It feels great to be back in the mountains, though I definitely feel like I'm a long way from home. Bariloche is a bit like the Aspen of South America with a ton of fancy restaurants and piles of chocolate in every storefront. I lucked out and got a room for a few days at Penthouse 1004 which served up amazing views of Lago Nahuel Haupi as well as a great group of travelers making the rounds through Patagonia and beyond.
Daniel (Swiss), Jenny (Australia), Tina (Austria), and Mr. Ketogenic, David (Wales) and I teamed up for a great hike up to Refugio Fre set at the edge of a beautiful thawing lake. Good times continued into a night sampling some of Argentina's finest Malbecs, world famous steaks, and a round of Irish car-bombs none of us needed.
After a few days sorting things out, I pedaled out of Bariloche into a cold, drizzly, headwinded morning. The ease at which the 1004 group hopped around the globe and hit the highlights had me a bit jealous as we said goodbyes and I moved off at a glacial pace with the "what the hell am I doing" soundtrack playing a bit too loudly.
But a constant series of hearty waves from long-haul Argentinian truckers, several stoked thumbs ups from passing kayak-racked adventurists and the Patagonian peaks quickly snapped me out my morning funk.
Outside of El Bolson, I turned onto a nice stretch of ripio and took a quiet back entrance into town
where I crossed paths with this smiley bunch of north bounders. (L-R) Jess and Daniel are doing a full tour of South America and teamed up for a bit with Jose and Daniel from Brazil who are making the ride up to Prudoe Bay, Alaska.
I tried to line up a crossing into Chile out of Lago Puelo which John and Cathy had sketched for me back in Pie Town, New Mexico but banking issues in Argentina and a spotty early season boat schedule were too challenging so I pushed on towards Futaleufu, Chile and spent the night in Epuyen. Epuyen is home to a beautiful Lago Epuyen as well as a Stupa set amongst the mountains; the perfect spot to spend some time the following morning listening to the prayer flags flap in the wind.
After morning "Stupa" meditation the long stretch of ripio through Parque National Los Alerces was fantastic. PN Los Alerces preserves a stretch of pristine landscape with one crystalline lake after another.
My home for the night on Lago Futalaufquen showed off its colors and
the locals were kind enough to leave a bottle of Malbec kicking about to round out my dinner of lentils and tomatoes and toast a proper toast for my sister's 30-20.
The early morning light set against a windless calm made it hard to leave as I sat on the beach and watched the park come alive and birds make their rounds.
One last look backwards before making the final run to the border for the first of many crossings...
After an early morning Chilean stamp in my passport, I relaxed in Futaleufu for the rest of the day. Best known for world class rafting and kayaking, the town has a really nice chill Chilean mountain vibe.
And plenty of well-worn clapboard goodness for the camera toting gringo.