Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday 23 Feb: power up!

Somedays everything just falls into place to make it a most fantastic day out on the bike. It certainly wasn't the road, as we returned to ripio midmorning. It could have been the wind dropping down, and the fine weather, but that's only part of it. Fine views help. Most likely the biggest help is getting a great night's kip!

The wind dropped right down overnight, so by morning I could barely hear the waves on the lake, and indeed on extracting myself from the tent the lake was mirror flat with barely a ripple visible.

We made good time along the remaining 25km of paved road, stopping on the way in Villa La Angostura for a coffee, wifi, and pickup bread and fruit. (Hard not to say pan y frutas. We're really getting into this espaniola). The town is another tourist Mecca like bariloche. Again it has a winter as well as summer season. It's strange to be calling into so many ski resorts, with their faux Alpine architecture (actually it's hardwood - not pine - and local rock so very much developed it's own style), salomon ski shops and designer boutiques, but not any snow in sight! Even stranger that it's February, when we often are off skiing, yet these places are all in their secondary role as summer seaside resort, up at the altitude of Ben Nevis!

Techie breakout: Whilst using my phone to catch-up with the world over coffee, I noticed it had been recharging from the bike generator (Schmidt hub and B&M e-werk) much better than anytime previously. Last night I'd noticed the second terminal of my "piggyback" bodge cable was loose; now both spade connectors had snapped. We'd managed to buy spares in a car spares shop in Trevelin (another fun language challenge!), so rather than bodge it further I cut off the end and crimped the new pair on. Evidently my lakeside running repair works much better than my carefully constructed cable from home! (Possibly removing the frontlight - a Solidlight - from being connected in parallel with the e-werk was the trick). By the end of the day the phone had fully charged (whilst using GPS), even at ripio speeds.

The ripio road to the "Siete Lago" route branches off north towards San Martín shortly before he main road reaches the Chile border. They've started paving this one too, so we had tarmac just on our side (win!) for 5k or so. It reminds me of my first impression when I moved to London years ago: wow, this place will be really nice when all the construction is done! Of course, construction is really the steady state, at least for the medium term.

We'd been warned by several others about the tough conditions on this road, especially on a hot dry day with the extremely bad dust clouds, which toady was shaping up to quite well. At the first lake we stopped to admire the view (almost painfully beautiful, as one guide described it) and munch lunch, and an American couple warned us again of what's ahead!

We also noticed Dobbin was getting a lot of attention, even by his standards. Several folks were taking photos of themselves with him. This maybe because the ride is another popular mountain bike rental route, and so they wanted staged snaps of an endeavour they weren't really undertaking. We passed plenty of folks on (presumably rental) MTBs, but not sure how much they were enjoying it: certainly nobody seemed interested to return our "Hola!" as we passed! Maybe the over-full rucksacks loosely hitched on the rear racks didn't help!

We noticed a world of difference in the motor traffic since our last busy ripio, towards the north of the carraterra Austral. Back then, the locals (typically Toyota pickup trucks) were most friendly, but the tourist traffic (Jeep Grand Cherokees) were in a big hurry to get on with the N thousand k journey home. Here, the tourist traffic (Ford escort or Chevrolet corsa) was most definitely out to enjoy the views, and quite nervous about (or once, really struggling with) being on the now less-common loose road surface. Just another of those things we notice as we progress up into more inhabited areas. It'll almost be a shame next year (or 2 or 5) when the route is all paved!

The dust and surface never got as bad as we feared, or at least, not as bad as we've previously enjoyed, so we made it through same distance as yesterday - 70km - in about the same time, but feeling much stronger by the end of it. Stopped in a free campground near lake Brazo Norte, which is quite pleasant except the lack of loo facilities has obviously confused previous occupants, so you must tread carefully when looking for firewood in the neighbouring forest.

Emma made a great campfire and managed to rustle up a four course feast on it: chicken soup, aubergine and lentil curry, hot smashed plums with dulce de leche, and tea and biscuits to finish!


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