November 18 to November 22, 2011
Bariloche in Argentina to Chile Chico in, where else but Chile
Before we leave the volcanic ash we head out for a loop around the lake. The wind has cleared some of the ash away and we can see the Andes towering over the lake and some very impressive houses.
Then we head south on Ruta 258 to Ruta 40 – all paved roads! The weather was closing in so we decided to break out the wets. While we were on the side of the road getting organised two blokes on GS 650s rode by giving us a wave. The scenery is magnificent as we ride through the National Park – Naheul Haupi. The mountain passes have a high wow factor – it is impossible to be ambivalent about the sights we see. There are moments where we pinch ourselves and say ‘we are really in South America!’
The ride to Esquel is uneventful – just more wind. We are getting used to it and Brian refers to it is ‘my friend the wind’. It’s no friend of mine. Riding in these blustering gales is difficult. We tuck in and plough on – at least the road is paved.
At Esquel we find a hosteria for the night. There are two amazing things about Hosteria Angelina. One is the owner, Carlos, who is full of knowledge about the area on both sides of the border, and the breakfast. Sweet treats are the order of the day in South America. No bacon and eggs here. We avoid them as a rule but can’t resist the apple tart with crème brulee here!
We decide to head over the Andes again – this time on the dirt crossing at Futaleufu. We meet the two 650 riders at the border – they are Germans Tim and Klaus – father and son doing a road trip together. The road was recommended to us by Uli and we have been told the gravel is pretty good. It’s another hard and dusty ride. The mountain passes are breathtaking and the ‘wow’ factor is high. We cross a massive river and meet up with Tim and Klaus again at a photo opportunity.
Around 5.00 pm it’s getting cold and the wind is bitter. We call it a day at La Junta at a hotel recommended to us by Carlos – Espacio Y Tiempo – time and space. We’ve just settled in to the bar when Tim and Klaus walk in. Good company, good food and good wine after a long day on the road – it doesn’t get much better than this.
Then the rain came – and it bucketed down! We toss up staying another day but decide to press on. It’s only 6.5 degrees and the rain has made the ripio slushy and slippery. There is one stretch where road workers have dumped sand and rocks on the road that Brian has to tackle alone and I walk behind.
The road narrows as it climbs into the mountains. It’s hard going for man, woman and bike! Luckily we don’t encounter too much traffic coming the other way – there’s no room for error in these conditions.
And then, after 103 very slow, cold and wet ks we encounter the paved road! Yippee! We pass Tim and Klaus but this is not the time to stop and chat. It’s still bucketing down.
About 30 ks from Coyhaique the rain stops and the sun comes out just in time for us to enjoy a waterfall dedicated to the Virgin Mary and some rolling hills. At Coyhaique a hot bath and warm, dry clothes are the order of the day.
The gravel has lost its appeal. We take the paved road to Puerto Ingeniero Ibanez and the car ferry to Chile Chico. What an experience! There are about 100 passengers and they’ve been shopping. There are boxes by the score, kegs of beer, a TV, a huge coffee machine. They just keep on coming and loading their goodies. We wonder if there will be room for us.
Eventually Brian rides up the steep ramp and the deck hands manhandle the bike into a corner near the kegs and the paint tins. There’s no room in the cabin so we sit on the kegs for the 2 ½ hour crossing of Lago General Carrera. A night in Chile Chico and then we’ll continue heading south.