Sunday, 1 April 2007

And back to Argentina

Hello again! This time, from Argentina again - the number of stamps in my passport is now becoming a little ridiculous given I´ve only actually been to a couple of countries!

Since it seems that for some unfathomable reason, people are still apparently reading my ridiculous ramblings, I´m sitting here in an internet cafe in the quiet town of El Bolson, having spent most of yesterday sampling some local Artesanal beers (all rather strong), sweating under the pressure and wondering what on earth I can write of interest... Don´t worry, no more about the roads! I survived them, and the rest should now all be paved...

It was really sad to say goodbye to my cycling companions from the Carretera Austral. It was great fun cycling together through such beautiful and wild surroundings, and I would have loved to have joined them for the remainder. Especially when I saw the bus I was doing the next section on...
Twelve hours on this beauty. Its only saving grace was that my bike was nice and safe from harm on the roof. I, however, had a splitting headache and was thoroughly exhausted when I finally manoevered my stiff body off the bus over thirteen hours later (one tyre change, numerous stops for I´ve no idea what, and one complete search of the bus by the police for stolen booze from a local shop... I could go on) in my destination, a tiny village called Villa Santa Lucia. Give me a bike over a bus any day!

Next morning, I was back on my bike heading east to the village of Futaleufu, and the border with Argentina. It was a lovely ride - no tailwind (of course), but a beautiful sunny day and gorgeous views.
The view from my campsite was just fantastic.

It was then a very easy ride over the border (hilariously, in their perpetual battle with Argentina, the Chileans had paved the last stretch of road to the border, despite the fact that for miles beyond, it was a terrible gravel road. Reassuringly, they had still somehow managed to incorporate some hideous ruts into the tarmac though...) and onto the Welsh town of Trevelin. Meeting up with a Welsh lady I´d run into a month earlier further south, we spent a very enjoyable afternoon in a Welsh tea-house. There are a number of towns in Patagonia that were founded by Welsh immigrants, and Welsh tea is a tradition they brought over with them... although not one that either she or I had ever heard of in Wales! Especially the cake filled with dulce de leche, a thick caramelised condensed milk, ubiquitous in Argentina, but not something I´m convinced has made it to Wales... Still, the immense pile of cakes was delicious, and rapidly devoured!
Sunset in Trevelin.

Between Trevelin and El Bolson lies the National Park los Alerces, and a lovely ride through rich forests, past massive lakes and mountains. Quite similar to some of the scenery on the Carretera Austral in some ways, but with different vegetation.

In fact, the range of vegetation I´ve seen in Patagonia has been enormous. Where else do you see glaciers and snow-capped mountains, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, eagles, condors and vultures, cypress trees, giant rhubarb and bamboo, to name just a few of the things I saw and could actually recognise? The diversity is remarkable. And as I leave the north of Patagonia and head from El Bolson to Bariloche, in the Argentinian lake district, the climate is now lovely and hot, and the area is known for its wonderful fresh fruits and honey.

And, consequently, there are rather a lot of bees around... Although I hadn´t really given them much thought. That is, until, having just suffered through 60kms of gravel roads, I was relaxing, enjoying my first fast descent on tarmac when one decided to fly into my lip... Thinking positively, at least it seems that I´m not allergic to bee stings! And as my lip swelled nicely, it gave me something else to focus on rather than the headwind... Although when a second one stung me on the neck, I wasn´t so amused...


Clare said...

Hmmm, not sure the swollen lip look does you any favours!! When do you get back to the UK? I'm fed up of reading all about your great adventures while I am stuck in an office staring at my computer screen!! Clare x

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