9th February 2009

From Nequen. 

The stay in Niebla was in a three room cabana at 20 pounds a night. We had three nights before we set off again.

On the way to Los Lagos we had to go through Valdivia again and find a minor road to avoid the main road. As always, finding a minor road out of town is always difficult. On asking for directions we were advised not to take it as it was a very rough road. Eventually we found it and they were right, but after 20 miles we were back to reasonable road again after travelling along a very scenic valley.

Our memories of Chile from the last time we were here are fairly faint, but Joan seems to recognise places we have been before. One such place is Los Lagos, but we still could not identify the place where we last stayed.

Our plan was to head back to Argentina via the Chilean Lake District and choose a suitable route across the Andes again.

On our way to Panguipulli in a small village we stopped for lunch where a local woman kept staring at us.  Eventually, she plucked up courage and told us that she recognised us from a TV programme about cycling from Alaska to Ushuaia several years ago. We could hardly believe it but confirmed that she was correct and we had returned to Chile for a much shorter trip.

The Chilean lake district is a tourist area for locals and is much like our English lake district in scenery except that here, the horizon is dotted with volcanoes. The roads around the lakes hardly ever have access to the water as any land between the road and the lakeside is bought up by the wealthy.

This results in tourist hotspots at the few lake access points where tourist stalls and ice cream stalls abound along with the crowds. The only way to get away from all this is in more remote and inaccessible places, which means bad roads and limited accommodation.

Away from the lake district and the road again got worse so we headed over the Andes and the border to Argentina. Many of the climbs were again impossible to ride due to wheel spin on the deep gravel. But, the route took us through forests of Monkey puzzle trees and round the base of volcanoes.

Eventually, over the top was the border and a graded descent to Junin de los Andes. On the way, thankfully the road became surfaced and our speed increased as we found ourselves surrounded by locusts which squelched on the road and made pinging noises as they flew through the wheels.

We were now in Argentina and the scenery was quite different with parched earth and low rocky cliffs and outcrops. By the road, a very high cliff was a roosting area for Andean condors which were not at home as we passed but came in from the hills every evening. We managed to spot the occasional 8ft wingspan condor above the rocks.

This is also an area rich in dinosaur fossils and where the largest complete dinosaur skeleton even bigger than T Rex was found. There are many active digs still in the area.

David has been examining old bones but they are usually his own or those left by dogs. Every house or cafe has fossils on shelves which they have dug up in their garden.

On the road between Cutral Co and Nequen we did 72 miles at an average of 16 mph..

Regards,

Dave and Joan