Getting in the Swing of Things Again
Date: 5th January – 12th January 2013
Where: Mallin – Refugio Dedo Gordo – El Bolson – Camping La Pocha –La Rivadavia – Camping El Frances – Trevelin
Distance: 6814 to 6930 miles
The band of cyclists (Bandavelo), Thomas Bandavelo and Damien Bandavelo, had invited us to come walk with them in the hills around El Bolson. Having found the small farm where they were volunteering, we set about trying to fit tents, stoves and food into 3 small rucksacks. Luckily we were able to borrow another bag, and got everything safely stowed, even though half of it was strapped securely to the outside. The walk up to the Dedo Gordo hut was nothing too inspiring, but ensconced inside the little house in the mountains with other hikers for company, and a roaring fire, we were content enough. Later that day we hiked up without bags to throw snowballs and look at the jagged snowy peaks all around, before returning to the hut to use the pressure cooker to cook our stock pasta meal. The next day it rained, and the boys retreated back to the farm as they needed to work the next day. We were so comfortable with the hut’s company that we stayed, playing dice and cribbage till dusk. It is AMAZING how small the world is sometimes, and so was the case in our little refugio in the mountains…One of the other occupants had been cycling with his white rockhopper bicycle on the Californian coast last Summer…and in doing so he met a long-distance tourer with a black rockhopper who spoke of ‘cycling with my Sister through Mexico’…little did Jay know that he was speaking to Nico Stavrakakis, and in a small hut in the middle of nowhere, fifteen months later, he would meet the Sister: Sarah! That night the rain turned to snow and we awoke to a white carpet, a beautiful morning. We returned to our bikes and cycled into El Bolson, where Sarah’s bike had developed one of those annoying noises. Geoff span the wheels and could hear grinding in the bearings, so another day off to fix those, and we were chomping at the bit to get cycling! The extra day did allow us to become ‘El Bolsonified’ and enjoy the craft fair, artesanal beer (spicy!), and listen to lots of live music.
Finally we got back on the road and had a lazy day to a campsite 30km away. We visited the nearby river and saw some locals floating down at a rate of knots. It looked fun so we jumped in and sure enough the current whipped us downstream before we could realise how cold it was. Heaven at the end of a day’s cycling. The next day followed a similar trend, but the river was a little too big to flow with it, so we just swam against the current near the shallows. We had now entered the Parque Nacional de Los Alerces, and enjoyed a couple of days cycling past lakes through deep forest.
Having rejoined the road after a particularly noisy night in the free campsite by the lake we were awoken from our slumbers by three Brazilian cyclists on vacation/training. Between them they had done more ironmen competitions than we could dream of, and here they were cycle touring. They had ridden from Pucon, Chile, in just eight days (took us three weeks), but these super-humans were now rather weaker and more fallible. And so we were able to keep up with their huge legs and have nice English conversation and try and learn some Portuguese for when we are in Brazil in three months time. They kept our pace up and we easily made it to the Welsh town of Trevelin before nightfall. That night we found a small takeaway van in the square for the first time since Bolivia and took advantage of the scrumptious choripan they offered (Chorizo and ‘Pan’ (Bread)). It has been a tiring few days though, and we arrived back at the tent exhausted, collapsing into a coma-like sleep despite the fact the rest of the campsite was still cooking their dinner.
Next we follow the Rio Futaleufu across the border to Chile, and all the way down to Lago Yelcho and the Carretera Austral beyond. The forecast is for yet more sun (we haven’t seen a cloud since leaving El Bolson), so we’re looking forward to some great views, and one or two early-afternoon siestas.