Friday, February 18, 2011

Wednesday 16 Feb : and the decision is.....

As we'd suspected, our friends voted to send us down the gravel road, so we went to bed Tuesday evening with our minds set on heading into Parque national los alerces.

After a seriously large tea that evening, of bread, cheese, scones, jam (two sorts), and five types of cake along with many, many cups of tea, we didn't really fancy a large meal. So after getting back from the tea house we didn't need much food! A beer and some nuts sufficed while we looked at maps and discussed plans.  The man at the hostel was really good and managed to give us some good information on the road conditions in the park, and we decided to take that route. The hostel also sold the tickets for the boat trip to see the ancient Alcerce trees, and so booked up to take the boat on the 17th. So after a good nights sleep, we packed up Dobbin and headed out of town. The normal route from Trevelin and the park is via a ripio road. There is a surfaced road option but it is around 10km longer, so we opted for the shorter option. This was complicated by the fact the road out of town is currently closed, but there is another temporary road (not sign posted) which allowed us to join the road after the closed bridge. After a couple of dead ends we found the correct route and started the significant climb of the day. The lakes in the national park drain into Rio Futalafu, and having lost height the previous day, it was clear we were going to have to do a bit of climbing today. The road was quiet though, and it was warm despite some rain showers. It turned out that the land levelled out at the top of climb and our road joined the tarmaced Esquel road, so there wasn't quite as much climbing as we expected. Bonus!

The entrance to the national park is only a few km along the road, but the road is actually tarmaced as far as Villa Futalaufquen. The park entrance fee (for foreigners), as well as the boat trip have almost doubled in cost since last year. The Argentines are clearly taking a leaf from the Chilian Torres del Paine book. The road through the park is very beautiful though. We decided to head to the campsite on the road just before the starting point for the boat trip. That way we could have a relatively relaxed morning and hopefully pack up everything on the bike ready to do a few km after the trip. The chap at the campsite was very friendly and recommended some good pitches for camping and provided us with a couple of logs to get the fire going. The prices for the camping have gone up in line with everything else, so we may make use of one of the free campsites tomorrow night. After a hot shower and much playing with fire, we were ready for cooking. Joth had spotted a carneceria (butchers) on our way into the park and bought a couple of steaks to cook over the fire. They were very nice, and a change from the rice/pasta/polenta based meals we generally cook.

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