Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Entre Lagos to Villa La Angostura

We couldn't get the heater working last night, so we slept in our pajamas. Our pajamas also happen to be our fancy dress up clothes for when we eat at restaurants. I love vacation!

We slept in a bit today and didn't leave until 11:30. Erik decided to take the tent again to lower my risk of flats. Because of the way his bike is loaded up, he's got the tent loaded in the round part of his handle bars. He says it helps with balancing the weight on the bike, but it apparently also means he can't use his front break. He's not called Dr. Danger for nothing.

Leaving Entre Lagos, it was interesting to note that there were was a small sheep farm in between the supermarcado and the liquor store. I guess they have different zoning requirements here?

Despite our primary map suggesting a long stretch of unpaved road, the entire journey today was on pavement. Yay! AND, no flats! Unforunately, I started the day by breaking our brand new digi cam by dropping it when I was trying to take a picture of Erik. Oops.

Getting on the saddle, I was surprised to get that 'oh god I can't sit on this thing all day' feeling. I haven't had that for a few years. I'm guessing it might have something to do with riding on a gravel road for 5 or 6 hours yesterday. Just a guess.

Our ride today took us over the Andes and into Argentina. It was overcast and cool for the first half, and overcast and cold and wet for the second half. The road was in excellent condition and the scenery was amazing, despite the abundance of clouds. Todays route was very well suited to cyclists. It is incredibly lush in the Andes and it was really cool to see such a wide variety of plants that I'd never seen before. There was also very little traffic, which was great. The vast majority of cars that passed us gave us a friendly 'meep' with their horns (in contrast to the unfriendly meeeeeeeeeep I am used to hearing around Calgary). One truck even gave us a meep meep meep meep meep, meep meep! Most of the people we passed waved and said hi. It is so nice to feel so welcome here.

The first 30km or so was relatively easy, with rolling hills and views of the lake on our left hand side. On the right hand side was insanely green tropical looking forest. We passed some hot springs with a nice resort but decided to wait to get lunch since there was a place called Anticura identified on the map not too far ahead. As we began a steady ascent, we were really looking forward to lunch (especially since we left so late). When we arrived at Anticura, it turned out to be just a campground, so we kept plugging along and hoped that there might be something at the border. Indeed there was, hot Empanadas! The Chilean border patrollers were very friendly. They were also helpful and advised us that we had another 20kms to go uphill. It was a pretty steady uphill, averaging close to 5 percent grade but with some stretches that I think were about 10 percent. The roads were marked every 100 metres almost the whole way today, which made it easy to guage distance.

We reached the highest point at 1321 metres above sea level. By this time we were in the clouds and it was cold enough that we could see our breath and needed to wear several layers underneath our rain jackets. The rain steadily increased as we descended and my body temperature quickly decreased. After another 20kms we came to another border station. Apparently the first was only the Chilean border control processing people leaving the country, and the second was the Argentine border control processing people entering the country. I'm not entirely sure why they are separate like this. There seems to be a park between the border stations - perhaps it is shared territory. The Argentine border people were also very friendly. While we were waiting at the customs desk, Erik showed me that the heel of his shoe was significantly worn. To compensate for having only one break, he had to put his heel down a few times as we descended.

I was really really cold at this point and dreaded the next 22kms to our final destination, worried that we might not have enough daylight and be forced to set up camp in the rain. We eventually made it to Villa La Angostura around 8pm and we splurged on the first decent hotel we saw. Since it was late and we were not actually in the middle of town, we checked in and then headed down the road for dinner because we wanted to get there before it closed. Food tastes so damn good when you are tired and hungry and cold. Erik and I each had a big sandwich and split some fries (this time with ketchup instead of hot sauce). He had two icecream bars for dessert (I'm not going to lie to you, I MAY have had a little bit of each). Erik saved me from a near second mishap of the day after I had leaned my bike up against the side of the building, in advertently putting my tire dangerously close to the exhaust for the space heater. That would not have veen pretty as neither of us has a spare tire. From there, it was back to our hotel, which is actually very nice and has a great view of the lake. It's now dark and late, and it's pouring rain outside. I'm hopeful that it will rain so much that there won't be any left tomorrow.

Today we rode only 110km, but it was still a long day in the saddle due to the elevation gain. I think we totalled 6.5 or 7 hours. We have about 100kms to go to get to Bariloche, and it should be reasonably flat. It would be great if we could there before 8pm. I could really go for a beer and an early bed time one of these nights.


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