Cyclist Central: Puyuhuapi – Coyhaique

Monday 27 November

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On Monday I didn’t feel like spending a full day in Puyuhuapi, there’s not that much to see and do in town. So I got on my bike for the short ride to Parque Nacional Queulat. The road was good and easy, but some 10 km in it was blocked completely because of construction work. Luckily the road is next to the fjord here, so ferries were operating as a replacement service. On the ferry were also a few riders of the South American Epic, as well as a group of motorcyclists.

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Pinochet’s Prestige Project: Futaleufú – Puyuhuapi

I’m currently heading from one legendary road to the next. Just a few days ago I left Ruta 40 in Argentina behind, only to soon join the Chilean Carretera Austral, the southern highway that Pinochet started building in the 1970s with the goal of connecting remote settlements in the south to the rest of Chile by road. Previously they were only accessible by infrequent and slow boats, by air or through Argentina. The reasoning was that the road would make the region feel more united with the rest of the country and also makes military troop movements easier if Argentina decided to attack.

This road is a must-do for every bike tourist in southern South America, so that’s where I’m going. 45 years later the road is still under construction, so some sections are quite bad, and there are a few ferries where no reasonable road could be built. In summer the road is said to be full of bike tourists (maybe a bit too full), but it’s not summer yet.

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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.

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Waterfalls and Weather Fails: S.M. de los Andes – S.C. de Bariloche

The more you walk around San Martín, the more ridiculous it gets. Just when you think you’ve seen it all they come up with a new fake German-style building and a corresponding name that just doesn’t make sense. I saw bars called “Bierhaus” or “Das Gute bier”. Yes, that’s the capitalisation they use. There are some half-timbered (“vakwerk”) buildings, but they are clearly stone structures with some planks screwed to the outside, and the pattern doesn’t even work.

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I’ve been through the desert… Zapala – S.M. de los Andes

… on a horse made of steel. As far as horses go it’s a rather bad one: it won’t do anything unless I put all the energy in. Maybe the problem is having a steel horse called Gaucho. It might think that the roles are reversed. The advantage is of course that it doesn’t consume large amounts of food and water, which would have been a problem in the desert. Carrying enough water for me was hard enough.

Friday 10 November

My rest day in Zapala was indeed mostly spent resting. I walked a lap of the town in the morning and another in the early evening. I got some food from a supermarket and that’s about it. I updated the blog, phoned home and did whatever else needed attention online.

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Almost, but not Quite: Buta Ranquil – Zapala

Tuesday 7 November

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Tuesday started foggy, but soon enough the fog lifted and the sun was out for a bit. Most of the time it stayed cloudy.

Today would be a big climbing day, so soon enough I found myself on a decently sized hill. After climbing that I descended to a small valley, only to start climbing a bigger hill soon after. On this first downhill I met a German couple going the other way. After a brief chat about our routes and what lay ahead, we continued on our way. The man wished me “gute Reise und immer Rückenwind”. I wished them the same, but noted we couldn’t both get it.

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A Rite of Passage: Malargüe – Buta Ranquil

Friday 3 November

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Friday’s ride is relatively short at 65 km, but it includes a climb up to about 2000 meters before descending to Bardas Blancas. Indeed the climb started soon enough, but it wasn’t too hard. There were some steep sections interleaved with easier climbs and even some downhill. The weather was sunny with little wind and the scenery was very beautiful.

The only downside is that I forgot to take the big bottle of apple juice out of the fridge in my apartment. I later learned that I also left my shampoo in the shower there. And the next day I lost my camera’s lens cap in my room. All not super important and/or easy to replace, but maybe I should pay more attention.

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A Shortcut to What? Mendoza – Malargüe

Sunday 29 October

On Sunday morning I had a lazy start. I had made a pretty big mess of my room over two busy rest days. I had bought some new stuff that needed to find a place and I wanted to reorganise some other things. Thus packing my bags took longer than usual, as I’m normally pretty efficient about putting everything in its fixed place. I’ve had enough practice after all.

Then I noticed that the rear light on the bike wasn’t working and I tried to fix it. I thought my fix had failed, but later I saw the light was actually working. Tape and tie wraps for the win! All in all it was 10:45 when I left.

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Take it Easy: San Juan – Mendoza

A few days before reaching San Juan the bite valve of my Camelbak broke when a dog was a little too interested in my bike and gear. It generally still works fine, but occasionally it leaks and I may lose a lot of water. Thankfully that hasn’t happened on the road so far, but it did at the end of the day. In San Juan I went looking for a replacement. I tried two outdoor stores and a bike shop and they all had the same option: buy a whole new bladder of a local brand. This wasn’t what I wanted, so I just tried to glue it shut and hope that will stick – literally.

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Cuarenta Is Sixty Six: La Rioja – San Juan

That sounds like an extremely bad Spanish lesson, cuarenta means forty after all. But it’s not a language lesson, this is about culture. More on that later. First we go back to the events following my arrival in La Rioja.

Tuesday 17 October

The first few hours of Tuesday afternoon I spent in my air-conditioned room, updating the blog and taking care of some other online business. I left at 16:00, since I hadn’t eaten since the ice cream before noon. As soon as I walked out I was hit by the oppressive heat, so I quickly walked to a rather fancy bar, where I had an excellent burger and a large beer.

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