Monday, February 21, 2011

Saturday 19 Feb: hippy skipping

When you wake up and find your bicycle is just putting on his climbing harness, you know you're in for a tough day.

It could have worked out quite differently: by 11am we had already covered the 25km to the next town of El Bolsón, which we'd liked to have made it to the previous evening but proved a little too far. Being relatively early in the morning we decided to just push on and make use of the cooler morning to cover some of the distance towards bariloche. As it turned out, the distances would have been friendlier if we'd just hung out there for a long lunch and browse the Saturday market. In the 70's this was a big hippy commune, and this lives on in lots of local artisan goods such as beers and jam, both of which we enjoy!

Anyway, another 20-odd km up the long climb out of El Bolsón we found a basic cafe next to some picturesque waterfalls where we grabbed some typical local grub for lunch, and a Pepsi.  (This particular pocket of ruta 40 appears to be a coca-cola free zone, as Quilmes, the national beer brewery, has manufacturing rights on Pepsi and 7-up and that's all that gets distributed it seems).

After lunch the climb continued for another hour or so, winding a way north through seemingly impassable mountains, and then dropped down a fair way to enter the Nahuel Huapi national park. After a while winding through the gorge it started to climb once more and we started to think about finding somewhere to stop for the night. At this point I realised that since entering the park the regular camping and eating facilities had ceased, and wondered when the next would be. We happened to pass a park guard house and when in to ask. After a lot of rummaging he found a map to give me, and explained as best I could understand it would take too long to cover the 30km to the next site on the road north, so we should take a gravel sideroad for 10k diversion to get to a site. We opted to press on to the further one without taking the side road, but the worked out the issue was the road climbed up to over 1000m to get through a pass to get through to lago Mascardi. This was not what we'd planned to be starting out on at 5pm, but it is actually a well graded paved climb, so other than dodging the occasional out of control freight truck it was a fairly reasonable hill to plod away at. The views as you work up through the switchbacks and valleys are amazing, revealing row behind row of Andes ranges behind and then in front.

We eventually rolled into the campsite around 7.30, having ascended more thab 1700m over the day, a touring record for us! We attempted to order pizza and pasta in the campsite's basic restaurant, which confused the lady who served us hamburgers and rice instead. (Scenes bordering on the Monty python spam cafe!). Having eaten that we made another attempt at ordering pizza, which caused even more fluster but we did eventually succeed in getting some.


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