Mingling with Giants

Date: 11th December – 25th December 2012

Where: Pucon (Chile) – Cabaña heaven – Junin de los Andes (Argentina) – San Martin de los Andes – Villa El Chocón – San Martin de los Andes

Distance: 6483 to 6598 miles

Firstly Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to anyone still reading this, who, like us, survived the end of the World! The festive season has been busy, but we’ll try and update you on our adventures as quick as possible.

After a day of relaxation in some thermal springs near Pucon, and a less relaxing day pretending to be bike mechanics, the morning of the 13th arrived…Sarah’s Birthday and the sun was on her side! The only cloud in the sky was from the gently puffing Villarica volcano. We boarded an early bus to the nearby Huerquehue national park, and had soon negotiated the short walk to a little hostal in the woods with our unwieldy baggage. Refugio Tinquilco would be our home for the next three days. Taking advantage of the sun we proceeded to climb a little less than one Snwdn* to a series of lakes flanked by the mighty araucania trees. These monkey puzzle trees grow to gigantic proportions in the ancient forest of the park. A day of cribbage, dandelion-collecting and general heavenly nothingness was followed by another walk up the other side of the valley to a kind of moorland with gorgeous orchids and Magellanic woodpeckers (see cyclo-twitching page: click here). We were sad to leave our refuge and especially Patricio’s great cooking, and return to the real world. The next day was sadder still though as we said our goodbyes to Stavros as he wended his way back to Santiago to his flight home after nearly three months of traveling.

*For those new to the blog: One Snwdn  ~ 1000m  (Mt.Snowdon in Wales)

Volcan Villarica is clear as day for Sarah's birthday

Volcan Villarica is clear as day for Sarah’s birthday

Higher up, the views are more spectacular

Higher up, the views are more spectacular

The birthday girl relaxing with her pisco sour

The birthday girl relaxing with her pisco sour

The ultimate relaxation method: Preparing dandelion leaves for steaming!

The ultimate relaxation method: Preparing dandelion leaves for steaming!

A walk in the woods

A walk in the woods

The araucania tree

The araucania tree

Some of the delicious food we had cooked for us every night by our host Patricio

Some of the delicious food we had cooked for us every night by our host Patricio

Unwieldy baggage in hand, we leave the tranquil Refugio Tinquilico

Unwieldy baggage in tow, we leave the tranquil Refugio Tinquilico

The void left by Stavros was filled with our two (seemingly) repaired bikes and we left Pucon for Argentina in good spirits, happy to be on the road again…but how quick things can change! First came the rain, swiftly followed by the puncture, the realisation the tyre levers had been left behind in Pucon, the successful tube removal and repair using a plastic spoon, more rain, Geoff’s chain getting stuck again (Puerto Montt fix didn’t work!), the approaching night, big Geoff paddy fit, still rain. We’ve been lucky on this trip to get luck just when we need it, and today was to be no exception! A cheap as chips cabaña with its own wood-burning fire, free leña (fire-wood), lounge area with sofas, a gas stove, and separate bedroom away from the bad smells of our clothes popped up. Soon we had a roaring fire going with things drying all around, dinner was cooked and we settled down to watch a lovely film about taxi-drivers in Lima (Metal and Melancholy). Heaven!

Rejuvenated, we pushed on uphill, with Geoff unable to use his lower gears now. We managed the 3/4 Snwdn set of dirt switchbacks without too much swearing, but as the road flattened out towards the top, rain turned to sleet, sleet turned to snow, and we were glad to arrive at the Chilean immigration surrounded by piping hot radiators. A change of clothes and two hours later we left for the Argentinean equivalent. Soaked to the skin, cold to the bone again, we contemplated what to do as it was 5pm. In a split-second decision we scorned the free camping and bombed down to Junin de Los Andes. Mostly downhill, but still 40miles away, we arrived at 9pm as the sun dropped below the horizon. Tiring and tough. The next day was an easy trundle into San Martin de Los Andes and we settled into a nice hostal bed.

Drying out in the heavenly cabaña!

Drying out in the heavenly cabaña!

Crossing to Argentina having waited out the snow-storm

Crossing to Argentina having waited out the snow-storm

Leaving the bad weather behind as we near Junin…

Leaving the bad weather behind as we near Junin…

…and the sun makes a concerted effort to come out for us

…and the sun makes a concerted effort to come out for us

Welcome to Patagonia!

Welcome to Patagonia!

Huila the llama mimics how we feel about more cycling in the rain

Huila the llama mimics how we feel about more cycling in the rain

See this earlier blog post to compare with the original Huila: click here

A rare spot of sun near San Martin

A rare spot of sun near San Martin

The weather forecast was not promising, and after a day of sun recovering, where we went for a lovely lakeside walk and managed to find an old London Routemaster red bus parked on the side-streets, we set off for a small touristic excursion by bus to find more consistent sun (we were fed up of being wet). The overnight bus to Neuquen was a nightmare experience, but we arrived only half an hour late. Unfortunately it was now too late to get the bus to the dinosaur footprints we wanted to visit…so we joined the worldwide community of hitchhikers and in surprisingly quick time found ourselves at Villa El Chocón walking round the dinosaur museum. Later that afternoon we walked the 3km to the shoreline to see a set of giant dinosaur footprints miraculously preserved for 100million years. Having narrowly missed seeing these in Bolivia, we were glad to have finally caught up with them. Truly mind-blowing to imagine a creature making these prints. As we walked back to town we noticed a huge black cloud…”more rain”, we thought out loud, but actually this time it was a volcano erupting 200km North West of us (one day after the world was meant to end). After another day of dinosaur discovery in nearby Plaza Huincul (more successful hitching), we arrived back in San Martin for Christmas Eve.

Geoff with the biggest (dead, thank goodness) carnivore in the world: Gigantosaurus

Geoff with the biggest (dead, thank goodness) carnivore in the world: Giganotosaurus

Following the footsteps of giants on the lake-shore of Villa El Chocón

Following the footsteps of giants on the lake-shore of Villa El Chocón

Volcanic ash sunset from the Copahue Volcano

Volcanic ash sunset from the Copahue Volcano

Geoff with the biggest femur in the world: Argentosaurus

Geoff with the biggest femur in the world: Argentinosaurus

Sarah with the reconstruction of Argentinosaurus…all 40m of it!

Sarah with the reconstruction of Argentinosaurus…all 40m of it!

Christmas Eve was spent in a traditional fashion, last-minute shopping, mulled wine, a mountain of food, and then drinking plenty of Argentinean wine late into the night. A couple of English girls in the same hostal took Sarah horse-riding as-well, fulfilling a long-time desire of hers to ride a horse in Argentina. Her crushed backbone is still recovering though! Christmas day itself was as good as we could have hoped: long Skype-chats with family, surprise presents and of course the huge Christmas lunch!

Christmas Eve horse-riding

Christmas Eve horse-riding

The completed advent calendar. Top: the puzzle solution. Bottom: the individual photos from each day

The completed advent calendar. Top: the puzzle solution. Bottom: the individual photos from each day

The developing cones of the Araucania remind us of a huge Christmas tree with baubles

The developing cones of the Araucania remind us of a huge Christmas tree with baubles

Mmmmm, Christmas lunch, roast chicken, Greek-style


Mmmmm, Christmas lunch, roast chicken, Greek-style

The weather forecast for the next two weeks is pure sun, so we’re ready to go and see some of the most beautiful scenery in Patagonia. We hope our photos can do it justice for you all.

Lastly, thanks to Stavros for helping to make the past month so enjoyable, and leaving us with so many happy memories!

Stavros modellling his new waterproof in Puerto Varas! (After this photo was taken we hardly had any rain at all with Stavros…we must’ve jinxed the weather)

Stavros modellling his new waterproof in Puerto Varas!

9 responses to “Mingling with Giants”

  1. Martin wigham says :

    Happy New year, guys, looking forward to seeing you soon

    • Geoff says :

      Happy new year to you all too Martin. Hope you’ve fully settled into a well-deserved retirement now,
      Geoff

  2. Jean-Baptiste says :

    Happy new year guys. Estoy en San Carlos de Bariloche en el kilometro 18,5 (Refugio Cordillera). Tengo problemas con la bici. Tengo que repararla antes de seguir. Espero que no es muy grave.
    Nos vemos

    Jean-Baptiste

    • Geoff says :

      Hola Jean Baptise, Happy New Year! Estamos circa de Bariloche tambien, 13km Sur de la ciudad (camping los Coihues circa del lago Guiterrez) pero salimos hoy por El Bolson. Vamos a hacer poco de trekking circa de El Boslon entonces pienso que ‘we will see you soon’. Suerte con la bici, Bariloche bikes en Bariloche nos ayuda con Geoff’s bici, estan en Moreno.

      Ciao,

      Sarah y Geoff

  3. Hélène et Samuel says :

    Buen Ano a vosotros 2!!
    Sigue vuestro viaje, besos

  4. Piotr says :

    Sarah and Geoff,
    Good to hear from you in new year. Best wishes for 2013 from P&P. We just celebrated the orthodox Christmas with Mirek and Kasia last night. I don’t know how quick the rumours spreads, but in about a month Kasia a Mirek will welcome Mirek Jr.!
    All the best guys, continue your impressive journey with lots of fresh energy in 2013.

    • Geoff says :

      Hey,
      Wow, fantastic news! I hadn’t heard…Mirek isn’t terribly good with computers 😉 Please pass on our congratulations and best wishes for a speedy and safe birth! Happy New Year and Christmas to you all too. We were in a hut on the mountains last night and it snowed all night, so we had a white (orthodox) Christmas after all 🙂
      Geoff and Sarah

  5. Carly Brown says :

    Merry Christmas and a happy New Year Geoff and Sarah from Garron and I. we are definitely still reading!

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