Chile/Argentina: Villa O’Higgins to El Chaltén – Lakes, Mountains and singletrack

The focus of a fair amount of reckoning, and not a little agitating – the boat, track, boat crossing back into Argentina has garnered considerable notoriety amongst those on 2 wheels.  Our timing coinciding with others and available fuel meant that our passage across Lago O’Higgins went ahead.  Plan B via Paso Rio Mayer was left confirmed, but un-tried.

Huddled together for chat and warmth, we number 9 cyclists – a funnelling point on our way south
Jo gets busy replacing spokes with reckoning-fellowship from Thomas – a multitude of bikes racked up behind.
A mighty story or two could be garnered from these steeds. The bike geek in me counts Brooks England leather saddles, Rohloff hubs and Surly Long-Haul Truckers...
My imagination twists, and sees Jo at one with a harp – not spokes on a wheel that repeatedly betray him by snapping. (photo S.Hedges)

Our arrival at Candelaria Mancilla was greeted by a host of our brethren.  Some keen to recount every wrinkle of the trail that awaited us before Lago del Desierto and our next boat – others more reticent, maybe anticipating their ability to progress in this time of uncertainty.  There is a family with 2 children riding their own bicycles – they appear fresh and enthused – heartening.  We re-load our bikes and move on up to check-out of Chile and escape the crowd.  The control point even has a hitching rail for horses – a bit of a different pace.

Very nearly all rideable, but with a few steep bits early on, the 2-track heads to the Argentine border.
Then the fun begins – literally. Sarah ghosting along the walking trail down towards Lago del Desierto. We bubble and chatter with enthusiasm for trails past and future as our bikes twist and turn over roots and drops.
Some of it is a bit more soggy. Others who passed that way the next morning said they’d ridden frozen mud, rather than this reminder of Tasmanian bush-walking.
Another reminder of Tasmania - there is even fagus to prompt pondering of trails walked, and those yet in our future.
The trail opens at a hill-crest and shows us Cerro Fitzroy in all her glory with our second lake below, the Patagonia of our imaginings is there in full measure.
El Chaltén balances precariously on the slippery slopes of tourist-dom, but the disparate collection of houses a little above the cafés and tour boutiques has a more individual and quirky air. “La Casa de Jesús” is home to a constantly changing population of musicians, artists and passing cyclists. I even manage to find an Asturian Gaitero to play tunes with – a supreme joy to both of us – a grace un-looked for. (photo S.Hedges)
For the first time since northern México, I go walking – and find that my knees and leg muscles are not good for much other than cycling at the moment. Cerro Torre inspires thoughts of movement on rock.
Unable to contemplate an ‘out and back’, a circuit is made, passing some onlookers
Some not so happy...
The highpoint of the day and the last point before axes and crampons are needed – maybe some other day?


    • Helen – We’ve done quite well for Condors – first saw them in Peru, and most recently in Torres del Paine – hanging pretty much still about 20m from the road in the stunningly strong winds we had. Fantastic.

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