When Simon and I first planned this trip, we only intended to cycle from Peru to Chile. This is now the fourth country on our trip!. For this reason, my biggest advice to someone planning a trip like this would be: remain flexible.
Immediately after each border crossing we have noticed differences between the countries. From Peru to Bolivia we went from nice pavement to potholes and cracked asphalt. Cycling from Bolivia into Chile we were immediately greeted by a higher level of hospitality from the people. Trucks stopped honking their horns for us to move over and the military men gave us free bottles of water! When we crossed the border into Argentina, the greenery of Chile’s patagonia region was replaced with the desert in Argentina. Thankfully, the wind often associated with this region was propelling us forward, rather than smacking us in the face. When we got to the town of Perito Moreno, we bought bus tickets to take us back up North, out of the desert to the Lake Region. We skipped this section initially on our way South in our haste to start the Carretera Austral.
The bus dropped us off in El Bolson, where we got a taste of another difference from Argentina to the other South American countries we’ve visited. Argentina has learned the marketing power of the word “Artisanias”. El Bolson has a local fair several times a week with artisanal beers, cheeses, smoked meats, jams and other handicrafts. On the way to our hostel we couldn’t help drooling into the windows of the local icecream shop (that uses several varieties of local wild berries), chocolateria, cerveceria (beer/pizza/pastas/meats), not to mention all the natural food shops. We were looking forward to spending a few rest days here!
When we walked into our hostel, Mike was sitting in the living room. We met Mike in a Casa de Cyclistas on the Carretera. We were heading South and he was going North. What a coincidence we should run into him further on down the road! We enjoyed good company and food in El Bolson. Tenderloin steaks at the supermarkets are only $1.50 per steak here!! I also tried my hand at making pizza dough and turned out 6 tasty pizzas with the smoked cheese we bought from the market. It only took a couple days for us to start feeling like we needed to incorporate some activities other than eating on our rest days. We decided to start running, which is when a hard realization hit me. We are in cycling shape, but have fallen out of the kind of shape we were in five months ago (Simon’s comment: I can certainly vouch for that! Just running a few miles is tough).
We pushed on from El Bolson, hoping to make it to San Carlos de Bariloche for Easter and a chocolate festival displaying the world’s largest chocolate egg! On the way out of town, we picked up a bottle of craft beer to drink in our tent that night — a cheers to one year of dating!
We missed the giant egg in Bariloche by an hour (not that I’m dwelling on it…ok, maybe I am a little (Simons comment: she is dwelling on it a lot!) but had a great time exploring the town and nearby scenery. We made another brilliant supermarket discovery here: artisanal raviolis for only $2! Eating at restaurants in this area can be pricey, but there are definitely more budget-friendly ways to enjoy the area’s offerings. As we were heading out of town, we ran into Mike yet again! This time we were all heading the same direction at the same time, so we cycled with him for awhile. Mike’s gear is quite minimal and he normally covers twice our distance in a day. Needless to say, I was breaking a sweat to keep up. We parted ways at lunchtime (phew!) and made it to a beautiful lake-side campsite right outside Villa La Angostura.
In Villa La Angostura, we indulged in hot chocolate and a pastry (no wonder we’re getting out of shape…) while checking internet. It turns out, in a few days we will be running into Billy, who is still making his way South (Alaska to Argentina). After a day of cycling we found another prime lake-side camp spot. We made raviolis and salad for dinner before cuddling into the sleeping bags to watch Remember the Titans on Simon’s ipad. For that hour and a half we were both transported! (Simon’s comment: It was strange when the film ended and all we had was silence. I remember looking around thinking “oh yeah, I forgot we were in the tent’).
The next morning the lake was completely misted over. The leaves are changing and it’s getting colder here. It’s a beautiful time of year, but we are thankful we didn’t get here any later in the season. We only had one climb that morning, and we were both in a reminiscent mood, thinking of the second week of our trip climbing the Andes in Peru. We’ve come along way since then, feeling stronger and faster on inclines. It still kicks my butt, but I have the confidence now that I can conquer any mountain. (Simon’s comment: She is being modest. She really does hammer up the mountains nowadays).
A scenic drop into the town of San Martin de los Andes and that’s us, enjoying the final weeks of our South American adventure to the fullest!!