Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bariloche to San Martin de los Andes

Finding a Hostel in Bariloche

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When entering Bariloche we went straight to the tourist information office, for accomodation guidance. We found a relatively cheap hostel (45 AR$), Punto Sur (hostelpuntosur.com), and bargained on its price (40 AR$). Sometimes, if you stay for a few nights you can get a discount. It wasn´t the fanciest hostel we found as it had a shower/bathroom, the breakfast was just some toasts with jam and butter from the freezer, and the computers there weren´t very fast.

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However, Martin, the owner, was very helpful and cheerful, and offered us a private room, and the kitchen was very well equipped, and we made great Gnocchi there, with soy beans and tomato sauce.

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Shopping
We followed the advice of Daniel, who has been working there for the past two weeks, and went out to eat good and cheap icecream. We spent the next few days going over all the camping shops in town looking for waterproof clothing.

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We found good gloves, but when we finally decided we wanted them, the right size was gone. At the end we just bought rain pants for Shoham (490 AR$). We found an interesting nature shop, and bought there many spices, grains, olive oil, 1 kg of honey and bad expensive chocolate. Only later we started thinking about the border crossing to Chile, which should happen in less then a week of riding, where we are not allowed to pass any food. We followed the advice of the vendor and went to her mother´s bakery where we bought terribly expensive healthy cookies (80 AR$/kg). We ate lunch in a pizza-pasta restaurant. This was the first restaurant ever to understand that we wanted half a pizza with cheese and the other half without it and with extra garlic.

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In the middle of town we found 2 wandering Argentinian cyclists, Cris and Lukas, who were on a small bicycle trip from San Martin de los Andes to Esquel, and planned to camp at the expensive camping outside of town. We advised them to come to our hostel, and indeed we met them there later.


We gave them some presents: Shoham´s old rain pants and maps of the Los Alerces NP. We invited them to dinner, and Amit cooked ful (broad beans) and burgul (bulgur).

Getting out
We left the ugly city of Bariloche after spending 3 nights there.

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We had 20 km of bad face wind, but after that the wind calmed down a bit thanks to the mountains surrounding us.

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We found a perfect camping spot next to the sign: ¨fire and camping are forbidden¨.

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In the morning we reached a very touristic and expensive town called Villa La Angostura. There we met again Alex and Fabrizzio (diariosdebicicleta.ch), the Swiss cyclists, who had to spend 5 nights at the expensive camping site, recuperating from some illness they had.

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7 Lagos
We went on to the ¨Seven Lakes¨ road, which is a partly paved road that passes through some lakes (we saw only 5 of them including a lake we passed twice...).

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This road exists only for tourists, and plenty of them. We saw also many beginner cyclists who rented bicycles just for a couple of days on this road.

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In the evening, Amit´s tire exploded. Because of that delay we didn´t make it to a free camping recommended by the 2 Argentinian cyclists. Therefore we had to hide in the forest.

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Remembering all the food we had to get rid off until Chile, we made a delicious dish of rice with peanut, honey and curry sauce.

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In the morning, everything arround us was covered with frost, but the sky was very clear so we expected a sunny day, and took off the warm clothes before cycling.

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We reached a road block where a Caterpillar tracktor was tearing trees on a very steep slope, to help make a supporting wall.

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Right after that, the road was again paved, and we got a beatiful view of one of the (seven?) lakes.

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We passed many Mirradors, where cars stopped, the people got off, took pictures and went on, and we ate lunch in one of them.

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In the 10 km descent from the ski resort to San Martin de los Andes we saw numerous cyclists. We then passed around the lake, and saw even more cyclists, and some people walking on the road.

San Martin de los Andes

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We went to the only camping site ran by ACA (fuel company), that gives discounts only for motorcars that are members of ACA club, and is otherwise quite expensive (30 AR$). The only thing it offers is hot water and showers, there is not even grass to put the tent on.

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Nevertheless, we decided to stay because we liked the town a lot. Again we spent a couple of days entering all the camping shops in town, and this time we bought a TheNorthFace rain coat for Shoham (664 AR$).

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We also fixed our bicycles at Sun & Ski Sports (Av. San Martin 414, kdnbikestore@hotmail.com): we bought spare tires (58 AR$) and brake pads (12 AR$) and changed the whole gear system (250 AR$) in both our bikes. All the people that work there, and also another friend that spends a lot of time there and is a talented seller, are super nice, and the mechanics are very professional. One of them has been working there for half of his life, from the age of 13.

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In the camping we met again Alex and Fabrizzio (diariosdebicicleta.ch), who were planning to take a different road to Chile, and also Philipp & Isa (tourdereve.blogspot.com), also from Switzerland, whom we met in the entrance to Torres del Paine NP, on their way south (they later took a bus from Ushuaia to El Calafate and continued north). We met also two French cyclists, and a Japanese cyclist, Hide, on his way to Alaska (good luck there!). We hope to fix our tent here before leaving, so that we can sleep with a closed tent at night (Amit is the only one of us capable to almost close the zippers). We plan to cross to Chile and get to Pucon in about 4 days.

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                        SHOHAMIT
                     Shoham & Amit

El Bolson

Wild Camping
The following day we left the park, and spent most of the time on a gravel road. In early evening, we were quite tired from the ride on the difficult road, but we were out of water and didn´t find any rivers or streams. We stopped next to a group of road workers, who filled our water bottle and told us there was a stream 8 km ahead where we could camp. We followed the advice and cycled there. We got there quickly as the road suddenly became paved. In the morning, many cars and a truck stopped there to fill in water.

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The Way to El Bolson
The next day started with bad face wind and a long descent. While going down, we met a Japanese cyclist fixing a punctured tube. He came all the way from Alaska in 1 year and 8 months. Later, we passed through a beautiful valley full of blackberry bushes. We tried them, but they weren´t good. On the way, there were many camping sites and places selling Dulces and other tasty stuff, but we were on a rush to El Bolson, so we didn´t stop to buy some.

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We thought Dulces meant pastries, but later we figured out they were all selling jams of blackberries and other fruit.

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El Bolson
We reached El Bolson very hungry, so we went shopping, ate lunch, and planned to cycle on. Our plans changed when very heavy rain started. We waited a bit in hope it would stop, but it didn´t. So we asked some people for cheap hostels. This didn´t work very well, as one place we couldn´t find and another was too expensive. We decided to consult with the tourist information office. On our way there, some guy in a passing van offered us a double room for 100 AR$. At the tourist information we were told that prices for dormitoris start from 45 AR$. Only after asking about double rooms, the woman there suggested rooms for 90 AR$. The room we were offered for 100 AR$ usually cost 140 AR$. As the cheaper one didn´t include breakfast, and we obviously prefered a private room over a bed in a hostel, we tried it. In the street of that hostel, Amit´s tube exploded, and his tire was torn. We managed to carry the bikes and gear to the Pehuenia Hospedaje (Azsu√®naga 140, claudiogabrielli@elbolson.com), and received a nice room with beds for 5 people (!) all for us.

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Amit had to go in the rain to a bicycle store to buy a new bad tire (60 AR$) and then to change the tire and tube. The rest of the evening was enjoyable. Shoham got notified of her acceptance to Cambridge with a full scholarship, and decided she would go there rather than to any of the American universities that accepted her. Amit cooked us a great dinner: stir-fry and humus paste.

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We spent some time talking with a nice Australian couple, that did some cycling tours in the past, but prefered the comfort of a normal backpacker trip in South America.

The Way to Bariloche
In the morning it was sunny, so after the great breakfast (pastries the hostel served, some porridge and fruit salad we made) we decided to leave instead of staying another night in the nice hostel.

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They insured us that the price for any other cyclists we send there would not be higher than 100 AR$ per room, including breakfast (just say that SHOHAMIT sent you). The road towards Bariloche was easy and fast even though we had to climb a lot.

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In the evening we entered the Nahuel Huapi national park, and we camped there (illegally) in the forest.

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While opening the tent´s zipper in the morning, ice dropped on us. Apparently, it was freezing cold outside as well that night. We dressed up heavily and continued the climb we started the previous day.

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Only at lunchtime it was warm enough for us to take off some of our clothes. Near Bariloche, we saw a frightening herd of wild dogs that were crossing the Ruta 40 from side to side. After entering the city, a fruit vendor ran after us to give each of us a peach for the way (¨por el viaje¨).

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                        SHOHAMIT
                     Shoham & Amit


Los Alerces National Park

Entering the Park
The ride from Trevelin started with a hard climb on an unpaved road. Afterwards, we reached an empty paved road, in which we enjoyed very much to ride. The entrance to the national park Los Alerces was quite expensive (50 AR$), especially as some people enter the park just to pass through the 70 km long road. We still chose to enter, as we were told this is a very nice park, and as the alternative was the windy and busy Ruta 40 (the famous road crossing Argentina from south to north).

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To utilize better the money we had to pay for the park, we decided to stay there for one more day and hike a bit. At the entrance stood 5 people, whose sole job was to charge money from people and give a free map. They refused to give us any information about hikes, and sent us to the rangers´ station which was 2 km off road. There we received another free map with description of hikes, from a man who wasn´t trying to be very helpful. We ate lunch there, and saw some weird kids, apparently on some agricultural course, who were taking out pieces of grass while jumping and laughing. From there we continued to a free camping site, that didn´t even have a bathroom.

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When we started to cook, a huge bus arrived with 5 Argentinian guys, who were very polite and apologized for camping near us.

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They invited us to look at the inside of the very old bus, which was converted to a camper van. It had 3 single beds and a double bed, a refrigerator and an oven. They invited us for Parillia (BBQ), but we were asleep by the time they started cooking.

Hiking
We planned to take a 3 hour hike called Laguna Escondida (the hidden lagoon), and according to the map, registration is obligatory for that hike.

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We tried to cycle to the rangers to register, but it was so far away, that we gave up and started the hike without registering. It was an hour climb until the lagoon, where we lunched and rested a bit.

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The way down was even faster and passed through a Mirrador with marvelous view of the park.

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OOPS!
When we finished hiking and got back to the bicycles, we found out that we didn´t have the key to the lock. So we started walking toward the camping, in hope that we would be able to hitch hike there. After walking more than half an hour, and not getting near the camping, a car stopped and took us. In the car was a nice Argentinian couple, being on a road trip around Argentina. On the way back to the bicycles, we managed to hitch hike quickly with another couple of who we suspected were illegal immigrants who planned to work in the park, but we didn´t quite understand what work this was exactly.

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When we finally got back to the camping with the bikes, the guys from the bus were getting ready to go out fishing. We used the few hours of day light left for fixing 4 tubes and changing a punctured one (Amit), and cooking (Shoham).


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                        SHOHAMIT
                     Shoham & Amit


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Getting out of the Carratera Austral

La Junta
We left Puyuhuapi quite late, but managed to ride quite a lot, thanks to the road which was very good and went down almost the whole way. On the way we met a Swiss couple (Alex & Fabrizzio, diariosdebicicleta.ch) who came from Ushuaia and planned to reach Colombia in 7 months, and a very fast Belgian (bertmertens.wordpress.com) who came from Bolivia in 2 months. We followed a tip from the Belgian and decided to cycle until a bit after La Junta, were there was a camping. In La Junta, we only stopped to buy a huge onion, that was the only one in that shop. A bit after La Junta we saw the two Argentinians we met on our way to Puyuhuapi in a camping site, but decided not to sleep there as it was a bit too expensive for us (3,500 CH$). Instead we slept in a quarry, were we found oil shales.

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Santa Lucia
In the morning, the Argentinians passed us long before we were ready to go, and we waved to the Swiss who passed also before we left.

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At noon we met the Swiss cyclists who were getting ready to eat their lunch, and moved on as this is a very early hour for us to lunch (we usually eat at the middle of the riding day, between 2 and 3 PM). On our way we met a big group of American cyclists with mountain bikes and no gear. This was an organized group that was cycling from Bariloche to El Chalten. They were eating lunch and it seemed very reach: a pile of cheese, soup and olives. When we finally stopped for lunch we met the Swiss again, and they joined us to eat their ¨4 O´clock meal¨, even though it was only 3 PM. For the rest of the day we cycled together.

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A bit after Santa Lucia we camped together next to a river.

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We started cooking together, and when they finished eating and cleaning their dishes, we were almost done cooking.

Futalefue
In the morning all 4 of us had breakfast in our tent which got nice and warm with 2 stoves cooking oatmeal. That is what almost all cyclists eat for breakfast, with different variations. We usually eat it with sugar, cinnamon, banana, raisins, apples or other fruit. They ate their oatmeal with raisins, apples and salt (!). As they were much faster in getting ready after breakfast, we said goodbye in the morning. We passed them again before Puerto Ramirez, while their were finishing lunch, and they passed us again after we failed to buy bread in town. The rest of the day was rainy, and the road kept going up and down.

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In the evening, the rain stopped, so we decided to save the money for the night and camp a bit before Futalefue. We found a nice place near the river, with a lot of mint we used to make a very good tea.

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In the morning, the sky was clear, and so, we started optimistically the short ride to Futalefue. However, after just a few minutes of riding, Amit´s back carrier broke. As we couldn´t fix it this time (the metal itself broke), we decided to try and get a new one in Futalefue. Amit had to carry most of his weight on his back to get to town, were we found a small bicycle/grocery store. We bought the only carrier they had, which was expensive and weaker than the previous. We also found there cheap raisins, but we decided not to buy them, as we were afraid that it would be problematic to take them into Argentina (wrong!). As it was getting late we decided to have lunch in town, and bought a mountain of fried Empanadas (you get a discount if you buy a dozen). While eating, a group of Italian cyclists on mountain bikes (again without gear) arrived there. After seeing our Empanada pile, they all came in to eat.

Border crossing
In the early afternoon we finally left towards the border between Chile and Argentina. We enjoyed very much this road as it was paved and declining. On the way we met a German motorcyclist, that offered us delicious cookies. At the Argentinian side, non of our bags was checked, although in theory it is forbidden to bring fruit and vegetables into Argentina. The rest of the road to Trevelin was unpaved with many rocks and holes. We managed to get to Trevelin quite quickly as the road got flat, and thanks to back wind.

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Trevelin
We asked some people in Trevelin about a camping, and they all directed us to the police camping. There we met again Alex and Fabrizzio, the Swiss cyclists, and also Guido, the German motorcyclist from the border. We found the price of the camping (25 AR$) a bit high as it didn't have any facilities apart from the bathroom and showers, but we decided to stay because of the company. The camping was full of apple trees, so we had many delicious apples. On the following day, we went to the laundry-shop recommended by the Swiss. As it was very cheap (23AR$ for a huge basket), we washed all our clothes including our fleece jackets, which we haven't washed since the beginning of the trip. For launch we got crazy and ate chicken/fish Empanadas and a beef Hamburger.

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We found an internet place which was quite cheap (5 AR$ per hour). While reading emails we discovered that Amit was accepted to KTH, Graz and Eindhoven universities, with a nice scholarship (tuition waiver + 500 per month!) for the first two . He accepted KTH's offer, and now he is waiting for their final approval which should arrive soon. The British at Imperial College London are still processing paperwork. It should be funny to hear their final decision about the time that Amit would already start studying in Sweden. Shoham got accepted with full scholarships to all the universities she applied to (MIT, UCLA, Rutgers and Georgia Tech), except from Cambridge (U.K. again), that still told her nothing.

Happy Birthday Marco
On the day after, which was the birthday of Marco Letzter (March 17th), Shoham's father, we made prune jam from prunes we picked all around town. As non of the computers in town had Skype and fast internet, we asked the camping owners to use their phone. Thus, we were able to wish Mazal Tov to Marco, who called with his new iPhone through Skype, on his way to celebrate his birthday. While Shoham was talking to her parents, Amit chatted with the camping owner, and let him taste our jam. He liked it very much, and maybe that is why he let us use the police's kitchen to cook in the freezing night. In the morning we left towards Los Alerces national park.

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                        SHOHAMIT
                     Shoham & Amit