Mountains, Forests, Lakes

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Patagonia has long been a fascination of mine, a place I have always wanted to visit, inspired by Chatwin’s classic "In Patagonia", by Darwin’s evolutionary travels, by tales of  big mountains and glaciers and epic adventures, a land of pristine nature, of rivers and mountains, it is the Alps and the Rockies and New Zealands backbone of mountains rolled into one, beautiful, remote, inspiring, and the place I really wanted to finish our bike trip.

We arrived in San Martin de los Andes after a 24-hour bus journey from Buenos Aires, a trip across the deserted pampas of central Argentina, back to the Andes and anxious to push on. We are on the last leg of our trip, a few thousand kilometers through what promises to be one of the harder but more beautiful parts of our journey. Jamie is joining us for a couple of weeks and to pass the time between San Martin and his arrival in Esquel, we have been meandering down the Seven Lakes route, relaxing in Bariloche and El Bolson, camping out and meeting with the many Argentineans who are taking their summer holidays. We are back to climbs and unpaved roads, on the legendary Ruta 40 and heading for the equally famous Carretera Austral in Chile.

Ruta 40 is the Route 66 of Argentina, stretching from the border with Bolivia to the tip of the southern mainland, over 5000 km in length. We have already been on the northern part around Salta and will get back onto the southern part once we finish in Chile. In this part of Argentina the Ruta 40 passes though what must be some of the most beautiful places imaginable.

In Bariloche we found ourselves in the same campsite as Alexis and Coralie, a French couple we had met in La Paz. Coralie is cycling and Alexis is climbing, and asked me if I wanted to join him and some Brasilian friends for a day out on the rock. Of course I did. Any chance to have a go at one of the activities I love more than most others. These guys were brilliant climbers and  I hadn’t been climbing for over a year, so it was great to get on the end of a rope and feel the rock again

We will leave El Bolson tomorrow and head through  Los Alerces National park, trying to get used to the unpaved roads again in preparation for the Carretera, more wonderful cycling no doubt, free camping and meeting up with Jamie in a few days.

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