Our journey thus far has been largely just us. The meetings with others of our disparate ciclista clan have been precious and infrequent – often months apart. Now all has changed. The sight of approaching bicycles risks becoming a mundane part of our day – no longer as special. Not as before to be remembered and discussed for days/weeks or more afterwards – jewels casting illumination on our insular world. Passing a seemingly invisible shift we’re dime a dozen! Or at least measured in couplets or triplets most days. The Siete Lagos route south of Junín turns out to be surprisingly crowded with all types of traffic. On our map it’s a minor road – in reality, given our timing in peak holiday season we risk fading into the crowds of travellers.
The other local infamy is dust – volcanic and notorious. Admittedly, this time, we had heard some tell of this further north. Stories of face-mask wearing breathing difficulties had been shelved on our ‘we’ll wait and see’ list. Although we’ve picked a mostly Argentinian line until side-stepping across onto the Carretera Austral in southern Chile, we have myriad options – passes and thus escape options abound.
The ash is not a problem – at least not on the scale rumoured, and south of Bariloche fades from daily life leaving the clean-up crews near Villa Angostura busy with their piled masses. For us, we’re back on the Ruta 40 – now an overly truck dominated and paved highway. Appeased in part by the marching peaks and verge-side fruit (blackberries and apples to fill many a pie) we tolerate it until after El Bolsón where we can duck through the Parque Nacional Los Alerces and some calm.
South of this we tack west, and into Chile and onto the Carretera Austral. Aware of these things now – pushed by parallels in weather at the very least – this crossing also takes us south of Australia. It quickly becomes apparent that western Patagonia is not at all disimilar to the west coast of New Zealand – another rain soaked, lush revealer of clothing inadequacies. Our impermeables are not so any more.
Route notes here