Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Esquel to Futaleufu

Another lovely day. Sunny and windy and cool enough to warrant a long sleeved jersey. The cool air was okay with me, since I'm still babysitting the sunburn on the back of my hands by wearing gloves.

The first 25km was nice and easy along a paved road to Travelin. From there, the road turned to a mix of dirt and gravel. Traffic was light and there were no excitable farm dogs, so it was managable.

Today's route took us through the Andes again and back into Chile. While there were big mountains on either side, the road followed through a valley that had a very neutral grade. The two border stations were split by only a few hundred meters this time. You could tell this was a far less frequented crossing than the one we went through almost a week ago because the gate to let cars through on the Argentine side was manual. The Argentine Gendarmarie were fairly laid back and didn't even bother making us go through customs. Erik and I had lunch just past the Argentine border crossing but before the Chilean crossing. Besides being in a beautiful mountain setting, it was a cool place to have lunch because we were in no mans land. We had salami and cheese sandwiches again.

At the Chilean border crossing, things were so slow that we had to get someone's attention to let them know we were there. I still had some leftover salami, which I had to claim at customs. The customs guy came out to look in my bag to see what kind of salami it was and kind of laughed and then let us carry on riding with the salami.

We made it to Futaleufu, only 75 km from our starting point. Erik's legs were past done for the day, so we found a place to stay for the night in the town. I had kind of hoped to make it a bit past the town so that we could camp near the river, but Erik had already pushed his legs too hard for the day.

After dropping our gear in our cabana, I took my bike around town to see if there might be a restaurant open or a supermarcado to buy some dinner. Just my luck, there was a supermarcado open. But the selection was more limited than any other supermarcado I've seen. I bought everything I could; tea, sprite and some yogurt. Fortunately, we had three more buns in bag, some cheese, and a salami left in anticipation of Christmas day closures. Good thing the Chilean customs dude didn't take my salami! So, just like Christmas at home, we got to eat the same thing for several meals after Christmas dinner. I've probably had my fill of salami and cheese for a while. Well, salami anyway. Accompanying our christmas sandwiches, we drank tea out of San Fransisco 49ers mugs that were in our Cabana. It is amusing to find the little tidbits of North American culture that make it down here.

Futaleufu is a small little mountain town next to a raging river that boasts some of the worlds best white water rafting and kayaking. No blackberry coverage though.

With Erik's legs not getting any better, it looks like we may take the bus to Chaiten tomorrow, rather than ride. I've asked the people that rented us the cabana to make a reservation for us, but I'm not certain it happened. They were confused when I gave them my name. People here really struggle with my name.

I'm sort of sad that I'm not getting my fill of biking. But I'm sort of glad that I don't have to ride my road bike on an unpaved road tomorrow. With my skinny tires pumped up to probably 90 psi (just a guess, since we don't have a gauge to check), gravel roads are challenging. My whole body shakes so much that its hard to see where I'm going. Added to that, I have to watch for sharp rocks, ruts, and sandy patches, which takes my eyes and attention away from the lovely scenery. I have definitely learned that my skinny tires are not well suited for off roading.

I'm not sure we are going to get a chance to camp at all on this trip. I think maybe I'm the only one that wants to camp. In fairness, the weather hasn't been spectacular for camping. As it turns out, tonight probably wouldn't have been an ideal camping night, as it started pouring rain and the wind picked up a few hours after we settled in to our cabin. It is a bit comical though. Erik thinks its a big nuisance carrying all of the extra weight when its possible to go to hostels every night. I think its a good fall back since we didn't have any plans when we came and I actually thought we might choose to camp on at least a few nights. Yes, its extra weight but, if we were really that worried about weight, we could have not packed so many clothes, three sets of spare cleats, an extra set of pedals, two tubes of toothpaste, etc, etc. Its good education for our next trip...along with the importance of cyclocross tires for unpaved roads.


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