Patagonia Is Hard: S.C. de Bariloche – Futaleufú

Seriously, how am I ever going to write a blog post without dumping hundreds of photos on you, each showing a landscape that is even more stunning than the last? This place is like riding through a postcard or a chocolate box, as others have called it. I can confirm this: The box of chocolate I bought in Bariloche has a photo on its lid that looks suspiciously like the view I had from Cerro Campanario.

And yes, the riding is often hard too, but who cares? You soon forget about that climb you were fighting just a few minutes ago upon seeing the reward. The proof of that is in the notes I took for this post. When I looked back at the altitude profiles of the last few days I saw uphill sections that I completely missed while on the road.

Saturday 18 November

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
07:29:28 06:27:40 120.70 18.68 63.72 1,328.00
hours hours km km/h km/h meters

 

The question on Saturday was how far I wanted to go. The first real town is El Bolsón, 120 kilometers from Bariloche. It would be nice if I can make it there and it makes the following days easier as well, but it’s a tough goal.

Initially I pushed the bike through the center of Bariloche, as I was going against traffic in one-way streets and after these the road was just too steep to ride.

I left town to the southwest and a strong headwind was blowing again. I soon had to stop to add more layers of clothes, even adding gloves and a buff later on. I was riding next to a lake and the landscape was good. After a while the road turned south and the wind mostly disappeared.

There were many small and somewhat larger hills to climb today, slowing me down as usual. About halfway to El Bolsón is the village of Rio Villegas and at the turnoff are a few shacks selling food. Most were closed, but the one for empanadas was open, so I had a warm lunch. That’s something I really could use at the time, since the wind on the downhill made me feel cold, even if the temperature wasn’t that low.

Leaving Bariloche the weather wasn’t good, but there were still nice views.
A long and cold descent took me to Rio Villegas.

After lunch a longer climb started and here I also saw the first of many Dutch and Belgian 4×4 cars going the other way. They all had the same stickers, so probably some organised trip. After the climb followed a short descent and climb again and then at 90 km the hard part was done. The rest is free bonus distance: A 30 km long ride down a valley to El Bolsón, on which I hardly had to pedal.

It looks like Argentina already built a wall. I wonder if Chile paid for it.

At the start of this downhill I met three Brazilians who had almost made their way up the long climb. They were heading to the nearby Chilean border for a visa run. You can literally cross into Chile, turn around as soon as you have your stamp and get a new 90 day permission to stay in Argentina. I’m also going to need a renewal before I return home, but I’ll visit Chile a little longer.

As I was walking around El Bolsón and taking some photos I was approached by an angry lady, because she claimed I had taken pictures of her children. You know, if you don’t want your children to accidentally appear in pictures maybe you shouldn’t let them play in a touristy square full of interesting art.

El Bolsón is the largest hop-growing region of Argentina, though I didn’t see any on the road into town. Thus there are several small-scale breweries in town and at one of them a local rock band was playing. Of course I sat down for beer, pizza and music. The band was really good, ending with a great performance of California Dreaming, probably better than the original. I had an IPA to properly evaluate the hops and that was good too.

The central square of El Bolsón had several artworks, most of them cut from wood.
An interesting-looking shop in El Bolsón.

Sunday 19 November

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
06:25:52 04:57:08 78.29 15.81 48.60 902.00
hours hours km km/h km/h meters

 

Sunday started with a good breakfast and sunshine. I first descended a bit more to El Hoyo and after following this low valley for a bit I climbed out again. It’s a relatively big climb, but not hard at all. On the climbs it even gets warm. The views are good, though more clouds appeared in the afternoon.

Leaving El Bolsón behind. Still no hops in sight.
Looking out over the valley of El Hoyo, which I’ll be crossing soon.

Soon after having lunch at a roadside restaurant I reached the top of the climb, which is also the point where I leave Ruta 40 behind for the next month or so. That night I celebrated the completion of this part of the tour by finally applying the Ruta 40 sticker that I bought several days ago to my bike. I continued on Ruta Provincial 71, which is still paved until Cholila.

Ruta 40 turns left here. I don’t.
What’s with these strange single-digit kilometer markings? Where did the other three digits go?

I entered a very wide and mostly flat valley for the last section of today. That should be an easy final 25 kilometers, right? Well, open landscape + Patagonia means much wind and unexpectedly it was mostly a headwind, making it a bit harder. If I had taken a better look at my map I should have expected that. Still, I made it to Cholila and found a place to stay for the night. There doesn’t seem to be much activity here, except at the football pitch. But of course today is Sunday.

Most of the remaining road to Cholila was through a wide open and thus windy valley.
View from Cholila’s main square, looking west toward Los Alerces N.P.

Monday 20 November

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
05:45:08 04:49:52 55.92 11.57 24.48 820.00
hours hours km km/h km/h meters