I’m sitting in “San Carlos de Bariloche” – or just Bariloche for short – trying to work out what I should do for New Years Eve. I’m planning to leave here tomorrow, and head to El Bolson, an old hippy community about 125km south. It will take me two days to get there, so I should arrive on the 30th. If I don’t stop there for a rest day, then New Years Eve will almost certainly be camped somewhere in a forest, by myself. Again. I need to decide now, because places are getting fully booked now, and it looks like there is going to be a LOT of camping coming up, because that will be the only place I’ll be able to get.
Christmas was spent alone though, so it won’t make much difference if I do the same for New Years. Probably wouldn’t be the best idea to ride out of town on New Years Day anyway. At the time I’m leaving, people will just be getting into the swing of the party. So I’ll keep riding, even if it’s only short days.
I left San Martin on Christmas Day, through eerily empty streets. Around the lake the good road was deserted, but then as I began a long climb up a gentle gradient, I was surprised at the number of vehicles passing me. Cars, trucks, carrying/towing boats, old American-style pick-up trucks with 10 niños (kids) in the back, all sorts. I couldn’t work out where they were all going – don’t they know it’s Christmas?
At the top of the pass was “Arroyo Partido” – it doesn’t look like much, but it’s where a small river splits in two. Yes Lindsay, that’s boring, who cares. Well it turns out that one branch of the river ultimately flows to the Atlantic, while the other flows to the Pacific. I think that’s pretty cool. So I stopped there for a while, reading in the sunshine.
Later in the day, I finally worked out where everyone was going – they were all parked next to Lago Falkner, or its neighbour, Lago Villarino. There was a large field beside Villarino, and I was concerned about the clouds that were coming in, so I decided to stop and camp there, with all the Argentinian day campers. You see, although a place looks very busy during the day, they almost all leave at night, leaving you in peace. There were a couple of British cyclists there, who were just packing up. They’d been having the day off, but felt they should probably do some exercise, so were going to push on 20 or so km down the road, before the rain hit. I’ll probably catch up with them again soon.
I thought I’d done well with my tent site, behind a little bit of shelter from the rising wind, not far from some small clean creeks that ran across the field. But then as various vehicles left, and drove close to my tent, I started getting concerned, because there was a bit of standing water left where the vehicles had passed, and the rain was about to start. Suddenly I realised that I could be in trouble if ground water levels started rising, as my tent handles wind and rain, but not groundwater. It was too late to move though, so it was a nervous night huddled in the tent, listening to the wind and rain.
Boxing Day brought more rain, but luckily there were breaks in it. First time I’ve had to get all the wet weather gear out, and I needed it. During a break in the rain, I packed up my tent, and got moving. The tarmac ended after a kilometre, and then I had gravel roads, that they’ve been working on for several years. Roads being worked on can be even harder than un-maintained roads, but these were generally in quite ridable condition. Based on their progress, I think it will be a few more years before it’s all paved though. Some bits are ready for paving, other parts still need some massive earthworks. Beautiful area though.
I had planned on camping, but I was cold, wet and tired, so I wimped out, and got a dorm bed in a hostel at Villa La Angostura. Central heating, very nice. I got confused trying to follow my GPS to the hostel location though – it was saying there was a road in this direction, and to head up that road…but all I could see was a little dirt track. Turned out that was the road though. It’s like Romania here – the main road through town is paved, but nothing off it.
Yesterday I had an easy 60km, with a strong wind behind me, and I was just cruising. Couldn’t last though – I hit a 90° junction, and now the wind was trying to knock me over onto the now busy road. Struggled through the last 20km, and was grateful to make it to my hostel, “41 Below“, run by a Kiwi here. Nice place too, I would recommend it. Safe, warm, quiet, but very central. Cool people here too.
Just been mucking around this morning, getting a few chores done, trying to track down a few items I need. I’ve also gotten a haircut. Low maintenance, number 3 all over. Next time I’ll go shorter though I think. Should cut down on the amount of soap I need to carry. Now if only I could track down some White Gas aka Bencina Blanca…
Oh and before I forget, does anyone know why the Argentinian car fleet is a weird mix of mostly new, and a few quite old vehicles? There’s not much from say 80s, early 90s, but there are quite a few old Ford Falcons and Renaults from the 70s, and a few crappy old Minis. Something odd about it, there’s no progression to the ages. Must be a reason for it.
Photos of this leg here (can’t embed because Google says I don’t need that any more)