Two bikes and a trailer

Trip Start Jul 18, 2011
Trip End Jan 05, 2012

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting to San Martin de los Andes (in Argentina) from Chile required an overnight bus trip to Temuco and from there another bus to take us over the border. Our first bus was running late which meant we had most likely missed out connection. We ran to the next bus company office and arrived there 5 minutes after the scheduled departure. They were nice enough to radio the bus to come back and fetch us! Lucky us!

We then had a spectacular bus trip through the northern part of the Chilean Lake District passing the Alpine-like Villarrica and Pucón. The area was quite hazy from volcanic ash coming from the Puyehue volcano which erupted in June 2011. This is the same volcano that had Villa la Angostura in Argentina covered in ash and still appears to be disrupting flights. The border control post offers spectacular views of Volcan Lanin. As tempting as it was to climb it, we opted to head to San Martin instead.

San Martin is a really picturesque little town on Lago Lácar, nestled towards the northern end of Argentina's Lake district.  There were a few yachts moored close to shore on a beautifully blue lake with green thickly forested slopes and snow-capped peaks in the distance.  The architecture and layout of the town give it a Swiss alpine village feel – lots of cozy chocolate shops, warm winter clothing and gear shops, and restaurants line the main commercial street – Avenue San Martin.  We stayed at a funky place called Secuoya Hostel and saw very mild amounts of ash had fallen in this area with minimal impact.

The Seven Lakes tour (multi-day mountain bike tour to Villa la Angostura) is a well-known highlight in the area but we were advised against doing it since the volcanic ash and wind can combine to make it pretty unpleasant.  So, we ended up renting bikes and a bike trailer (couldn’t find bikes with panniers) for 3 days and went riding and camping along the shores of Lago Lácar.  This was a lot of fun and our first independent bit of touring on bikes!

We left the trailer behind for the first few hours as we cycled some of the local rides and singletrack routes on the southern side of town and enjoyed a picnic lunch on a section of singletrack alongside a secluded stream.  It was good to feel that the cycling legs were still there after all the trekking we’d been doing although the skills were a bit rusty as I took a tumble while pushing too hard on a loose dusty and ashy downhill section.  With the lake not too far off, I cleaned off with an icy swim as Nienke watched with a shake of her head ;-)

Late afternoon with a fully loaded trailer of food, wine, alfajores and some camping gear we headed off our first camp spot at La Islita on the northern shore of the lake.  It was heavy going with the initial steep climb out of San Martin and 2 hours later we arrived at a stunningly peaceful little spot and set up camp with no-one else around.  As luck would have it the peace was disturbed during the night by some cats fighting and in the early morning by a rooster crowing but we still really enjoyed the spot. 

Day 2 was about 5 hours of cycling to Nonthue.  Midway through we stopped for lunch and a really icy swim at the Yuco campsite and continued to feel like we had the whole lake just to ourselves.  At Nonthue we camped 5 metres from shore, set about trying to have dinner earlier than 11pm and got a cozy campfire going.

After a sleep-in a late start we got ambitious and cycled through to the picturesque Chachin waterfall where we had a rushed lunch and started the long (50km) haul back to San Martin via mostly the same route eventually arriving at dusk with tired legs but in good spirits.  
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