Sunday, December 24, 2006

El Bolson to Epuyen to Esquel

We woke up to the best weather yet. Sunny and warm and windy, but not too gusty. Erik's legs were still sore, so he wanted to check into whether we could take the train to Esquel. The 'Viejo Expresso Patagonian' passes nearby El Bolson and makes a stop in Esquel. Unfortunately, the next train isn't until January, so our only options to get there by means other than pedalling were by bus or to hitchhike. Erik decided to carry on by bike. I think he has a strong aversion to those big buses. Based on the number of motorists that honk and/or wave, I think hitchhiking could be a viable alternative except that two loaded bikes would be difficult to fit in a tiny little renault.

Despite carrying extra weight in preparation for minimal availability of services for the next couple of days, the ride felt easy thanks to a nice tailwind. This was the kind of biking I had come here to do! It was clear very quickly that I was alone in this thought. Watching Erik pedalling in front of me, it was obvious that he was in pain. He was coasting whenever he could. Anyone that knows Erik, knows that he doesn't coast. So, after a couple of hours, we came across a nice little coffee shop just before the town of Epuyen and took a break. The cafe was run by a rotund man with a beard. Maybe a bit like Santa Claus, except with dark hair and no red suit. He was very friendly and spoke a little bit of english, a suprising amount if you consider that he runs a tiny little cafe in the middle of nowhere. He provided us with some much needed information about the road ahead. We relaxed with some friendly doggies, a nice view of the mountains and some cafe con leche. It was here that Erik broke the news to me that he wanted to revisit the topic of finding alternate means to get to Esquel. I have to admit I was a bit sad, since I had really been enjoying the ride so far, but I knew that Erik wouldn't even consider stopping the ride unless he seriously needed to give his legs a rest.

The man that owned the cafe said he was pretty sure a bus would be coming by in an hour and a half and that there was a bus station up the road. So, we biked ahead about six kilometers to the bus station, bought a ticket and waited. Our bikes fit nicely in the cargo bay with no disassembly required. The fare for the 130km trip was about $4 each. It was a double decker bus (like all of the buses here seem to be), but the lower level was for cargo. Erik and I secured a primo seat in front, so we had a great view of the road ahead. There appeared to be only three other passangers on the bus. I think the bus service is more of a public service than a money making venture. What ever it is, I think Erik was really really happy to give his calves a rest. Only 45 kilometres of cycling for the day. As we rode the bus to Esquel, I realized the bus was a great idea. We had ridden to the limits of the mountain scenery and it was mostly desert that remained between Epuyen and Esquel. It reminded me of driving through Nevada. I kept my eyes peeled for places we would have camped, and there really weren't any good looking spots. It was fairly flat and, regardless of how far we walked from the road, I think it would have felt like our tent was right next to the highway. Plus, it was windy and our tail wind eventually would have become a cross wind and a headwind. So, it looks like things have worked out alright.

For Christmas Eve we are staying in a nice little cabin in Esquel. Esquel is a cute little town in what feels like the middle of nowhere, which makes the fact that I have perfect blackberry reception rather amusing. Because we arrived here early, we didn't need to settle on the first accomodations we found (though we ultimately did). We passed some cool looking cabanas, but thought the price was a little steep (just over $40 per night), so we continued riding around to check out our options. We looked at two other places. One was only $30 per night and included breakfast, but it smelled kind of gross and just didn't have the right feel. The other was over $100 per night and I didn't pay attention to what it included, but I can only assume it included a visit from Santa Claus. So, we came back to the first place and it turned out to be perfect. A massive cabin with a full kitchen and a living room (plus an additional three single beds and a fold out sofa). Its gorgeous. Beautiful brick walls and timber ceiling. This seems sensible since the wind is howling outside. My dad would love it. I can't help but think of the three little pigs. Our cabana is obviously very new. The kitchen counter is granite, there are nice tiles, its very clean.

It doesn't seem like this should be a boomtown, but there appears to be a fair bit of construction and some high quality structures going up. This is in contrast to the other places we've seen on this trip, which either don't have obvious signs of growth or have vacant space. We can also hear there is a lot of traffic outside. It's Christmas eve, but there is plenty of activity around here.

We have just finished a nice Christmas dinner in our cabana. Salami and cheese sandwiches, wine, and fruit bread. Suprisingly satisfying. I think I may even crack the Toblerone bar my mom gave to me when she dropped me off at the airport. I'm not hungry, but I want to carry as little as possible when we continue riding tomorrow.

We are now a bit ahead of schedule, which will allow us more time to make our way to Chaiten. We expect the road to come to be very picturesque, but it is also mostly gravel, so the extra time will be good. Next stop, Futaleufu, Chile. I think we may actually get to sleep before midnight tonight, so it may be an early start tomorrow (if I have anything to do with it).
Merry Christmas to all!


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December 3, 2009 at 6:09:00 PM MST  
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December 25, 2009 at 5:13:00 AM MST  

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