Tuesday, December 2, 2008

San Rafael to Pucon (Start of Patagonia)

It was around the crack of 10am when we rode off John & Annette's finca, heading south for a 300 mile ride. We had a fantastic time on their finca and vowed to return in early January to see the Dakar pass through.

The first 1.5 hours was on a well paved road as we slid southwest back towards the mountains. The road then became a mix of pavement and dirt, and we opted to get off the main road and take the less-used route 221. We zigged and zagged, slipped and slided, and danced the bikes over some pretty technical sections. Although we spent many hours in the countryside, we only saw one shepherd the entire day!

Erin took the pilot seat (it's her bike too!) while Chris sat behind taking some of the video...

There were also a few un-posted detours which were slightly challenging...

Late in the day we reached the main road again, and arrived in Chos Malal, exhausted. As we took a break in the small town centre, a few local kids directed us to a hospedaje with basic amenities. It was Saturday night and the small town was hopping, we struggle to get a good night's sleep.

Sunday, the last day of the month as we entered Patagonia. We opted to stay on the pavement for the first 100 miles, then tucked up into the mountains for some great, rarely used dirt roads along a river.
The region is full of rare Arucaria trees:

The last part of the day included another mountain pass, a national park, and a border crossing at the peak. The area is rich with lakes, mountains, and volcanoes, so the scenery was spectacular! The crossing took a little longer than in the past, as customs recently acquired an x-ray machine and all of our stuff had to be pulled off the bikes and put through -- I think if the guy wasn't so bored he wouldn't have bothered.

We arrived in the tourist town of Pucon, Chile around 7pm, which is fairly early for us. We found a cute hospedaje with views of the active volcano Villarica. Monday was spent hanging out, wandering around town, taking a dip in the frigid lake, and chatting with other travelers. As you might imagine, the view from our bed could have been a little better.

Tuesday, Dec 2 was another mellow day with late breakfast and lunch. In the afternoon we took a rafting trip and the run-off easily made the rapids a class 4+. One girl fell out, but the rest of the trip was filled with "Hang On" and "Wahhoooo". Tomorrow we head back over the Andes, back into Argentina, to the famous resort town of Bariloche (similar to Aspen or St. Moritz).