A Travellerspoint blog

Perito Moreno Glacier

A 'day off' spent on a glacier hike.

2nd December ‘Rest day’ in El Calafate

Up early for our 7am pick up for our BIG ICE day out on the Perito Moreno Glacier. It was a pleasant one hour bus ride to the NP where our first stop was the land-based view of the glacier. Very impressive. I’ve seen a few glaciers before and have even trekked and camped on them, but with a 5km wide terminal face, the Perito Moreno Glacier is breathtaking. The viewpoint is right in front in the middle, so you get a good view when chunks of ice calve off, which we saw happen. The glacier moves at a rate of about 2m per day in summer, slower in winter.

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Let me say now that the colours you see ARE real. I’ve not Photoshopped anything. With the overcast day early on they’re probably more muted than usual. Awesome blues that when we discussed, ‘What shade of blue is that?’ could only come up with ‘glacier blue’.

Next we crossed the lake by boat to the shore next to the glacier. This gave us good views of the glacier from water level.

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The weather so far today had not been kind, with drizzle most of the time. We then gathered and hiked through forests up the side of the glacier for about an hour. There we put on a harness and attached crampons (not a typo) which are metal ice spikes, to the bottom of our shoes. This allowed us to walk on the ice without slipping. We then spent an exhilarating 4 hours clambering over and through the crevasses that make up a glacier. It was like a maze trying to get to the centre and back. Our group of 10 had two guides and they’d hack steps into the ice with their axes to get us into some really fun places. Lunch was had on the glacier. I really loved the beautiful blues that I’d find in little pools in the ice. The ice in the centre is several hundred metres thick. That’s a lot of fresh water locked up for the 400 hundred years it takes to make it from the top to the bottom.
Did I mention we walked under a waterfall and got soaked? This is me on the return one hour hike back to the lake to catch the boat. On the boat we were all given a glass of whisky with a chunk of glacier ice in it. Nice finish to and awesome day. Please enjoy the following photos.

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Looking down a very deep hole water-filled hole in the ice. The glacier here is several hundred metres thick.
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The guide is hacking steps for us.
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The black rocks absorb the heat, allowing them to melt and penetrate the ice.
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Lunch on the ice. Here's the 6 of us from Bike Dreams.
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Michelle and Tamsin.
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Getting back was just as challenging.
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Walking under a waterfall.
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The world is full of amazing places, but every now and then, I feel I’m in somewhere truly special. Today was one of those days. Perito Moreno glacier is so much more than just a glacier. It’s a moving, ever-changing palette of nature the best artist at work sculpting and then destroying the most beautiful shapes. I feel so privileged to have had such an intimate experience.

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Final view from the bus as we left. What a great day.
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I now know where the name Tres Lagos came from. It IS three lakes. I found them here near El Calafate. All three are massive and are fed by glaciers coming off the Patagonian ice shelf. Whilst Tres Lagos might not be next to them, it’s close enough that I can see how it got its name.
Back to town at 7pm, 12 hours later, quick shower, dinner and then bed made me feel like I’d not had a rest day, but I’m not complaining. It was fantastic.

Glaciers are really cool.

Posted by TheWandera 11:44 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Crossing the Pampas - Chile to Argentina

Coyhaique to El Calafate - 9 days straight of riding

22nd November – Rest day in Coyhaique

I had made myself a home in a picnic shelter and had a good nights sleep, despite the rain during the night. This place is not just cold, it’s damp too from all the rain.

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I walked into town and dropped off a bag of laundry as I knew it wouldn’t dry at the campsite. All the Bike Dreamers seemed to end up at the same café with wifi. I began with a Skype to Erin over coffee and then had brunch and caught up on net things, including my blog. More coffee and a piece of nice cake and it was 2pm and time to go back to the campsite. From there, Scott and I walked to the national park next door and did a hike. I mustn’t exercise enough every other day! We got a nice view of Coyhaique, but not much else. With rain showers all around us, I was pleasantly surprised not to need my rain jacket. We walked a total of 8km and made it back to camp just as it started to rain again.

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I caught a cab back to town, picked up my laundry and then a few of us went out for dinner. The proposed nice place was vetoed by the fussy eater in the group who doesn’t eat much other than steak, chicken or chips, and on his suggestion, we ended up somewhere bad. I’m not sure which was worse, the food or the service, but none of us enjoyed our loveless boring meals. Plain steak, not cooked how you asked, with no sauce, salsas or accompaniments.
I fell asleep again tonight tucked up in my picnic shelter with the sound of running water from the stream just a few metres away.

23rd November – Coyhaique to Puerto Ibanez 119km / 1890m climbing

With the freezing cold and wet riding day into Coyhaique fresh in our memories, the rain that threatened as we broke camp was unwelcome. As we rode out of town there were grey clouds around and I could see rain falling nearby, but not on me.

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I rode with Roffy today, so no music, but the company was nice. We eluded the showers all morning. The closest it got was when it tried to snow. Flakes swirled around, but didn’t amount to much. I’m happy, as it doesn’t need to warm up much and you have sleet or rain instead. There was a lot of climbing today, but it was mostly before lunch. There was lots of wind, but the relative direction varied.
Here's us at lunch.

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The climb after lunch was probably the toughest as it was a head wind, but the mountain vistas made up for it. Cold today? There was even snow near the road, had I cared to go and play with it. I wore my beanie, but it was too hot whilst climbing, but too cold without it on downhills. The last pass was at 1400m and then there was a 900m descent over the last 40km to the end of the day.
This is my kind of sign.

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There was much wind, so if the road pointed into it, it was a head wind slog, if it wound the other way, we got a tail wind! I got to over 70kph twice today. The mountains today were beautiful, especially this afternoon. Dustings of fresh snow was the ‘icing on the cake’. I really liked this spiky mountain. Speaking of cakes, it looks like a conical cake with candles on it.

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There was a really fun downhill here with lots of switchbacks in it.

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Look for the moon rising over the mountain.
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The town was full of these little house. You too can count the few rooms. Cold windy place. Not sure why you'd live here.
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Here’s the view from our campsite.

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This is us all having dinner. The girls have got their own table and are having a few wines.

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Puerto Ibanez is a little border town. It has half a dozen ‘supermercados’, but none of them are super. Mini-mercado would be more apt. Imagine a shop so small that you can stand in one place and see everything they have for sale. Heading back to camp, I saw the moon rising over the mountain.
The only café in town stayed open just for us, so we all went down there after dinner and abused their wifi, drank their beer and danced to their music. We only left when the lady sent us home at 10:45.

24th November Puerto Ibanez to Perito Moreno 111km / 1201m climbing

Wow! What a day! The morning began with a 1km ride to the Chilean border post on the shores of Lago Ibanez. I had a good laugh to myself as I got stamped out, at the name of the bloke doing it. He took himself too seriously, but the name badge said it all – Bozo. Gold!

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Safely stamped out of Chile, we now had a 20 km ride to the border post in Argentina. Hmmm? No man’s land. Who would I like to kill? No one sprung to mind, so we all made it safely to the border and go re-admitted to Argy. Very simple. With no computer, he just wrote my deets into a ledger and stamped my passport. How old-school. No chip reader, computer or scanner. That done, we began a big climb, but the views of the lake/ocean we’d had so far, just got better as we ascended. You could see where aqua-blue glacier water met deep-blue ocean water quite clearly.

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The whole morning was filled with views to die for, and I did my best to match it by falling off my bike! It was a really steep hill. Not just steep, but crazy steep, like they were all morning. I’d stopped to take a photo and to restart is always a challenge. Just as I tried to take off, my pedal flipped and clipped in, which I didn’t want. I was now going 0kph and not gaining traction. My clipped in foot couldn’t put down and I went down with the bike. My knee got scuffed, but it was the heel of my hand that took all my weight. It blew up into a nice bruise and was very sore holding the handlebars for the rest of the day.
How steep? Look at the heads coming up behind me.

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Lovely views in the morning.

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The road between the borders was really bad unpaved, and I thought it was just because neither country wanted to maintain it. Unfortunately, it got no better and was one of the roughest, most difficult roads of the trip. It had all the usual gravel road issues like corrugations, but the biggest problem was the loose rocks. If you lost the line of the car wheels, there was a line of fist-sized rocks waiting to grab your bike. It was dangerous and hard work all afternoon. The only redeeming feature was that the first and last third 20km of the 60km after lunch were a tail wind. The middle of the afternoon was even more challenging as it was a gusting cross-wind. With a loose road beneath you, it made it hard to fight the side gusts. Six people got blown off their bikes and fell today, so I wasn’t the only one.
Here's my bike on the road.

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25th November Perito Moreno to Bajo Caracoles 131km / 1310m climbing

It was windy all night and didn’t let up today. There was this windy sign on leaving town, so I expected no less.

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Here's an elaborate roadside memorial.

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I made good time up until 30km, but then the wind picked up and was mostly a head wind and it then took me the rest of the morning of hard slog to get to the lunch truck at 70km. For reasons known only to Rob, we started at 9am today instead of the usual 8am. This meant that by the time I got to lunch, with the head wind, there realistically wasn’t enough time to complete the day before the 6pm cut-off, so I took the truck from lunch. The scenery was not spectacular and the wind was still there, so I didn’t miss a great arvo on the bike.

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Beautiful small flower bushes lined the road.

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This town of Bajo Caracoles is tiny. I’m not joking when I tell you that our group of 34 has nearly doubled the population. You need to multi-skill in a town so small. The bloke who runs the hostel/camp site is also the town policeman and the baker.
I had Midnight Oil’s ‘Place without a postcard’ on my music player today and thought it might have been apt for Bajo Caracoles, but I was wrong. They might only have 40 people in town, but they still have a postcard.

We rocked up and went straight to the hotel/shop/bar/service station to get diesel for the truck. In the shop I saw a coffee grinder with beans in it, so 6 of us ordered coffees. We got served instant coffee at $2.50 a pop! Turns out that the grinder was just a decoy. With people passing through, they probably catch victims daily. Display fresh coffee beans and then serve instant? Not happy Jan.

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I’ve got really dry skin. So dry in fact, that my hands are splitting and bleeding and very sore. In Bolivia it was the 4000m altitude that caused the dryness, but here I don’t know why. Nivea (‘For men’ of course) has been an important thing to have on this trip, but I’ve not used it in awhile. I’ll be using it now, but it’s too late as my hands are already in a bad way. Speaking of ‘bad way’, it’s not only my hands, my bum’s feeling like it’s ridden the 9000km that it has, but I’ve spared you details of that. The ‘Aussie Butt Cream’ has nearly run out (thanks Erin for that), so we’ll see how things go.

26th November Baja Caracoles to Las Horquetas 109km / 551m climbing

The wind was ever-present today. Initially it was a tail-wind, then a cross wind and then a head wind. The road trended south-west today, and the wind was a westerly, so it varied from headwind to half head wind and half cross wind or full cross wind. Very challenging. I’ve said every day is different and today was not so much about the scenery but the clouds. They were really dramatic with it being fully overcast, but the colours and shapes underneath were beautiful.

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I don’t know what it is with me and animals that are normally timid, but today I patted a wild guanaco, a relative of the llama. I saw it cross the road and took some photos when I got to it, then a dog came up. While I was having a leak, the guanaco sauntered over and started sniffing my bike! Rob rocked up and I got a photo of him with the guanaco behind him and then it came over to me and I patted it. Deer de ja vouz, the two of them followed us for 5 kilometres. Every time I’d look back, there was the dog and guanaco running after us. They seemed like animal buddies.

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The wind got stronger as the day wore on. Lunch was at 60km and provided a respite from the wind. As I got back on my bike after lunch it smashed me around. I pedalled on, riding at an acute angle to counteract the cross wind. The lunch truck passed me after half an hour and I’d only done 5 more kilometres and it was tough going. At this rate I’d be in late, any more wind and I’d be even later! My hands were numb, the wind was freezing and so was I, so I took the truck option. Wise move, as the wind has just got stronger all afternoon. Some people’s tents have already been destroyed and I wonder if some others will make it through the night. It’s a challenge to put a tent up in a gale! As they say, camping was meant to be in tents. It sure is! Tonight will definitely be an in tents experience.
Here are a few photos of people struggling to put up their tents.

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We’re staying at what is technically a construction site. It’s a half-built place for people to stay. There is plumbing to the toilets, but no electricity. The dining room is finished, so we had somewhere to cook and eat out of the howling wind.
I’d been given the llama for no other reason than I’d do a poem and was told to make it about the llamas previous life – before it ‘died’ and was replaced. (We’ve had 3 ‘llamas’ on the trip, but one of the incarnations was a cabra/goat.) I did write a poem, but made it clear it was my last. Here it is.

Llama poem #3

So you want a FINAL llama poem that you’d like me to write.
I’ll do it this LAST time for you and I won’t put up a fight.

This one’s going to be spoken by Limpka, just using Malcolm’s voice
He got the llama again, so he didn’t have much choice.

You want to know what I got up to in my last life?
All sorts of crazy stuff, I was always in a bunch of strife.

Carried with my temporary owner and out for a ride
Was preferable for me than being stuck inside.

Life wasn’t all good for me, some bad things happened too.
Who dipped my head in chocolate sauce and made it look like poo?

So Gerdie tried to wash me. What the heck?
Next thing I know, Yol’s broken my neck.

Richard went and lost me and I went missing for awhile.
So you cheeky sods replaced me with a llama of wool pile.

I’m irreplaceable, I’m Limpka your llama
Reincarnated for you, I bring good karma.

Fred made fun stories about what was good or bad
Others didn’t like having me, and that makes me sad.

This is reincarnation number four – the last one was a goat.
That only happened because Yol destroyed my throat.

From a proud llama to a goat – just my luck.
A goat? A cabra? What the?

You showed me no respect with what you did in your beds.
You stressed me out so much, but I’m now on meds.

We started together in Quito, then headed to Peru
Across the altipano of Bolivia and the salt lake too.

Now we’re in Argentina, for the second time
Crossing back from Chile, across an invisible line.

And now you poor cyclists have wind the rest of the way.
There’s nothing like a gale to really make your day.

Please be nice to me between now and the end.
Give good llama speeches, I really am your friend.

It’s time to wrap this up, and tell you where it’s at.
Stop waffling rhymes to you and finish talking crap.

So where do I go next? Which direction do I lob?
The person riding tough, his name is Rob.

You don’t only get me for being dumb or for bad luck
Little Rob is a committed cyclist and really avoids the truck.

So Rob, for being strong and tough, with wind not being a drama.
I now come to you, I’m your lucky llama.

This was the wine on the table at dinner. In Australia it is a termite control pesticide, but here in Argy, it's a 'quality' box wine! Enjoy some Termidor!

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I took the chance of the last bit of light to grab this photo.

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27th November Las Horquetas to Estancia La Angostura 84km / 100m climbing

The wind howled all night, but no one’s tent blew down. Getting it packed up was another challenge though! I used rocks to hold one end down while I rolled from the other end. The good news is that the wind that’s still blowing is going to be a tail wind for the first 48km until we turn off the paved road. Yee! Haa! What a tail wind it was! All flat paved road, but I did the 48km in an hour and my maximum speed was 61.2kph, hampered only by my lack of gearing! That for a flat on my mountain bike is a new Personal Best(PB)
We almost had the road to ourselves, so could spread out to catch the wind. Here are a few photos of us riding.
‘Lunch’ was waiting at the 48km mark, but we’d only ridden for an hour! We turned here, so got a cross-wind instead, and it became unpaved, but not too bad. I was at the end before noon!
Here are some photos taken whilst riding at 50kph!

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Tamsin has stopped to enjoy one of Andy's famous roadside teas.
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Here's Roffy with a trailer. It was on the turn-off from the highway.

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The estancia is 5km off the highway, but there’s showers and some grass to put our tents on.

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It was a lovely sunset.
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We are in a remote part of Argentina. It’s so remote that buying food is impossible, so we had 3 days supply on board and then today, one of the trucks drove Kirstin to a town a 100km off the road we’re on to buy food for the next 3 days to get us to El Clafate.

28th November - Estancia La Angostura to Estancia La Siberia 67km / 553m climbing

From one remote farmstead to another with unpaved road all the way.
We have been so blessed with weather on this trip and today was another one of those days. Lots of sun and no wind had people shedding layers before they’d ridden too far. I didn’t start with any extra and just had a cycle top and shorts all day.
The landscape here is vast, but flat and wide with just some hills scattered for interest. We’re east of the Andes and crossing the ‘pampas’ which has lots of grass like spinifex and no vegetation higher than about 50cm. I’m guessing that the combination of lack of rain and strong winds make it impossible for trees. Big grassy plains like the Russian steppes.

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Lunch was in the shade of a concrete drain that went under the road. Didier set up the food in the shade of the tunnel and we sat and soaked up the sunshine. Rob’s done 4 trips through here and says he hasn’t seen a day so still. We are the charmed group or more recently have been called by the crew, the ‘Lucky Weather Edition’.

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The road wasn’t too bad today and a nice surprise near the end was a lake appeared on my right. Past it were the snow-capped peaks of the Andes, which are rarely out of sight, even if we aren’t riding through them right now. We can’t as we need to follow roads and there aren’t many out here. That’s why we’ve come out of Chile and onto the Route 40 in Argentina before we can head west again and back into the mountains. There are no roads in Chile going south through this part of the Andes. (At least without using lots of ferries.) It’s so remote out here that we see no shops or civilization between where we leave from in the morning and the evening. Some nights we bush camp and it can be days between cold drinks.

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There were some cannibal grasshoppers on the road today. When there was a dead one, others would be crowded around and chowing down on it. I guess in a place with very little green, even locusts adapt.
Arriving at Estancia La Siberia was a let-down. I expected something at least like last night with it’s green grass and cold beer. There’s no one here, so we’ve just put our tents everywhere and made ourselves comfortable for the night. Maybe they only open it for Dec/Jan/Feb for the tourist season? The weird thing is that Bike Dreams had this booked and were in contact with them just 10 days ago. Very strange. It’s about as barren and desolate out here as the Russian version with the same name. The water ran out and no one could find the tank, so unlike the early ones, I didn’t get a shower. I do like where I’ve put my tent, in the weeds and under a peach tree.

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Dinner was fantastic and the queue for seconds attests to that.

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After dinner a group of us chased the sunlight up the hill opposite the camp and watched the sunset from there. The views of the lake and surrounds were beautiful. We’re already so far south that sunset is about 9:30pm. On the way up the hill I found a patch of fossilised oyster shells. How cool is that? Here I am in the Andes mountains and I find the quartzified remains of an ancient seabed. There were heaps of the shells, many whole and quite large. Unfortunately I don’t have spare weight to bring one home. Very random to find and it just reminds me what a wonderful world we live in.

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Everyone else might have gone to bed, but 6 of us sat up and enjoyed a moonrise with Jupiter right next to it. Watching the full moon, we were all surprised with a shooting star that appeared to hit the moon. Our involuntary ‘wows’ and ‘whoas’ were mentioned at breakfast the next day.
Our final treat before retiring was a skunk that trotted up to where we were. I’ve seen too many dead ones, so it was nice to see a real one.

29th November – Estancia La Siberia to Tres Lagos 93km / 550m climbing

Today ended up better than it looked at halfway. The morning was good, even with a wind. Sure, it was unpaved, but it wasn’t rotten, loose stuff. The scenery was just more pampas, so it was a day to just knuckle down and get it done.

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By lunch, the blue sky was being replaced by a grey blanket and the wind was increasing. I’m glad I didn’t’ jump in the truck, as I had a good afternoon, leaving lunch at 11:30 and arriving at Tres Lagos at 2pm. For the last 20km, I rode with a long-distance South African cyclist named Johan. Complete with panniers and everything he needs, he’d ridden from Venezuela. It reminds me how ‘easy’ we do it with our Bike Dreams support team. Love ‘em!

Tres Lagos means three lakes, but I couldn’t see any, or find any on the map!

Here's my tent tonight.
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Richard’s been wanting a ‘dodgy bar’ as he calls it, and he got it in Tres Lagos, a town of only 200 people. When the six of us arrived just after 10pm, there were a few people playing cards at the bar and not much else happening.

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We cranked up the jukebox, played pool and table soccer and brought the place to life. There’s nothing like a bit of ACDC to bring out the air guitarist in everyone. Unfortunately there were only 4 albums on the jukebox that weren’t Latino. I bailed at 1am, but others kicked on. We have an hour sleep in and only 68km to ride tomorrow.

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30th November Tres Lagos to Parador Luz Divina 68km / 270m climbing.

Flat, paved and only 68km. Just what I needed after last night!

What the heck does this sign mean? It's not falling rocks, as there were no cliffs. My guess is loose gravel, but hey, what do you think?
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There was wind all day, but hey, it’s Patagonia. I could see the snowy peaks of the Andes and we’re riding towards them. Very beautiful and I know that just to the west is a massive icefield – one of the largest on Earth.

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At about the 50km mark I could see a beautiful lake fed by the glaciers that meet it.
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I arrived at the end point to find that our campsite no longer had the promised toilets and showers. It’s been abandoned with empty open buildings, but no longer any business or people here. Strange. Two years ago it was all new and promising, but now it’s gone bust. I set up my tent tucked out of the wind and next to a river that overflows from the lake. I had time this afternoon to snooze in my tent and catch up from last night.

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Kirstin and Yaap had a kitchen indoors and we had an outdoor meal as the wind had died down.

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After dinner, I caught up on my blog. Someone else took this photo.
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The fireplace in the house got used tonight.
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Another nice Patagonian twilight. It lasts for hours.
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1st December – Parador Luz Divina to El Calafate 96km / 816m climbing

Today was a great way to end our 9 days in a row. All paved road and the forecast wind – based on previous BD experience – didn’t eventuate. To top it off, the views of the lake and mountains was beautiful. The lake had glacierbergs in it, a hint of what’s waiting for us at the other end.

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Even with a bit of climbing, I still knocked off the ride in well under 4 hours, so averaged over 25kph. The road turns west for the last 32km into El Calafate, and the wind is usually westerly. We had none. Rob still can’t believe our luck.

After the cold, wet campsite out of town at last rest day, I’d told myself that I’d grab a room in El Calafate if it was raining or too far from town. It was neither, with the rain that had threatened earlier disappearing and the campsite being just a couple of blocks from the main road and town centre. Score. I took this photo of a mouse in my tent on my sleeping bag.
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We’re all here to see the glaciers. 6 of us have booked BIG ICE trip for tomorrow. Laundry, lunch shopping for tomorrow and buying a Sinta Claus gift (It’s a Dutch Chris Cringle/secret santa thing they do on the 5th of December.) took up my arvo and then it was good-bye/welcome drinks before dinner for those arriving and leaving the trip. Starting now? I know. It’s a long way to come for two weeks and it’s going to be the coldest part of the trip!

A few of us went to a bar tonight. I know. Who’d have thought. Things here in Argy are expensive, but in comparison, my beer, cocktail, sparkling water and shooter only cost what just the cocktail would at home. Shooters? Richard’s idea, and he had fun turning B-52 into Spanish to ask for it. We left at 1am and our glacier day trip pick-up is a 7am tomorrow. Yikes!
Here is my strawberry and basil mojito. Sounded better than it tasted. Based on other's choices too, most of the cocktails here are like an amateur trying to be clever.
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Here are the party people.
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Posted by TheWandera 15:12 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Patagonia just keeps getting better

Bariloche, Argentina to Coyhaique, Chile

15th November Bariloche to El Bolson 123km / 1289m climbing

We left Bariloche in the same direction that we’d travelled yesterday in the minibus, but the difference was that I could stop and take a photo if I wanted to. Nice to be back on the bike.

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It was another beautiful day in the mountains and I particularly liked this mirror reflection in this lake.

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The roadside was full of these flowers which were mostly purple, but also in pink and fuchsia.

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A highlight was one place this afternoon where and noticed that there were snow-capped mountains in every direction around me. Very special.
Remember the roadside shines I’ve mentioned before? I found this one, compete with plastic bottles, tucked off the road. Judging by the freshly pruned trees nearby, someone was looking after it.

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I love this sign. The government organisation that is in charge of controlling fires is called SPLIF. You can’t make this stuff up. (Don’t know what a spliff is? Check urban dictionary.com)

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We’re at a campsite on the edge of town. Something I love is that we’re much more likely to get a hot shower and wifi when camping in Argentina than we were in a hotel in Bolivia.
Dinner was ‘Greek’ with chicken skewers cooked over the coals, Greek salad, tzatziki, pita bread and grilled asparagus. Yum! I think we get better meals in camp than most of the restaurants we go to, and we don’t skimp on them, so it’s not a price thing!
Here's Kirstin.
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Yaap and Gerdie.
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Our campground is in a pine forest, so it wasn’t until I went for a walk after dinner that I saw the beautiful sunset colours in the sky in every direction. West of course, but the mountains around were illuminated beautifully all around. A nice treat and a good reason why one should go for a walk and buy a beer after dinner.

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16th November – El Bolson to Los Alerces National Park 106km / 1233m climbing

Climbing out of El Bolson, I really liked the roadsides covered in flowering lupins. Beautiful scenery again today.

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After lunch we had the location of Butch Cassidy’s house marked on our maps, but were told that they’d not found it on the previous two trips. Tamsin and I found it and whilst we were poking around it, Rob and Rigo joined us. There was one main house and two others that looked like stables or stores. All were genuine log construction with wooden shingles. I thought it was very photogenic and really cool to think that Butch Cassidy had once owned it.

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Tamsin on Butch Cassidy's couch?
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Wall art?
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The road turned gravel for the last half and then entered the Los Alerces National Park.

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The park is named after the Alerces trees here, some of which are 1000-3000 years old. There was this lovely forest of them just before the lakeside campsite. Very picturesque.

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What’s with campsites that aren’t level? This is a campground with a shop and facilities, but barely a level site to be found.
These bugs were making love on our dinner seats!
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We took advantage of the facilities and played pool up at the bar. Two began, then I challenged and won the table, which I kept until the end of the night. The table was wonky, so I’m not sure if it was the calibre of my opponents, or if I have a hidden talent for golf.

17th November – Los Alerces NP to Futaleufu 125km / 1171m climbing

I was woken this morning by the raucous squawking of ibises, which is much more pleasant than any man-made noise.
Today was exquisite. I just can’t get over how beautiful this part of Patagonia is. Everywhere is like a postcard. Picture farms with lush pastures of an impossible green backed by snow-speckled mountains. If it were a painting, you’d think the artist had made it up. Lakes, mountains, flowers and rivers surrounded me all day. The snow-melt rivers are a beautiful blue. I think one of the things I like about this region is that the colours are so saturated. Blues are SO blue, greens are intense and nothing is bland. Certainly not my cycling. I’m loving it. Here are a few photos for you.

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Flowers.
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Check out this sign. Not only does the car have speed lines behind it, it even has mag wheels.

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The scenery might have been exquisite, but it was a tough day riding. Lunch was at 75km, but the head wind arrived 10km before and stayed with me all arvo. It was a reasonable distance, reasonable climbing and a reasonable wind, but half of today was unpaved and that made it tougher.

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We crossed the border into Chile late in the afternoon and it was only 10km more to the small town of Futaleufu and I was grateful as it had been a long day. I did like the ‘welcome to Chile’ sign.

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Check out this sign. Meteor storms on UFO landing pads?
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We’ve filled the Hotel Continental. Before you think we’re staying up-market, remember this is a border town deep in the Andes. It’s old, but comfortable, and has character with wood panelling and pressed tin ceilings.

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I’ve no idea why a band came marching by. Quite random. Welcome to Chile?

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For dinner tonight five of us found a little place tucked above a little store. We were the only bike dreamers there, which was unexpected as there isn’t much in this town. It was very homely and fittingly, there was no menu, the lady just gave us 3 options. The two of us who chose salmon were the envy of the three who chose chicken. It was simply done with a crispy skin and perfectly cooked. Welcome to Chile, which with its long coastline, is renowned for its seafood.

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This sign on the restaurant wall is opposed to the hydro-electric dam proposed for here.
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18th November – Futaleufu to Villa Vanguardia 108km / 1202m climbing

Here we are out the front before we left this morning.

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If yesterday was exquisite, today’s scenery must be SUPER exquisite. I’m running out of adjectives for you, but it just keeps getting better. Imagine every crest of a hill or turn of the road bringing you a new snow-capped mountain view. I’m a well-travelled little chef and I’ve previously been to southern Patagonia. It was already on my top-10 list of the most beautiful places on Earth, and these last few days have done nothing but solidfy that. It’s just stunning everywhere you look.

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We stopped at this suspension bridge just before a rapid in the fast-flowing river. There were some kayakers getting ready to run the rapids and not caring about timing as we’re not racing, we waited and watched them go.

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I rode with Roffie all day today and after lunch we came to this lake. Breathtakingly beautiful. Moody clouds cast an interesting light over the lake and the mountains that just fell straight into it. I took pictures from different viewpoints as we rode on the shore of the lake.

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As a counterpoint to the pristine feeling of where I am, was the obvious land clearing that’s been going on and is still happening. How’s this fence made of logs standing on end. These are ancient trees, just wasted in the interests of creating farmland.

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This fence is built out of logs. How wasteful.
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The road was either up or down, but rarely flat. Different hills got different signs. We've got trucks now, not cars.

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The road today was 100% unpaved and was a shocker. Loose stones, corrugations and potholes made it tough going all day.

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The riverside campsite is a lovely way to end the day. We had salmon cooked over coals for dinner. Very happy to have salmon again. Two hitchhikers also stayed the night. One of them caught a trout from the river, which he cooked and shared. So fresh and tasty too. We’ve picked up random people along the way for anything from hours to days. Some were just hitchhikers, but others have been long-distance cyclists heading in the same direction who’ve spent a day or few with us.

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We had a nice big fire tonight.

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19th November – Villa Vanguardia to Glacier Collante 109km / 1244m climbing

A wiser traveller than me would not have put their tent next to a dying goat. It was sitting up when I pitched it, but by the time I went to bed, it was horizontal and making disturbing gurgling noises and mournful bleating. By this morning it had shuffled off this mortal coil.
Same distance and climbing as yesterday, same beautiful scenery and same tough gravel road. There’s nothing to do but knuckle down and cycle it, but I feel so lucky to get to ride through such wonder.

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In the afternoon, we made it to the coast, kind of. It’s a fiord, so the water is salty, but we’re a little distance from the coast proper, I guess that’s the nature of a fiord. I rode along the edge of it for the last 20km to camp, which is in a national park in sight of an impressive glacier called Collante.

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Roffie didn’t want to ride with me today, because he said he wanted to ride quicker and get to camp earlier. He still wasn’t in when I arrived and appeared two hours later as the last one. He’d been asleep at the handlebars and missed the turn into the park and ridden 35km further up a steep hill before realising his mistake. I’d thought I might be the last one in today, as the 7 people who are usually slower than me had all taken the truck today. I pushed harder and even without Roffie’s mistake, I wasn’t the last. I’m not racing, but the only day I’ve been last was when I was so sick I almost crawled into the camp at 4300m in Peru. That seems so long ago now.

During soup after riding there was a mishap with a collapsing NP picnic seat and I ended up flat on my back with soup all over me. I was lucky it wasn’t too hot and I was on my way to the shower and to wash my clothes. Just as well. The shower was a 10 minute walk away, but worth the walk. So hot you needed to use the cold tap. Last night had been a bush camp, so I had two days to catch up on! I won’t miss hand washing my clothes, which I also did tonight to take advantage of the sunny weather. You never know when it will change down here.

We can see the glacier from camp, but three of us went for a walk to the lake below it. This is the view from camp.

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I was impressed by the quality of the track there and it took about 15 minutes. What an amazing view awaited us. The glacier had two big waterfalls cascading from under it as it sat atop a cliff. It’s a massive glacier. Two other waterfalls also cascaded from a different side of the same cliff to complete a memorable view. WOW! Still loving Patagonia.

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We had another fire tonight. This one was in a national park inside a wooden shed. There was a fire pit provided, with signs telling us not to break branches, but we didn’t need to. The reason there was a 10 minute walk to the dunnies was that the nearest ones had burnt down, apparently. We found more than enough bits that hadn’t, to have a nice fire tonight.

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20th November Glacier Collante to Lago Los Torres 78km / 1350m climbing

Today was a Claytons rest day – the rest day you have when you’re not having a rest day. ‘Only’ 78 km with a 10am start. It was done so that people could do the glacier walk in the morning if they’d missed it last night. I didn’t mind sleeping in until 8:30 and having a lazy breakfast BEFORE packing up my tent.

Our riding day resumed with the fiord by our right hand side and we plodded along for 20km, at which point we headed upwards into the mountains. A 600m climb over 10km and there was lunch waiting at the top. It was cold, but that wasn’t surprising as we had snow just slightly higher all around us. I loved the downhill that followed and then the road became paved. What a strange sensation. I haven’t had a paved road for several days and several hundred kilometres! What a difference it makes! I could look UP more at the mountains as I didn’t’ have to watch the road so closely. It didn’t swallow up all my speed on downhills with it’s loose stones. Love it.

The spectacular scenery continued today. It is relentless, but I’m not complaining, just lapping it up……and taking photos for you.

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Our campsite tonight is windy and on the shore of Lago Torres / Towers Lake.

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I can see one mountain tower, so I assume I’ll see others tomorrow. Our group dinner was in a little hut, which was beautifully sheltered from the wind. The same can’t be said about my tent and in a region that gets 4000mm of rain a year, guess what? It’s started raining, and it’s not drizzle. (That won’t get you 4m of rain a year.) I guess I’ll find out if my tent is Patagonia-proof tonight.

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21st November Lago Las Torres to Coyhaique

– How cold and wet can it get? I’m about to find out! Our fair weather spell has been broken.

I woke at 6am to the sound of rain on my tent and I think it had been raining all night. By the time I had packed my bags and was climbing out for breakfast, it had stopped raining. Good start. I grabbed breakfast first and then packed my tent. The sun was peeking out, illuminating the nearby mountains and showing off the new snow dusting them, just a couple of hundred metres above us. Cold? We’re obviously just below the snow-line, so I’m sure you can figure it out. People who got up for the loo said it snowed during the night, but it was all just wet by dawn. With the rain letting up, I thought it was going to be fine today. How wrong can one be?

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As we set off on the bikes, it started raining, then it started sleeting (icy, slushy rain), then finally snowing!
Adrian looks like he's thinking 'Oh! No! What have I signed up for?'
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I’ve never ridden in snow before, and I’ll be happy if it never happens again. The sleet returned and I just got colder and colder. I had a waterproof jacket, so my head, torso and arms were dry, but my hands and waist down were not just wet, but freezing. As I rode down-hill, it just accentuated the wind chill on my already cold bits. I’ve been cold before with travels I’ve done, so the thing I’ve learnt is that it’s only temporary – there will be a hot shower and dry clothes eventually. Keeping cycling was helping keep me warm. The second truck came past, and judging by the number of bikes on top, the weather was taking it’s toll and there were a bunch of people who’d bailed as it came past. I don’t blame them as I was freezing. They stopped and asked me if I wanted a lift, but I decided to press on to lunch. I had a couple more chances to renege, as passed the truck again as it stopped to pick up others in front of me, as it takes awhile to strap bikes to the top. Richard said it was hard to do with his hands frozen. I can relate to that. I'm still smiling though.

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The sun reappeared briefly and for a short time it was lovely and I managed to grab a couple of photos. For just a few minutes, my cold hell almost became heaven. To ride amongst beautiful mountains that look like Mother Nature has just sifted icing sugar over them is sweet. Ironically, it wouldn’t take much sun to burn off such a light dusting of snow.

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The rain and sleet returned and then it began hailing pinhead sized pieces, which really hurt on the downhill. I’d look ahead quickly, copping a face-full of hail at 50kph and then look down and follow the white line to keep it off my face. There was a town 12km before lunch and when I saw the sign that said ‘Café’ with a wisp of smoke from a chimney, it dragged me in. Nescafe Blend 43 in a mug of hot milk never tasted so good as I rotisserated myself in front of the slow-combustion fire with my freezing hands clutching the hot coffee mug, steam coming off my shorts and colour returning to my cheeks, I’m guessing. The precipitation even stopped by the time I started riding again. As I rode to lunch at 63km, it wasn’t raining, but it wasn’t warm. The sun seemed to be losing the battle. I was happy riding, but said to myself that if it didn’t look promising by lunch, then I’d need to bail as I was still not warm and more rain would threaten hypothermia. It got no better and rained during lunch and most of the way to Coyhaique, so I am happy that I took the truck option after lunch. I didn’t feel as bad as I thought I would, as I wasn’t missing any photos with all that cloud around anyway. As we got right near Coyhaique, the sun came out and I wished I’d ridden….until I jumped out of the warm truck and felt how cold it was, even in the sun. None of those who rode said it was good, rather ‘OMG! I’m glad that’s over!’
This is the view of Coyhaique as we neared it.

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I was in the lunch truck, which comes second, but the other truck had gone into town shopping, so we were the first at the campsite. Didier suggested that we might like to grab a bag and choose a good spot to camp. I did and got myself a picnic shelter with a light, power point and table. I’ve put my roll mat on the floor and am hoping for the best. It rains a lot here and I’m not convinced of it’s weatherproofness, so I’ve set my tent up too as a back-up plan. I needed it up anyway as it was wet this morning, both inside and out. Here’s hoping.

We had Mexican for dinner tonight. It’s cold and someone didn’t miss the chance to say, ‘I’m eating chilli whilst chilly in Chile.’ (No! It wasn’t me!) We had BBQ ribs and tortillas with toasted marshmallows for dessert. Not sure marshmallows are Mexican?

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How's this for marketing? Putting a picture of a wine bottle on a box of wine. The name? Gato is Spanish for cat. We have a slang for bad drink and it's "cat's p..."
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We had a few drinks in our dining shed before 4 of us caught a taxi into town. Coyhaique might be 50 000 people, but there was only one happening bar on this Wednesday night. We got to test our Spanish word comprehension – particularly numbers - by joining in the game of bingo that they ran.

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Posted by TheWandera 07:17 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Peddalling Patagonia

Chos Malal to Bariloche

8th November – Chos Malal to Las Lajas 161km / 1255m climbing

If you had to describe Patagonia with a word beginning with ‘W’ you might think of ‘wilderness’, but anyone who’s been here knows there’s a better ‘W’ word – windy.
Wow. What a day!

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‘Welcome to Patagonia’, and it waited no longer than our first full day in Patagonia to whack us around. Hmmm! 5 more weeks of this? I hope not. We were heading south and the wind was westerly, so it was mostly a savage cross wind. What this did was blow you sideways towards the middle of the road! The solution was to ride on an angle leaning to the right and also point the bike to the right as well. The morning was fast, as the road meandered to the east at times. This meant I got a hand on the back and was it a push! Over 30kph on flat without pedalling! It made hills easier too with a hand on the back. Lunch was halfway at 80km and I got there in 3 hours.
Look at the dust on the landscape.

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Lunch too was windy, surprise, surprise. After lunch I got swept up in a grit storm. This wasn’t dust, but much larger particles. I was being blown downhill at 60kph when I felt the back of my legs being sandblasted. Then I was being sprayed with grit all over me from all directions. I could hardly see ahead of me but hung in there until it passed. It was unbelievably windy all the time, but I did the first 55km after lunch in two hours and it was looking good. I only had 25 km to go and it was 2pm……then the road changed direction. I was now heading west, straight into the wind. It was a gale force head wind and it took me two hours to ride that last 25km. What a slog. If you want to know what it’s like, go to your local gym and jump on the stationary bike. Now crank the resistance knob up to full, so you have to push like buggery on the pedals. Keep doing this for two hours. That’s only a taste for you. You shouldn’t fall off, unlike some people today who got blown off their bikes. The difference between my fastest and slowest speeds, both downhill, was 7.5kph when the wind attacked me front on and 75kph when it was pushing me from behind – a factor of 10. What a difference.
I love the 'NO overtaking signs. They're all different. Some have driver's heads, others not. Even the side they're on varies. Can you spot the problem with the first photo? If they're overtaking, why are the drivers on different sides?

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How's this one? No driverless cars?

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After a tough 161km, the campsite was a welcome sight. The wind was still blowing, so putting up my tent was the next challenge, using rocks to hold parts down while I pegged others. Over my arrival soup, I commented to someone that they looked like they’d been rolling in the dirt, and was told that I should grab a mirror as I was as dirty and dusty as he was. Any exposed skin is caked with dust and grime so it was funny when I took my socks off and there’s a line where the dirty skin stops. Hot shower, shave and clean clothes and I felt like a new man. With all the sandblasting, I’ve probably got a new layer of skin too.

We’re happy that this campsite has a dining tent as it allowed us to have a pleasant dinner out of the wind, which is still blowing and it’s trying to rain. It could be an interesting night. I need a good sleep as we’re having breakfast at 6 instead of the usual 7 to try and get ahead of the wind which usually increases as the day goes on.

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9th November – Las Lajas to Alumine 140km / 1516m climbing.

I got in the back of the truck again today and packed the bags as people passed them up to me. It’s like Tetris but in 3D. People are passing you bags of different sizes and shapes and you have to pack them. You need different sizes for different gaps and if you don’t pack it properly it doesn’t all fit. Game over!

We had breakfast at 6am and left at 7 to try and get past the ‘wind funnel’ at the 40km point before the wind really got cranking. There wasn’t too much wind when we started, then there was a gentle headwind for awhile, but nothing compared to yesterday.
The scenery was spectacular. Patagonia was showing off today which began with a 1000m climb up to 1800m over 65km. It was cold to start and got colder the higher I went.

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How’s this sign warning of strong winds.

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From about the 40km point, I started to see Monkey Puzzle trees. They are so-called because an Englishman once said, ‘It would puzzle a monkey to climb one of those.’ and the name stuck. A conifer, but not a pine, these hardy trees look like something a dinosaur would have munched on. They are ruggedly beautiful and I found them very photogenic, as they’d perch themselves in precarious places.

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By the time I got to lunch at 50km, we were above the snow line. I could tell, because it had been snowing last night. Actually ‘blizzard’ would describe what they got here. Look at the way the snow has been blasted horizontally onto the sides of the trunks of these Monkey Puzzle trees.

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We took the chance to escape the cold in this little bar/restaurant and had some coffees before continuing.

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The owner said that had we tried to come yesterday, it would have been impossible with the howling wind AND the snow. Today is magic, with almost no wind. What a change in one day.

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The scenery went into overdrive after lunch. I’ve been sniffling all morning and there was a tear in my eye. I don’t know if it was from that, or the wonderful mountains overwhelming me. I’ve tried to capture what today gave me by taking too many photos, but much of it just surrounded me 360 degrees and I can’t get that in a photo. You just had to be here and experience it. I was in no hurry and stopped a few times and just took it all in. It’s a very special and beautiful place.

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I came around a corner and there was a beautiful lake that I rode next to for awhile.

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It took me 7 hours cycling but I also had 1.5 hours of stops including lunch, so got to camp at 4:30.
After soup and putting up my tent, I jumped on my bike and went into the centre of town (Because I haven’t ridden enough today!) for a look around as I’m still trying to post a card to Erin. I either can’t find the well-hidden post office, or more often they’re closed. I found it, but this one closes for siesta at 2:30, AND DOESN’T REOPEN! What a slack place to work. They don’t open until after I’ve gone in the morning and I’ve not seen towns between the ones we’ve slept in. Guess I’ll keep trying.

I’ve just cycled over 300km in the last two days and feel like it, but after today, I’m excited about what’s to come. Every day is a dream come true. I’m loving this epic adventure.

The campsite is very ‘South American’ in that it’s done, but not quite right. They’ve had a Bobcat in to make terraces to camp on and they’re flat, but none of them are horizontal. It would not have taken much more effort to have done the job properly, but instead we all get to spend the night sliding down our tents!
The owners here love putting up signs. With so many, no one reads them.

10th November – Alumine to Jardin de los Andes 111km / 1144m climbing

A cold morning that caught me out as I had short-fingered gloves on. By the time I stopped to change them, my fingers were hurting. Oops! Will know better tomorrow. The roadside was lined with flowers as we followed the Rio Alumine downstream. At one point I rounded a bend to see a young deer crossing the road 20m in front of me. I stopped so as not to scare her. Instead, she wandered over to me and started sniffing me and my bar bag! Then Arunas rode up and I thought that would scare her, but no, he even got to pat her, as did I. As I rode off, she trotted after me! Oh deer!

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We had lunch by a bridge and Didier regaled us with stories about how bad the weather had been last time they were here. We have been blessed.
More mountains as we climbed up and over one after lunch. My reward? Three condors together! Snow-capped peaks surround us and riding my bike through Patagonia is truly special.

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We’re camped in the town Jardin de los Andes, which translates as Garden of the Andes. Maybe it was all the roadside flowers today? There’s a fast-flowing river past the campsite. Some people went for a swim in it, but with the fast-disappearing snow all around us, I know where it came from so was not so silly!

After dinner the ‘usual suspects’ and some of the crew went to the town square and went to a bar. They gave us a menu with a bunch of drinks on it. We all liked the look of some locally-brewed beers and tried to order them. To each it was, ‘Sorry, we don’t have that one.’ until he finally said that they don’t have any of them! So we tried to order some other beers. Turned out they only had Quilmes crystal. Why did you give us a menu if you only had one beer? Sometimes Argentina is very ‘developed’, but other times like this, it's no better than Bolivia. Our coversation was rather low-brow, with merkins being the topic of the night. It's amazing what people can find out when they have Google in their hand.

11th November – Jardin de los Andes to Lago Falkner 90km / 987m climbing

Some days are tough and just plain hard work. Today was NOT one of those days. It was a holiday on the bike.
9am start instead of the usual 8, then we rode as a group to lunch in San Martin los Andes only 41km away. We were there at 10:30 and not only was Didier not set up for lunch yet, we’d only just had breakfast, so we went and had a coffee in the sun at a local café. Hard work hey? We then went back to the plaza and had a lazy lunch before continuing. 90 minutes lunch instead of my usual 30 – 45 mins.

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The wonderful weather continues. Today would not have been as pleasant had it been raining! The scenery cranked up a gear after lunch as we rode alongside a beautiful big lake with snow-capped mountains around us. During the first part of the day, I’d been struck by how European it all looked with the mountains, European trees and little Alpine chalet style houses. After lunch with the lake, it looked just like a glacier-carved Norwegian fiord.

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We passed a spot where the river separates and one side goes to the Atlantic Ocean and the other heads off to the Pacific.

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I rode with Adrian this afternoon and we stopped often for photos before joining others for a longer stop for a beer. Hey! It was after noon and we only had 20km to go!

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I loved the log staircase.

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The magical scenery continued.

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Waterfalls included!
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How's this sign? So steep that you can go fast up the hill?

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Waterfalls and lake views rounded out a beautiful day on the bike and a lakeside campsite with spectacular views waited for us. Even with our stops, we were still in early enough to enjoy the magic location.

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Richard and Tamsin went for a paddle, but judging by the way they did it, neither appeared to know what they were doing!

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I had time to chill in a chair, beer by my side, and just take in the spectacular view.

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How’s this for a view from my tent?

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We had a fire tonight after dinner. Always very warming as it’s quite cold tonight.

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Last thing tonight I was enjoying the clear star-filled night and walked to the lake’s edge. WOW! What a spectacular sight! The lake was so flat it was a mirror. I was standing on a point and had 270 degrees of water around me reflecting the stars, planets and constellations in complete mirror. I looked down and saw a stars everywhere, then looked up and saw a sky full of stars too. Very special. I love this campsite by the lake.

12th November – Lago Faulkner to Villa de Angostura 61km / 871m climbing

How’s this for a 5:30am view from my tent?

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Love our lake-side campsite.

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Our truck has gained a few decorations, including a skull, a pair of red knickers and a doll's head called Leo - long story.

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We had an 8am breakfast, but we all left our tents up to try and dry them out as there had been a very heavy dew. We did still leave by 9am as planned.
Another day in paradise. Only 61km, but the gravel road for most of it slowed us down. After lunch, I rode with Adrian again. Unbelievably clear streams and beautifully blue lakes passed us by.

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Richard and the truck.
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The campsite is close to town, as I discovered when I rode my bike into town and realised that I didn’t need to, as it’s really close. I was still on the hunt for the post office. (Yesterday there was a town where we had our lunch stop. So I tracked down the PO, only to find out it was Sunday and they were shut all day!) It was 2:00 and I wanted to find them before 2:30. Consistency? Yeah? Right? This one closed at 1pm, but reopened at 5pm as this town takes their siesta seriously. When I was checking out the town, everything was closed until 5pm, except restaurants that don’t reopen until 8 or 9pm. I returned later and finally posted my card. $9 to Oz? Don’t let anyone tell you Argy is cheap because it ain’t.
Back at camp, I did the usual chores before a Adrian and Adrian and I headed back into town looking for an icecream. The place we walked into had this cabinet.
I’m having coffee and a slab of chocolate brownie torte baby!

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Others joined us, then we wandered the strip looking for somewhere open AND with wifi so we could enjoy a quiet drink, chat and surf the net. We did this until we scooted on back up the hill to camp for our 7pm dinner. The sign on the gate to the campsite has ‘No perros’ / no dogs, but the local strays seem to be illiterate.

the things you miss when travelling can be as simple as a hook or bench in the camp showers. Do the owners/managers ever use their facilities? Not only did this one have BOTH a bench AND a shower, there was a baby bath. I found that puzzling in a men's bathroom.

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Gertie gave a great llama speech. For reasons I won’t bore you with, it was given to her yesterday with a chocolate sauce dipped head. She tried to wash it but it fell apart! Her speech now included a little wooden coffin with our now-dead llama in it. As a replacement, we now have a black-legged and black-headed sheep! Will someone still, ‘get the llama’?

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Here's an action shot from wash-up with Didier throwing water at Richard, who's dressed in waterproofs, just in case.
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13th November Villa La Angostura to Bariloche 86km / 746m climbing

Sorry, couldn’t stay long as I had to leave Angostura before I got bitter. (Groan!)

Today is the last riding day in this block of 6. Lakeside most of the way, it was again very beautiful. A nice easy distance and not too much climbing had us into Bariloche in the early afternoon, so it will feel like a rest day and a half.

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Wandering town in the arvo, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in some European tourist town. With it’s fake log cabin buildings, chocolate supermarkets and even St Bernard dogs with a barrel around their collar, they’re trying hard to be a Swiss ski resort. Here is a big gate, but I've no idea if it's old, or new and made to look it. This town's a bit kitsch that way.

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One of several chocolate supermarkets. I can see you ladies booking your flights to Bariloche already!

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Tonight the ‘usual suspects’ had dinner at a good restaurant. Given that my Facebook profile picture is a deer, I thought I’d order her sibling and had some venison.

An icecream finished off a good night out.

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14th November Rest day in Bariloche

We’ve had a few rest days in towns with nothing to do but veg in a café and use wifi all day, so with options here, 4 of us took one of them up and went to a nearby national park as a day-trip.

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Our guide said that November is usually the windiest month in Patagonia and what we were getting was very lucky. Don't worry. We cyclists appreciate it more than the tourist photographers.
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This stream was unbelieveably clear. You could even spot trout lurking.
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Any idea what this sign means? I don't have a clue.
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The day included stops at scenic points, as you'd expect.
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Our destination was Mt Tronador on the Chilean border. What makes it special is it's glacier, with a face that breaks off above a cliff and then tumbles down and reforms into another glacier, but this one is black.

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Tamsin and Michelle sit waiting for the glacier to carve. When it did it echoed like thunder.
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I loved the forest too.
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Even more amazing was that this all took place in an amphitheatre of cliffs on 3 sides. With snow melting above, there were waterfalls EVERYWHERE - too many to count.

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We had lunch sitting at a table outdoors, which was nice, except for the overly-friendly horse. As the waiter put our food down, he said, ‘Watch out for that thing.’ The horse wandered up and put his head over our shoulders and onto our table.

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Here's Adrian bopping it with an empty water bottle whilst Tamsin hides her lunch out of reach!
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It was a nice day out, and restful, but I prefer to be on the bike where I can stop and take the photo that I want from the point that I want rather than whizzing by in a minibus. Sometimes we need to do something else to remind ourselves how good we've got it. I am loving seeing the Andes at bike speed.
Michelle, Tamsin, Adrian and Malcolm having a nice day out.
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We got back later than promised, so we went straight into town from our hotel to pick up our laundry and then went out to dinner from there. Again we chose an up-market place, but again it disappointed. Roffie and I shared a grilled lamb platter for two, but it was not the quality I’d expect for the price. We really get spoiled by our bike dreams crew giving us food cooked with love and passion. It really shows.

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This sign from the restaurant says an open bottle is a dead bottle!
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Posted by TheWandera 17:39 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Mendoza to Chos Malal

From the wine region of Mendoza to Patagonia in six riding days.

1st November - Mendoza to San Carlos 140km / 999m climbing and a 240th birthday party to end the day.

What a lovely day on the bike. It looked like it was going to be a rainy day, with it starting before we’d even loaded the trucks. It didn’t eventuate and as we rode out of town as a group, I was glad I wasn’t wearing a jacket I didn’t need. We rode as a group for security reasons as we had to pass through some dodgy suburbs. (One woman in our group had been involved with an attempted armed theft by two men. Who knocked her off her bike and tried to steal it. They picked the wrong woman and she held onto it screaming, even as she was being hit. Made her think it wasn’t a real gun.) Mendoza is huge and it took more than 30kms to reach the edge. The road out of town was lined with big green-leafed European trees such as oaks and poplars. The oaks were lovely when they met in the middle and made it a green tunnel.
At 40km we turned and headed to the hills and so began the climb. There were vineyards all along the way. With snow-capped mountains as a backdrop, Mendoza vineyards are in a beautiful location. I rode with Adrian for the last hour before lunch which was at the top of the hill, at 1500m and it was freezing cold. With the wind, the 10 degrees air temperature felt much colder.

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The lunch stop was next to a larger-than-normal Gouchito Gil shrine. ‘Who is Gouchito Gil?’ You ask. In the late 1800’s Argentina had their own ‘Robin Hood’ in the form of Gouchito Gil. He’d steal livestock from wealthy landowners and give it to the poor, who in turn would offer him protection. When eventually he got collared, he told the sheriff, ‘Your son is sick, if you bury me, (as opposed to not, which was usual in executions) he will get better.’ He did and Gouchito Gil got buried. Since then, Argentinians have prayed to him for help. Good hey? If the pantheon of Christian gods and saints don’t help, call on an outlaw. The roadsides are full of red shrines for Gouchoito Gil.

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With Adrian, I left lunch wearing arm warmers and my Goretex jacket and it was cold going down the mountain, but as soon as I got to the bottom, the clouds thinned and the temperature rose. We stopped to lose layers and others joined us. We all had a ‘Coke’, but it wasn’t Coke, but actually Talca Cola. Tasted bad and the aftertaste was even worse. Sure Coke might market their product well, but the fact is that it tastes good. No amount of marketing will make me have another Talca Cola! We now had 6 people and we rode together for the rest of the day, picking up two more before the end. We rode at a slow enough speed that the newbie could keep up and make his first day easier. Vineyards and orchards surrounded us for the next 100km. It was a beautiful day weather and scenery-wise and felt more like a Sunday stroll than a 140km ride.
Entering San Carlos, they were setting up for a party in the plaza. Not just any party, they’re celebrating 240 years as a town. (That’s older than European settlement of Australia.) This will be a big one! We all stopped for an ice cream cone at a shop on the plaza with the lady kindly opening from siesta for us. The campsite is only 100m from the plaza. In Mendoza I’d have liked to be closer and with the volume of music from the sound checks, I’m wishing we were further.

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What a lovely campsite with lots of grass and well-kept gardens and a friendly German Shepherd dog that keeps the mongrel strays from annoying you like they do in most campsites. There was a pool and unlike all previous ones, this one had water, but I think more people used it to find leaks in their air mattresses than to swim!
Our Bike Dreams dinner was seafood gnocchi.

After Skyping Erin, I joined some others for a stroll to the plaza. It seems like the whole town is out tonight. The stage show didn’t even start until 8pm and the program goes until 2am. Oh! No! Different school groups, and others, put on random performances with it going from an Olympic-themed thing to the sound of Chariots of Fire followed by the next act as kids on stage wiggling to Gangnam Style! There were the usual rides and stalls seen the world over so we grabbed some beer and empanadas and people-watched.

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Judging by the large number of pregnant and baby-holding teenagers, San Carlos either has no pharmacy or Catholicism is still strong and they don’t get taught birth control. We hung out until midnight, thinking ‘If you can’t beat them, join them.’ before heading back to our tents and trying to sleep. Earplugs worked a treat. I woke at 4am and whilst I could still hear people partying, there wasn’t any music. How big a party would your town throw for 240. A few of the older cyclists who are usually in bed straight after dinner complained that 240 is not a reason to celebrate and that they should have waited until 250!

2nd November - San Carlos to bush camp 115km / 1177m climbing

We’ve been blessed lately and today was another good day on the bike. We rode as one big group for the first 20km on the bitumen, before we turned off and had gravel for the rest of the day.

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The group busted as soon as we turned off, with some stopping for a slash and others to let down their tyres. It was climbing all the way to lunch and a bit past. The road was the usual mix of really bad bits and good bits.

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Stunning mountains followed us on the right hand side all day. After lunch was a bit of down hill. It was nice to get some speed up, but could turn bad if you hit corrugations as even with front suspension, it vibrates so madly that your eyes can’t focus, so you can’t see to get off it and find a smooth line! It feels like your eyes are bouncing around in your head.

Here's our lunch stop today.
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This gaucho was riding along the fence of a remote farm. I guessed he was checking it for gaps.
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I was surprised by this hydro dam with it’s glacier-blue water.
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It was followed by a 500m tunnel. It was on our instructions, so I put the lights on my bike, expecting the one-lane narrow dangerous tunnels we’d had to deal with in Peru, but this one was sealed and two lanes and no traffic. The only thing it lacked was lights, but I never expected them in South America.

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The road got worse as the day wore on, but what little wind there was came from behind. At one point with the road I was thinking, ‘Smooth soft sand or firm corrugations?’ then before I knew it I had soft sand with corrugations!
The campsite tonight has a beautiful view of the Andes as they stretch 180 degrees across the horizon to the west of us.

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Richard stood on top of the truck for his llama speech.
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I took these photos after dinner and just after sunset.

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We then sat and watched a thunderstorm and lightning to the south as the stars came out to play. What a sky full of stars tonight! Remote places to camp? Wonderful.

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3rd November – Bushcamp to Malargue 137km / 494m climbing

Another beautiful day on the bike following Route 40 all day with gorgeous weather and favourable winds. Surely this can’t last but I hope so. Sure, I still had to pedal for 137km, but I’ve learnt on this trip you could have a tough 137 or an easy 137. This was the latter. Today was the opposite regarding paved vs unpaved with it beginning with 25km unpaved, then the rest was sealed. What a difference! I did the day at over 25kph average and it was not a short day. The Andes are just to the west as we head south, so I had white streaked peaks in view all day. Unfortunately the nature of photography means that if I take a photo, I either get the landscape exposed correctly and blown out missing white mountains, or I get them in it and the landscape goes black. I guess you’ll have to see them for yourself.

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Mendoza provence has lots of oil. This is one of the pumps.
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I saw a tarantula crossing the road and got a photo. Even at over 30kph on the bike, with something brown and furry the size of your hand it would be hard to miss. It wouldn’t stay still for a photo, so I did the best I could.

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It was 90km to lunch. We’ve had full days shorter than that. It was in a village called El Sosneado (sos-nee-ar-doh. What a cool name. Do the locals call it El Soz? We’re on Ruta 40, so I took a photo of the sign. I have a Ruta 40 t-shirt too.

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There was a wind today, but in the morning it was a hand on my back and after lunch we turned more southerly and it was a cross wind. Anything but a head wind I say.
How’s this for a town name? Based on the pronunciation in Spanish, this town is a malarkey. Should be fun.
The campsite is nice and on the edge of town. After dinner, Michelle, Tamsin, Richard and I jumped on our bikes and went into town to see what’s going on on a Saturday night. Not much malarkey here. (Turns out it was all taking place at the rec centre next to the campsite which was hosting a rave that went until the small hours of the morning. Even with ear plugs in, I woke at 3am my tent was reverberating to Gangnam Style by Psy.

4th November – San Carlos to Bush camp Buta Billion 115km / 916m climbing

8am breakfast and 9am departure. I was grateful for the one hour sleep in as I went to bed late and then had the doof doof of a rave shaking my tent.
I liked today’s profile. Straight out of breakfast we climbed from 1400m up to 2000m, and then headed back down again for the rest of the day. It was another beautiful day in the mountains and our 4th of 6 in a row.

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Look closely.
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The unpaved was supposed to start at 40km but it started at 14! The good news was that it was supposed to continue until 60km but there was actually a brand new road from 40km until 60km. After that it degraded into a ‘sealed’ road that was in dire need of replacing.
We’re staying on someone’s farm, which are the only trees for many kilometres. It’s so windy all the time that the only way to farm is to plant rows of poplars and other European trees for wind protection. In addition to planting them, they have to be well-watered or they die. These ones have a water channel running past them.
I did some EBM this afternoon. (Essential bike maintenance.) I put my off-road tyres back on and will probably leave them on until the end now as we have more unpaved going through Patagonia. I did the usual cleaning and oiling, but I also installed a front mud guard. I’d tried without success to buy one at home and then earlier on the trip. I found this near-new one on the side of the road. Guess I’m pimping my ride too.

Dinner was chicken skewers cooked over coals.
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I fell asleep to the sound of ever-increasing wind. Perhaps tomorrow will not be so kind?

5th November Buta Billion to Barrancas 101km / 1208m climbing

Yesterday took me just under 5 hours and today was just over. (That’s time actually cycling, not including lunch and photo stops.) I think the difference was that there was more climbing today. The mountains were spectacular and we really got amongst them.

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Passing this cliff I looked up and there was not one but THREE condors circling overhead. WOW!
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Late in the day, it opened out and whilst I was still ‘in’ the mountains, there was a large flat expanse around me and a real feeling of space. Love it. Every day on this trip has been so different and always interesting. If you care to look, there’s always so much to see.

Mountains with lenticular clouds. They're my favourite type of cloud. They are often circular, but they can be many shapes and change shape rapidly so they're interesting to watch.

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This one looks like a pancake stack.
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Crossing the Rio Grande.
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The ‘town’ of Barrancas is really just a few houses, a town plaza and two small stores.
After crossing the Rio Barrancas, we are now officially in Patagonia. After dinner I was given the llama, again. Patagonia is infamous for strong wind, so Michelle gave it to the windiest person in the group! Some people don’t get the llama because they never do anything, good or bad, others are just an easy target. It came with a Limerick poem challenge too. I had to write it beginning with, 'There once was a llama from Quito.'

6th November - Barrancas to Chos Malal 94km / 1424m climbing 92% unpaved

We were camped next to a menagerie. Chickens, geese and roosters all got in on the early morning cacophony and if it got too much, the dogs with them went off too.
Today was really special and one of my top 10 so far. Every day is different and most are beautiful, but some days reach right inside you with awesomeness.

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This is just our first taste of Patagonia and I’m already blown away. (I’ve previously been to Torres Del Paine NP in the far south and we’re going there too.) It was an unpaved track through the El Tromen National Park with a 1200m climb up to lunch, with gradients as steep as 16 degrees. A nice change from riding solo, I rode with Adrian and it took us 3.5 hours to ride the 45km to lunch at the top of the climb, right next to the volcano El Tromen after which the park is named. Here's a few photos of us riding together taken by Lee.

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We could see it’s snow dusted cone most of the day.
Here is our lunch spot with the volcano behind us. You can see the black lava flows. It last erupted in 1822.

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After lunch it was 5km undulating, then 45km downhill. Spectacular scenery and speeds in excess of 60kph on the gravel.
It began with this flamingo-filled lake.

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Horses just added to the photogenic nature of today.

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Loved today. I took some downhill video too as I have my Go Pro again as I got someone joining our trip to bring a new bracket for me.

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What's this a warning sign for? Gay businessmen crossing?
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Today was one of my favourite days, not because it was tough, but in spite of it.
The wind heading into Chos Malal was really hot and my washing got dry in no time.

With a rest day tomorrow, we had a party tonight, but first we had our Melbourne Cup sweepstake to run. We played the audio of the race and then watched the video. It was a chance for the non-Australians to learn about ‘the race that stops a nation’ as well as what a sweep is. My horse ran 18th! I then gave the llama to the next person, after meeting my brief of a llama limerick. I wrote 4 and others gave me too. There was a bit of a farting theme. Here’s the one that got the most laughs. In Spanish ‘ito’ as a suffix means small.

There once was a llama from Quito
Who could out-fart any gauchito
One day pushed till blue
And then followed through
Oops! Too hard! That was a sh!tito!

The party that followed was an US election party. We had a jug of red Gatorade and vodka and blue with vodka. Each time a state was ‘declared’ we’d have either a shot of red if it was Romney and blue if Obama. The bottle of champagne got popped at 2am when Obama tweeted, ‘Four more years.’

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7th November - Rest day in Chas Malal
It was a 'usual' rest day.
Recover from the night before. Skype Erin = evening her time for a change. Find somewhere with wifi for coffee and brunch.
I did all that and the crew that hung out at the restaurant stayed until mid arvo surfing the net and chatting.
Zona de Banos? This translates as zone of the toilets!
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We found this graffiti when heading home from dinner.
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Posted by TheWandera 12:59 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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