November 12 to November 17, 2011
Our first stop was the wonderful lakeside town of Pucon in Chile. They say it’s the chicest town in Chile. We found it a great place to chill with some great sites, good food, good wines and marvellous people.
Riding in to town the first thing you see if Volcano Villarrica – a snow covered volcano that towers over the lake that bears its name. Our hotel has a small view of the lake. On day two the cloud lingers most of the day obliterating the view of the volcano.
In this town we meet the great owners of the Bier Garten – Uli and Elke. Uli has a GS and some great advice on where to ride to get the best roads and the best views. He tells us that the Australian company, Compass Expeditions, stays at our hotel. That night we go to the car park to check on the bike and there are the Compass Expedition bikes – a long way from home and we meet blokes from Melbourne who are fellow members of the BMW Club!
We spend a day visiting the rivers around Lago Caburgua and thermal springs for a hot, relaxing soak in the soothing natural springs. It’s hard to drag ourselves away.
We head south to Lago Llanquihue which has two massive volcanoes overlooking their massive lake, the biggest in Chile. The ride around here includes some dirt that runs right alongside the lake. It’s hard to get a room that night because there is a medical conference in the town of Puerto Vasa. Why is it doctors always have their conferences in fine locations?
It’s now time to cross the Andes again, this time heading to San Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina. This town is still shrouded in the ash cloud that stopped Australia’s airlines earlier this year. Crossing the border it is like crossing through the end of the world. Volcanic ash is piled high on the sides of the road. It covers all the pastures. Trees on the Chile side are dead – scorched from the heat.
On the Argentina side is the innocent victim. Because of the prevailing winds the Bariloche airport has been closed since June. There are very few visitors in town. Many of the hotels are ‘closed for renovation’.
When the wind blows in one direction you can see the mountains on the far side of the lake. When they blow the other the town is inundated with volcanic ash. People wear surgical masks to protect themselves from the dust. We couldn’t see one hundred metres up the main street. Even parts of the lake have a crust of volcanic ash. No one seems to know when Bariloche will recover fully.
Despite all this we love the town, but there is no time to shilly shally. Ushuaia and Antarctica awaits so it’s time to move on. We will head south and then take a dirt crossing into Chile.