16th January 2009 - Bariloche

Joan easily recovered from an excess of Chilean wine and we are now ready to sample the wine of Argentina.
For the first time since we left Coyhaique the road changed to smooth concrete, although only for about a mile through Futalafue. It felt as though we were riding on silk and the steep hill into town was climbed easily.
On the second day in the cabana, two children were playing at the side of the building and managed to break  the water pipe that gave us water. At home, this would have easily been fixed, but here it takes a little longer. The owner had no parts or means to fix it and we had to use buckets of water from another tap.
Back to gravel roads and easily through the border crossing into Argentina.
On New Years Day we arrived in Trevellin to find that all the shops were closed and the hostel which was recommended was full. The only option was a fairly expensive hotel which gave us a very good breakfast. The  town is supposed to be a Welsh town and has Welsh dragons on some buildings - but they all speak Spanish. There are a few Welsh tea rooms that serve tea and cakes but these were also shut.
The first Argentine national park we arrived at was a series of lakes surrounded by mountains called the Los Alerces park. Alerces are a type of Giant Redwood that grow here and one is said to be nine feet across the trunk although we did not take the boat trip to see it.

The daily mileage through the park was very low taking seven days to do 90 miles as we stopped at almost every campsite by the lakes. The road surface was still awful but the weather was good. David caught no fish and neither did anyone else we saw, although this series of lakes is supposed to be famous for fishing.
After leaving the National Park, the first small town was Cholila which claims fame as being near to the house where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid lived before the final showdown with the military. The picture they show of Butch Cassidy shows that he looked very much like Paul Newman! The ruins of the house are supposed to still exist, but we could not find it.
Another 20 miles to heaven - a good tarmac road which lasted all the way to Bariloche.
On the way, El Bolson, a tourist town, was found to be full of hippies at a town fair. The only places to stay were fairly expensive and the noise went on late into the night depriving us of much needed sleep.

The road to Bariloche was mostly uphill, and the last ten miles ascended 2000ft, but the gradient was never hard.
On the way we met a group of three touring cyclists who had met on the road. One from France, one from a small island off Madagascar and an Argentinian. We all camped at the back of a cafe as there was no accomadation on the stretch of road. The conversation was carried out in a  mixture of French, English and Spanish - sometimes all in the same sentence.
Bariloche and a decent hotel for two days as a treat. Years ago, we stayed in Bariloche on our way back from Tierra del Fuego, but we could not find the same hotel this time. Our clothes, bags, bikes and of course us were given a thorough clean to get rid of the accumulated dust from the previous dirt roads.
This was now decision time. Which direction do we go from here. We had several choices, but enquiries showed that it was possible to get through the Andes to Chile by taking three separate ferries across lakes and cycling tracks between them. The ferries were booked and reserved in Bariloche after some careful enquires about the state of the tracks and the amount of up. We think most will be down - but we are not sure! Will let you know in the next report.

Dave and Joan Wooldridge