William spent Tuesday evening and most of Wednesday in bed being ill. Thursday, the first day of summer, was our planned departure date and that morning he said he felt fit enough to ride. We left just before 10:00 the same way we had entered Calafate, heading east. We were somewhat disappointed about the absence of a strong wind this morning, which should normally help us along for the first part. There was still a little bit of a northwesterly wind, which is good.
William was having trouble riding and after 16 kilometers decided to stop for today. He would try to hitch a ride, though he didn’t know yet where to. Thus I continued alone. The first 45 km are more or less flat and I was easily averaging 20+ km/h. Then started the largest climb still left and also one of the higher ones on the whole trip. It was however a very pleasant gradient and the wind was also getting a bit stronger now, pushing me uphill. On the hill I saw two bikes parked by the side of the road and two people eating down below. Since I was doing so well on the climb I decided not to stop to talk to them.
Thursday we had bad weather all day, so we spent most of it in the Casa del Ciclista. I had some things that needed repairs or replacement, so I looked around town for these. I succeeded with my bags, but did not find anyone to repair my phone.
El Chaltén is one of the hiking and trekking capitals of South America, together with Torres del Paine, so some hiking is in order. While it would be great to walk the Cerro Huemul circuit that gives one a view of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, this was not really an option for various reasons: It takes too much time and you need four days of good enough weather. Some people were already waiting for a week for weather to improve, so that won’t work for me. I also think that my current setup is not that great for such an extended trek. Thus, William and I decided to go to the more accessible Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Torre on Friday and Saturday.
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.
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.
… 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.