Saturday, 10 January 2015

Bariloche to Puerto Varas - Another Andean crossing.

(next page: Villarrico Volcano)

After a 29 hour coach ride on New Year's Eve we finally made it to Bariloche. The guilt of skipping out a whole section of southern Patagonia quickly dissipated and you'll soon see why. The Lake District in northern Patagonia is so gorgeous it hurts.

We checked into a hostel called "Penthouse 1004". It sounds dodgy, right? At first we thought it looked a bit dubious. It's on the 10th floor of an ugly looking apartment block and you have to walk down a long corridor before you get to the entrance. On entry any doubts as to the respectability are quickly replaced with a knockout vista from the dining area and balcony. Behold...
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The hostel was also modestly priced, so I would highly recommend it.

Circuito Chico
A lot of people hire bicycles and do a lap of the circuito chico by Llao Llao village. Obviously we had our own bikes, so we cycled out there first before doing the circuit. It was 60km in total and we were blessed with glorious sunshine.
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Punta panaromico
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Lago Escondido
SCUM! (Salon Cultural de Usos Multiples)
I love it when acronyms go wrong.

Taste explosion! Churrasco sandwich drenched in chimichurri sauce!

Cerro Otto
Two Aussies, Lochie and Steve recommend taking the bike for a spin up Cerro Otto. It's a 1,405 metre mountain overlooking Bariloche and Lago Nahuel Huapi. The climb to the top is around 700 metres on a shitty gravel road. Actually, make that a rubble road. The trip up took around 90 mins and is pretty exhausting as you could imagine. You might think the downhill ride would be fun, but it felt much like operating a pneumatic drill and left my arms aching like crazy. It was worth every bit of discomfort. Check out the views...
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Cable cars are for pussies!
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Riding to Villa La Angostura (87 km)
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From our hostel we saw some forest fires blazing for a couple of days  on the other side of the lake. We past some fire trucks en route to Villa la Angostura that were dealing with the remnants of the inferno. Not much to spot, just a few smouldering bushes.
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Angostura to Playa Puyehue (90km)
Time for our second Andean crossing (the first being Garibaldi pass in Tierra Del Fuego). Paso Cardenal Samore is 1,314 metres high, definitely the highest pass I have ever crossed. Despite being a tough climb, I found it an incredibly enjoyable ride. Tough on the legs, but easy on the eyes.
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Fresh water straight from the mountain streams. Time to fill up the water bottles.
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Cerro Pantojo - volcanorama galore coming up!
Gotta keep on keeping on.
Almost there Vijay!
At the border. Argentina crying "I'm more pious than you are!"

At the top of the pass we made it to Chile. Let the 45 km descent begin. Everything suddenly gets a whole lot lusher and green.
Volcan Puyehue
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We pulled up at Playa Puyehue campsite.
"Could this be.... the most beautiful pitch in the world?" (think Prince)
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Playa Puyehue to Puerto Octay (90km)
First stop Entre Lagos for some damn fine cazuela.
Wait a minute? Who teleported me to the English countryside?
The landscape constantly changes here.
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Wait a minute, who teleported me to Japan?
Volcan Osorno constantly looms over the countryside.
More volcano action.
Rolling into Puerto Octay. It's a working class town with lots of drunk men stumbling around. It had some character. Some of the local shops reminded me of the TV show "Open all hours". Timeless.
These buggers made a right racket in the campground. They were fascinating to watch though.

Puerto Octay to Puerto Varas (57km)
It was cloudy as we set off, but after about 30 mins Volcan Osorno emerged through the clouds. I have a strong desire to climb this mountain, but it is mighty expensive. Mount Taranaki in New Zealand is almost identical in all aspects but without the cost.

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There were dozens of vultures just chilling on this rooftop. They had just polished off some roadkill.

As we approached Frutillar I could hear some kind of rattling, but I couldn't tell what it was. Just before we got onto the Pan-American highway (ruta 5) I spotted that I had a broken spoke on the rear wheel. Unfortunately I couldn't change it myself as it was on the sprocket side of the wheel and I don't carry a chain whip with me. I was tempted to press on until Puerto Varas and get it fixed there, but Vijay convinced me to seek out a bicycle mechanic instead. I'm glad I listened to him. 10 minutes later we found this moustachioed maestro.
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The repair only cost me £2. Bargain. Ride on!

We left Frutillar and got onto Ruta 5. It is technically a motorway, but to the British we would call it a dual carriageway. Bicycles are allowed on it and it isn't half as bad as we had anticipated. There is a massive shoulder and not that much traffic. Of course trucks are whizzing by but they leave so much room it simply isn't a problem. The highway isn't very interesting but you can cover a lot of ground very quickly. The other route we could have taken would have been much longer and hillier.

Puerto Varas is a pretty little town albeit a little touristy. The views here are fantastic though and I have enjoyed relaxing here and eating plenty. Everything here is built in German style. We took a stroll through suburbia to see what the neighbourhoods are like.
These houses are blessed with this view...
The church is very picturesque, but on closer inspection is is made from corrugated metal.

One of my favourite things about Puerto Varas is the food trucks down by the water front. It isn't exactly cheap street food, but it is mouthwateringly good. I've been filling up on ceviche, empanadas, ceviche, burritos, ceviche, hot dogs, ceviche and you guessed it, more ceviche. I can't get enough of the stuff!!
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Cerdo chacarero
Chester Beer. The local craft brew.
The stray dogs here are pretty chilled out.
I'll leave you with this image. You can always count on a bit of filth to break down language barriers. Great drawing Fanny!

(next page: Villarrico Volcano)

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