Bariloche. How long I’ve looked at that name on the map and let my imagination soar. The mountains, the lakes and streams, and mostly the vast wilderness terrain ran undisciplined and limitless through my brain from that little dot on a very big part of the globe. Now it was soon to become a reality to me as my bicycle swung south through the mountains along Lake Nahuel Haupi from the beautiful little town of Villa Angostura. What a ride it was – vast forests rising sharply above the lake and rimmed by rugged snow and glacier topped Andes mountains that seemed to have no end. The roadway reminded me of the Highway 61 of my youth before it became emasculated. Narrow, curvy lane that followed the slopes of the terrain – my father would rev the car up the hills just so we could sway and float down the other side. This paved path also fit graciously in the flow of the earth. After about 70K of heavenly biking along the big lake we climbed to a rise and an amazing view below of Bariloche with a background of Andes and fronted by a beautiful blue lake. It looked like all I had imagined. We then pedaled down and around an arm of water to enter the city itself. A town of about 130,000 – it is definitely an outdoor touristy mecca built on a hillside with the water and wharfs in front. Very upscale, it could easily be in the Alps of Europe or one of the famous ski towns of the western United States. We pedaled through the streets and by the shops and restaurants until we reached our hotel just a block from the waters edge. I had a view across the lake and towards the mountains we had just cycled along. Wonderful. This was a town of great restaurants – no pizza for me here. I got on the computer to check Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet. Trattoria, one of the best restaurants in town just a block away. Yes. We had just one rest day here but I made sure to get in two wonderful meals complete with top shelf wines and specialty desserts. We’ve had a lot of very limited meals in rough places on this trip. Time now to make the most of the palate pleasing opportunities here.
We had an unfortunate incident between two of our riders. Of course we have some very different personalities in the group with very different goals. Some of our cyclists like to enjoy a more open free wheeling party atmosphere when available while others are more focused on biking and interested in getting sleep to stay in their best cycling form. This dichotomy led to one of our partiers getting slugged by a more focused cyclists late one evening. Not something I would expect from cyclists enjoying a trip like this but we are all just people. One of the two involved has opted to return home from Bariloche.
I wish I had much more time to enjoy this town. I will be back. It has much to offer with hiking, fishing, skiing, kayaking, biking and so much more in beautiful surroundings. After two nights and a day we are back on our bikes and headed south to El Bolson. This is quaint little town which is also surrounded by white capped Andes, heavily forested, and full of outdoor possibilities. A humbler version of Bariloche. Also the place where my climbing friend Lucas grew up. As he has said to me, the lake district is where Argentinians themselves come to vacation. The trip to El Bolson by cycle was another delightful day of fabulous scenery though Ruta 40 had a lot more traffic here. Without shoulders the narrow lanes of this highway leave little room for the trucks to give you much space. So it’s single file for us and an effort to stay close to the white line on the outer edge. We have been seeing clear beautiful trout streams along our byways as well as advertised guided trips. It’s fly fishing only here in the streams – forward thinking in protecting the resource and also creating a sport with a large degree of romantic flavor.
We left El Bolson with very little time to explore. We are headed for Los Alerces Nacional Parque and then on to Chile. This park was created in 1937 to protect the alerce trees since this area has the largest alerce forest in all of Argentina. These trees are one of the longest living trees in the world. Some here in the park are over 3000 years old. There are a number of river systems here with great hiking and fishing available. We are staying in an Andean valley along a beautiful deep clear stream. It was another delightful day of biking with the same chain of Andes mountains following us on both sides. Tomorrow we will be entering a remote part of Chile with gravel roads to cycle and bush camps but we do began this section with a hotel stay in the small town of Futaleufu.