Spontaneous change of plans: we’re back in Argentina. In Pucon we heard that the “ash” situation wasn’t as bad as we’d heard (basically it’s only a problem when the wind blows from the south) so we decided to take the risk and cross the Andes. Full disclosure: we missed Argentininan ice cream (i.e. Grido) and comprehensible Spanish. Not to mention it rained for three days in Pucon so we were ready for some drier weather. Update: I’m writing this from Junin de Los Andes, Argentina and it’s still raining.
We rode into the mist and mountains towards the border, heading into the national park around the region’s largest volcano. But Volcano Lanin remained hidden due to the inclement weather, a common occurrence thanks to a phenomenon known as the “rain shadow effect.” The Chilean side of the Andes receives a lot more rain than the Argentinian side from the Pacific storms slamming into the mountains and releasing their precipitation on the western slopes.
Crossing the Andes for the second time felt like a joke. The pass was 2,000 m lower and there was no headwind. The road, however, was unpaved and it was 40 degrees and raining.
We crossed the rain shadow, pedaling hard through a downpour, to patches of blue sky and glimmers of sunlight just over the border.
After the lush forested mountains of Chile we re emerged in the rolling emptiness of Argentina with a sky so big it threatened to swallow us whole. Within 10 km the landscape went from dense rainforest to dry plains. No farms or orchards here, only cattle ranches and sage brush. But the rivers are full of trout and we pedaled through a rainbow that arched across the entire sky. We race the gathering storm clouds until we decide to stop at the side of the road and make tea because our feet are still numb. And the next town is still 40 km away.
From here, we’re headed through the Argentinian Lakes District to Bariloche. Then south to El Bolson and Butch Cassidy’s cabin near Cholilla.