stage. After 85kms we came to the end of the lake and rejoined the Ruta 40. We were now heading directly into wind and were forced to slow down to 10 kph. This was a bit worrying as tomorrows ride will be mainly into wind and there will be nothing before El Calafate.
Our hotel for the night is the only building of significance between Chalten and El Calafate but fortunately serves food. Being so isolated and the only hotel restaraunt between the two towns means that it has a monopoly and hence it wasn't cheap. Butch Cassidy is supposed to have hidden here for several months before going to Bolivia.We keep reminding ourselves how little we had to spend in Peru and Bolivia and that the occasional overspend should come out in the wash but it still hurts to pay European prices.

22/11/2013 and 23/11/2013 El Chalten

2013-11-23 click date for more photo's

22/11/2013 and 23/11/2013 El Chalten
We are so glad we detoured to El Chalten. It is a really nice place to hang out. The town itself is nothing much to write home about but when you see the setting it is quite something. From almost anywhere in the town you see the silhouettes of Fitzroy and Cerro de Torre usually with their peaks covered in cloud so all the more special when you catch them 'naked'. There is a mix of really expensive hotels and restaurants which cater for the many tourists but also budget hostals (£5.- pp including access to kitchen etc) because the town attracts many hikers and mountaineers(without money but with a lot of passion) The walking here is superb, with excellent tracks and of course even better views. We have come across many dead trees whilst travelling in Patagonia which troubled us somewhat but after talking to people here, we realise that it is quite normal. The roots of the most common tree species here is very sensitive and if the temperature is wrong whole forests will die. This has always been the way but because the wood doesn't decompose as it would in Europe, the dead wood stays around forever.
We went to do a trek on theViedma glacier today and were truly impressed. We were very lucky because we ended up as a group of six with two guides who were passionate climbers and very knowledgeable. Walking on the glacier with crampons and under the glacier in a kind of cave was amazing. This particular glacier is receding rapidly. Partly because of less snow fall in the high mountains and partly because of increased melting.(global warming??? We felt compelled to take hundreds of pictures but of course none of them really capture it. You have to see it for yourself.

Tomorrow we will be back on the bikes again which is just as well really as although our legs are cycle fit they're still complaining after all the hiking.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

2013-11-21 click for more photo's
19/11/13 Los Antiguos to El Chalten
The day started well with only seven people on the coach, no difficulties loading the bikes and leaving slightly early. When we arrived at Perito Moreno a handful of people boarded and we continued the journey with plenty of space to stretch out which as things turned out was just as well. The journey was going to be 12 1/2 hrs but after only 2 hrs the trouble began. the driver had been going slower and slower and eventually had to stop as the air compressor enabling the brakes and gears failed. The driver and assistant worked for a long time trying to repair it and after 1 1/2 hrs we were able to limp to Bajo Caracoles, a village of three houses where further repairs were attempted.
After a lot of discussion on the phone as to how to repair the vehicle it was decided to give in and call in the cavalry which meant sending a replacement bus from Calafate 6 hrs away. We eventually rolled into El Chalten at 5.15 am the next day 7 hours late.Despite the delay we were glad that we had taken the bus. The landscape was very uninspiring throughout and by bussing it we were 'buying' ourselves some time for walking. It was just starting to get light but of course everyone was asleep. Not a chance of finding a hostel open. We cycled up and down for a while hoping for a camp site but didn't have any luck with that either. Not one of the finest moments on the trip until we bumped into a young man from Columbia 'David' who was incredibly kind and offered to take care of our luggage and bikes. Every one we have met on this journey has mentioned how wonderful Columbia and it's people are. It is one of our regrets that we never went there since the days of drugs and violence in Columbia are so of the past. David solved all our problems and after offering us coffee and useful information about the hike send us on our way for a hike up to Lago Los Tres with views of Mount Fitzroy. It turned out to be a fabulous walk even though Mount Fitzroy never quite revealed herself to us in all her glory.The top always remained in cloud even though we could see her shape through it. Because we had started the day so early we were the first people to reach the top which was quite special particularly when we saw so many people climbing up when we descended. What wasn't so good was the fact that we undertook this 10 hour plus hike after not having walked for more than a few hundred yards at the time since Casablanca weeks and weeks ago. We might be fairly cycle fit but we are certainly not walking fit. We limped back with very tired legs into town and found a hostel for £5.-pp and a very good supermarket filled with a wonderful choice of food and dirt cheap wine.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

18/11/2013 Stage 68 Chili-Chico - Los Antiguos

2013-11-18 click for more photo's
18/11/2013 Stage 68 Chili-Chico - Los Antiguos by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
18/11/2013 19/11/2013 Stage 68 Chili Chico to Los Antiguos

 We had breakfast with a French couple who were on a 6 week trekking holiday. He is a mountain guide and holidaying in the off season. You do meet some interesting people whilst travelling. We had stayed the night in a very homely hostel and had breakfast in the kitchen which was lovely and warm. The landlady toasted a never ending supply of home made bread on a kind of wood fuelled Aga whilst telling me her full family and medical history. We were also joined by her mother who suffered from Alzheimers and more family members. We only had a short day from Chile and back into Argentina and it was lovely to be able to take our time.
The first thing to do on arrival was to check out how to get to El Chalten by bus and we were slightly disappointed to discover that the relevant bus had left at 9.30 and the next one would be 48hrs later. Shame, but at least it seemed that the subsequent bus trips were more frequent and there seemed to be a general feeling of optimism that we would be able to get where we wanted with the bikes. The section from the next town, Perito Moreno to El Chalten is ripio and uninspiring pampas territory notorious for the strong winds. We are pleased to be able to bus this section so we can have more time for the things we want to do. The theme is going to change from mainly cycling to mainly trekking over the next 10 days or so and the difficulty is deciding which places to visit. Mount Fitzroy has beautiful mountain scenery and an enormous glacier and will be our starting point once getting to El Chalten.
our home for the next two nights yippee
The rest off the day and the following day was spent cycling to the various miradors and enjoying the views, not to forget a lot of downtime and eating and drinking.

17/11/2013 Stage 67 El Blanco – Chili Chico

2013-11-17 click for more
17/11/2013 Stage 67 El Blanco – Chili Chico by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
Garmin cut out several times during the ride and I forgot to switch it on after the ferry crossing.
17/11/2013 Stage 67 El Blanco – Chili Chico
We woke up to a very overcast sky and blustery wind and were greeted affectionately by the dog from the night before. Fortunately the wind was still blowing in the right direction for us. We quickly broke camp and were on our way. We knew there would be a lot of climbing today from the Garmin Basecamp programme. We both prefer to have some idea of what lies ahead so you can prepare for it in your head. This cycling lark has more to do with the mind than the body. You can always push on another mile if the mind is willing. As we slowly climbed up we realised the dog was following. At first we weren't too concerned. He wasn't the first dog to follow us after all but he was still there after 50 km and we didn't know how to stop him. He was a well fed dog with a clean coat but we could only assume he was a stray in need of some company. We thought he would stop following once we picked up speed on the down hills. Twice we thought he had gone but he turned up again when we stopped for breaks. The second time with paws bleeding. We felt awful. This trip I have absolutely hated some dogs that have come chasing after me growling and barking and have had my heart in my mouth repeatedly as I feared they were going to bite me. But we have also met some lovely dogs and this one was the nicest most affectionate dog ever (apart from Diesel of course) and it hurt to see him like this and knowing that we could do nothing for him.
Our waterproof gear was fully tested again today as it continued to rain for hours on end. The Goretex lined over boots which had been sitting in the bottom of our bags unused for months sure proved themselves worthwhile. We were warm and more or less dry and I didn't really mind the rain. On reaching Puerto Ibanez we found a little spot out of the howling wind and made some coffee and eat empenada's ( the S.A. Pasty equivalent) while we waited for the ferry. We were worried the dog would turn up again but this time we had managed to lose him.

The sun decided to come out and the 2 hour crossing with views back to Cerro de Castillo were superb if a little hair raising. The boat was seriously leaning at times and waves were crashing on the windows. We were surprised that we were allowed on deck where we had to cling onto the railings. It was pretty wild. 
Should have been sponsored by Gore Tex

16/11/2013 Stage 66 Puerto Aisen to El Blanco

2013-11-16 click for more 
16/11/2013 Stage 66 Puerto Aisen to El Blanco by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
Road sides where covered in lupins

We left Puerto Aisen with partial cloud cover and some sun and a tailwind fortunately. The road was narrow but quiet and threaded its way up the valley along the river with lots of waterfalls along the way. We met Johan again just outside of town, he had found Puerto Aisen too expensive and had slept in his mini tent [ a fly sheet held up by trekking sticks ]. He was heading for Coihaque and we were going beyond and so we probably wouldn't see him again. Bye son.
The tailwind picked up and definitely helped us cover the kms. The climbing was in the main quite gentle apart from a 400 steeper section which led through a long dark tunnel. We were a bit worried that the following traffic might not see us but fortunately the first vehicle stopped behind us and slowly followed us illuminating the way to the other side.
Reaching the top of the climb afforded us a beautiful view of Coyhaique in the valley below where we found the tourist office and confirmed the ferry times from Puerto Ibanez. 7 pm . That meant the best option would be to push on today and then reach the ferry tomorrow night but with a 2hr crossing we would reach Chile Chico at 9pm.Not ideal but Hobson's choice.
We passed a mini rodeo en route which occurs once every year during which they let the bullocks into a small paddock where ten “cowboys” lasso them after a few circuits. They were then branded and castrated. Eye watering to watch.
During the afternoon the sun came out and we had to strip off. It was lovely to cycle in the sunshine again and have the high mountains back.
El Blanco our destination turned out to be very very small with the two shops being just the front room of someone's house. Worse still the one and only Hosteria was going to close as they were all going to Coyhaique to vote the next day. Still , they let us camp in their backyard and sold us a meal and bottle of wine. A dog befriended us and stayed huddled up to our tent all night.

15/11/2013 Stage 65 Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Aysen

2013-11-15 click for more 
15/11/2013 Stage 65 Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Aysen by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details

The company’s web page had said we'd get in at 10 am but this was pushed back to 4 pm which meant that we were not going to have much time to cover a long distance when back on the bikes and would have to settle for a very short day. At least we had time to quiz people about the forthcoming roads and ferry crossings. As usual when we asked about the climbs involved we were told that it was essentially flat but when we plotted it out on Garmin Basecamp there was going to be a 1800m height gain. Never ask a non cyclist or any one who lives in a a mountainous place about how much climbing is involved.
We spent most of the day enjoying the hundreds of miles of beautiful fjord like scenery but felt that you could switch off to it on board which would never be possible on a bike. Biking has to be the best way to travel.
Back on mainland Chile the scenery is all of a sudden on the XXL scale with steep snow capped mountains although at this latitude the snow appears to begin at 400m. It's good to be in the Andes again.
The only fly in the ointment was trying to find somewhere to eat as all of the cafe restaurants were full of cheering Chileans watching their team beat England 2-0.

14/11/2013 Quellon -Mid Sea


14/11/2013 Quellon - Mid Sea
Fortunately the weather improved for the ferry ride and we spent hours at the back of the boat enjoying the views of islands on both sides and basking in the sun which we thought we had lost (I still can't get my head round the fact that I'm facing north to face the sun)We haven't been to the Norwegian Fjords but are told that this is very similar but more extensive
There were only seats on board and no cabins but there were very few passengers and after the first stop there were 3 lorries and a car left and we had our sleeping bags and air mattresses with us and had a comfortable nights sleep on a very spacious ship. We wondered how they could cover the cost.

The night before we met Johann the French man again who worked in Canada as a sled dog driver or kayak guide according to the season and on the boat we spent some more time chatting with him causing some of the onlookers to think we were a cycling family trio!  

Thursday, 14 November 2013

13/11/2013 Stage 64 Chonche - Quellon

13/11/2013 Stage 64 Chonche - Quellon by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
13/11/2013 Stage 64 Chonche – Quellon

mud and more mud
The days in Chiloe have been very relaxed really. Because we will be leaving by ferry we are 'forced' to take it easy because the earliest boat is Thursday morning and there are only so many miles to cycle (short of going round in circles) We had a three course meal last night including beer and wine for less than £ 5 each so not too bad considering we had sea side views as well. Since we only had less then 80 km to cycle we had a very late start this morning. Sadly it was quite grey and overcast but we knew that was to be expected here on the western side of the Andes. We had a tailwind and made good progress until we hit major road works and heavy rain. The road works meant long stretches of slippery grey sludge and combined with the rain we got absolutely filthy. We sought shelter in another bus stop and ate brunch. Just as we were about to leave a young Canadian fellow joined us. He started his journey in Puerte Montt and had only experienced grey and wet and had managed to hitch a ride yesterday when he said that he had seen us. We expect to see him on the ferry tomorrow. When you are constantly moving on it is rare to see faces twice and it makes me realise that I'm not cut out for life on the bike for years on end. Some of the people we meet have been on the road for years or have no plans to stop cycling. I love it but I do miss the continuity of relationships with family and friends.

We finished early again in a great seaside hostel and took great delight in watching the deluge outside from the warmth of the hotel room. Now that we are moving further south it is becoming increasingly colder and we are cycling in leggings and long sleeved tops as well as waterproof gear at times. I do hope we need sunglasses and suntan lotion again before the end of the trip but it looks unlikely. We have been lucky though. More then three months of cycling in the sun in tee shirts is not bad! Tomorrow we set off on a 28 hour boat ride. The forecast is reasonable so it should be beautiful. 

No blue skies today.

12/11/2013 Stage 63 Quemchi - Chonche

2013-11-12 click for more
12/11/2013 Stage Quemchi - Chonchi by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
12/11/13 Stage 63   Quemchi to Chonchi
We left Quemchi after waiting an hour for the rain to stop only for it to restart immediatley again. After 3 months of virtually no rain and never a need to push on in waterproof gear today was proving to be very different. We had toyed with doing the coastal route ,dipping down into the little villages with their individual churches but this would have meant staying on ripio most of the day and doing lots of in and outs to visit the vilages, which is fine in a car but hard work on a bike. We decided eventually to head for the main North to South spinal road and head for Castro. The weather only worsened during the middle of the day and we sheltered several times in the bus stops changing clothes frequently. You're either too hot or too cold or too wet.
Castro was pretty and allowed us to check out ferry times. Unfortunately the ferry, although leaving roughly when we thought it was,was now scheduled to arrive in Puerto Chacabuco 4 hrs later at 2pm, which makes the ongoing connections impossible to achieve. We managed to buy the tickets at least which was reassuring but would probably end up pushing everything back by 2 days due to the delayed arrival.I suppose that allows us to take more time over the days when we get off the ferry.
In the afternoon the weather cleared so we took the opportunity ( as you have to) to push on to Chonchi where we found a nice seaside hotel.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

11/11/2013 Stage 62 Pargua- Quemchi (Chiloe)

2013-11-11 click for more
Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
11/11/2013 Stage 62 Pargua- Quemchi (Chiloe)
We left Pargua on the ferry which runs continuously between the mainland and the Island of Chiloe. Spanish settlers were isolated here in the 16th century with only one ship coming in a year. Quite a nice way to start the day on the ferry! I don't quite know what possessed us to decide to take the ripio route along the coast instead of the asphalt main road. It was quite incredible that a road with barely any height gain was so difficult to cycle. I repeatedly had to walk because the gradient was so steep and I kept skidding. We did come across some of the famous wood clad churches though for which Chiloe has been listed as a world heritage site. Overall the riding wasn't too bad to be fair and we rode into Quemchi with the idea of buying some provisions and moving on. However when we first arrived an elderly gentleman rushed out of his house and suggested we should eat at the fabulous restaurant on the sea front. We cycled about for a bit but with it being siesta time nothing much was happening. It was a charming seaside little town though and we did end up in the suggested restaurant where we found of course the same guy who was in fact the proud owner of the restaurant. We did have an excellent meal of locally caught fish and we are sure we saw dolphins in the water. All thoughts of continuing on rapidly disappeared. It was just too nice a place to pass by. Everything just felt right about it so we booked into a cheap hostal with superb sea views and enjoyed ourselves. We knew there would probably be a price to pay tomorrow as Chiloe is very short on dry days and we were passing up a perfectly sunny afternoon. So be it. We will deal with it tomorrow. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

10/11/2013 Stage 61 Ensenada - Pargua

Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
10/11/2013 Stage 61 Ensenada - Pargua
The cabin (our home for the night)

A slightly boring day at the cycling office. I suppose you have to have them every now and again. After the most wonderful day yesterday, today's 120 odd km linked us to the next exciting bit, Chiloe Island. We followed the lake for ages but it was a fairly overcast day and didn't do it justice. The whole day we cycled on paved road. It wasn't too steep or excessively windy so we just clocked up the miles on the hard shoulder of a fairly busy road until we got to Pargue where we ran out of land. In Puerto Varas we met Isabel and Hervi on a tandem. Sadly I have lost their contact details. Loose bits of paper are useless. Now you have got them and then they are gone. We had first heard about Isabel and Hervi in Cusco so the world really is a handkerchief (the spanish way ofsaying it's a small world) Tomorrow we will make the crossing by boat but a hostal for us tonight. After the wonderful evening with Julien, Marlene and Alejandro we thought we were doing ok with our Spanish but we struggle to understand the majority of Chileno's which is very disappointing. We need a sympathetic Chileno to talk to who is prepared to slow his speech down a bit to get the hang of it again. 

09/11/2013 Stage 60 LLau-Llau -Ensenada (Chili)

09/11/2013 Stage 60 LLau-Llau -Ensenada (Chili) by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
09/11/2013 Stage 60 LLau-Llau -Ensenada (Chili)
We had breakfast with Alejandro and before we knew it he had loaded both bikes on his roof rack and then drove us to the ferry port with minutes to spare.
We were blessed with good weather and had great views all day. This made sitting out the bad weather the previous days a wise decision.
This has to have been a top five day with spectacular views from beginning to end. After leaving Llao Llao the ferry took us for 1.5 hrs to the far end of the lake where we all disembarked, the others to get on a coach for the 3 kms road trip to the beginning of the next lake and we were encouraged to get there as quick as we could as they wouldn't wait. Fortunately we got away quickly and beat the coach. The road has no other connections and the coaches can only go back and forth between the two lakes. The next crossing over lake Frio was only 30 minutes and overhead near the top of the steep cliffs the Condors were flying. After the next disembarcation we had to check out of Argentina and fortunately the tour leader pushed us to the front of the queue which probably saved us 1/ 2 hour which we needed. We then had 3 hrs to  climb the steep ripio to the unmanned border before descending to the Chilean border post crossing 30 kms further. The ripio was very steep and muddy but we managed to get to the pass ahead of the following bus which passed on the steep descent. I hate it when, having put so much effort getting up the mountain coming down is so slow and treacherous. We did catch the bus again when they stopped for photos at the bottom of the descent and at this point we were joined by a dog which ran alongside us for the next 15 kms. It was all very sweet until we passed a field of sheep and the dog ran in and felled several of them. There was lots of shouting from workers in the fields and we felt guilty but he wasn't our dog or in our control and we couldn't shake him off.
We finally reached the Chilean border without much time too spare, non the less we still managed to cook the six eggs and eat them and as much of everything else that wasn't going to be allowed through the border. The leftovers were given to the dog ( I now feel that he knew what was coming). Arriving at the ferry with minutes to spare we were told that the dog often follows the bikers and would get a lift back with the police. Smart mutt.
The dog sat on the quay staring at our bikes on the front and it was only when we sailed that we saw him leave. The 3rd and final ferry crossing of 1.5 hrs was again spectacularly beautiful and we eventually stopped at Petrohue where the roads started again. Another hour got us to Ensenada where we got a lake side cabin with views of the snow capped volcano. Lots of confusion with the currency once again but the prices don't seem as bad as we had been warned about.

08/11/2013 Stage 59 San Carlos de Bariloche - kitchen floor

Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
08/11/2013 Stage 59 San Carlos de Bariloche - kitchen floor
Arryanna trees ( the only ones remaining after the Hiroshima
bomb) and filmed in the Bambi movie 
Today was always meant to be a short day but we hadn't anticipated it being this short! We just wanted to move from Bariloche to Llau-Llau from where the ferry would leave early the next morning. It was a grey and drizzly day and a shock to the system that it was suddenly cold. We have been so very very lucky with the weather so far. We have barely seen rain and always cycled in shorts and tee shirts. From all accounts Chile is very much wetter. The Andes are the dividing range and geography lessons about it being dryer on the lee side are demonstrated very well in these parts.
We never made it to Llau Llau that day because after only 12 km or so we were spotted by Julien and Marlene the French couple we met in Cusco. It was an amazing and wonderful coincidence to bump into them like that. They immediately offered us a place to stay in their house and showed us all the sights near Bariloche in the car. Julien has been coming to Argentina for the last 8 years or so for about 5 months at a time and is very familiar with everything so it was wonderful to have him guide us. The evening was spent in true Argentinian style eating about 10 courses of meat washed down with bottles and bottles of wine in a restaurant of one of Juliens friends. We had a wonderful time and Alejandro (Juliens Argentinian friend) spoke very clearly and slowly and rephrased things endlessly so that we could understand him well. It became a late night and Alejandro offered to take us to the port the next morning so we wouldn't have to get up so early. So much kindness shown to us we were sad to leave.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

6/112013 and 7/11/2013 rest days in San Carlos de Bariloche

We had only intended to have one rest day but the weather turned on us  and we suddenly had to put up with rain and cold conditions, which after three months of virtually no rain came as a shock. Still there were a lot of plans to be made with regards to the route to be taken and how. We eventually decided to do the three lakes ferry crossing through a small pass into Chile. This is known to be very beautiful but depends on good views and hence good weather.Waiting a couple of days would allow us to hopefully move into a period of better weather, although just about everyone we spoke forewarned us that the Chiloe peninsula where we were heading  was beautiful but inevitably very wet.
We spent the time route planning and buying a rucksack and hiking shoes for Torres Paine. In Argentina using a credit card is rarely possible and when it is it is usually 15-25% more than the cash price and getting sufficient cash out of the ATMs is not easy so it would take two days at least to get sufficient cash to buy what we wanted. Also we waned to sit out the bad weather. It had suddenly turned cold and wet.
After the two rest days we were going to set off for Llao Llao the following day where the ferry would leave. Llao Llao is notoriously expensive and up market and all though plenty of hotels it didn't  seem have anything as lowly as a food shop and probably no camping
Another difficulty to be overcome was the fact that you can't take much in the way of food into Chile and if they catch you the fines are quite substantial, on the other hand once we passed the Chilean border it would be several hours before we would encounter any shops to buy new supplies. What to do?
Once again we had to go through the  wet back street dealing process to change our remaining dollars into Chilean pesos and prepared for a short stage tomorrow.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

05/11/2013 Stage 58 Villa La Angostura to San Carlos de Bariloche

2013-11-05 click for more
Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
05/11/2013 Stage 58 Villa la Angostura -San Carlos de Bariloche
Today was the final day of two weeks of solid riding. We covered a total of  1.348 km  66% of it was paved and we climbed a total of 12.770 meters. It has been quite a tough section but nearly all incredibly beautiful. Some of it very hard because of the poor road surface or strong head winds. Overall though a section well worth cycling. Today was peachy. No wind to speak of, only 800 meters to climb and all on road and few miles to cover. You could have thought we were on holiday or something! We coincided with a french couple, two lovely american girls and our canadian cyclist at a road junction (as you do) and had a cup of coffee together. Me showing off the incredibly quick boil time of the Primus ETA saucepan with the super duper burner. I love it! It is always good to hear everybody else stories which can be quite humbling. We are very lucky to be able to afford good kit, good food, hostals when they are available and all the rest of it and we are moaning sometimes how hard it is. The two american girls had totally unsuitable bikes with incredibly skinny tyres which must make ripio cycling almost unbearable, no money no nothing but were as happy as anything.
 We rolled into Bariloche early and found a very decent hostal who let us have a room to ourselves for the price of a bed in a dormitory. Bariloche is full of outdoor shops (it is a major ski resort in winter) and we do have to get some extra kit to prepare ourselves for a 5 day trek so it is Mecca for a kit-junkie like me. Combine that with lots of good food and it might be hard to get me away from here!
It is still a little early for Lupins to be out. The road sides are absolutely covered in them.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

04/11/2013 Stage 57 Camp Lake Faulkner- Villa la Angostura

2013-11-04 click for more

04/11/2013 Stage 57 Camp Lake Faulkner- Villa la Angostura by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
04/11/2013 Stage 57 Camp Lake Faulkner- Villa la Angostura
This was going to be one of the easiest days with only 60 kms and 800m height gain. The route would once again continue along the seven lakes and was just like yesterday with magnificent views all the way. There was probably less traffic today as the weekend sightseers had all gone home. Nontheless there were still the occasional tourist vans full of people who would pull into the laybys to enjoy the views. We smugly felt that travelling by bike was a much better way of enjoying what was on offer.
Later we met the Canadian cyclist that we had met the night before in the campsite had a chat and let him go ahead as we had breakfast by a different lake. As we approached our destination Marjet spotted a few rags on the road which I had missed and picked them up. 5 kms further on we met the Canadian again who had found two Swiss cyclists and Marjet was able to return the newly discovered rags which were in fact the Canadians leggings. He needless to say was delighted to have them returned.
We've now learned to go to the tourist info centres on arriving in town as they have all the Hosteria addresses , prices, wifi availability etc and found a great value place that otherwise would have been missed. Probably everyone else knows that already but we're slow learners.