The rain started somewhere past Lago Nahuel Huapi. We rode out of Bariloche under clear skies, past craggy peaks and huge alpine lakes -blue and rippled with white caps from the infamous Patagonian wind. But the weather can change as fast as the landscape. Dark clouds carrying sheets of rain sweep down from the mountains and across the lake. For the rest of the day we ride in the pouring rain through valleys of grey mist. In El Foyel we stop at a cafe general store and try to wait out the storm with beer (Quilmes negra) and caramel candies. But by 7:30 there’s still no break in the weather so we get back on the bikes and immediately start looking for a campsite outside of town, eager to get out of the rain as quickly as possible.
A dirt road leading to a Mapuche campground looks good but we decide to pitch our tent before the official camping area because paying to sleep in a tent is against our religion. Blame this stubbornness on the free desert wildcamping we enjoyed in northwest Argentina.
We wake up to mountains dusted with snow and blissfully clear skies. It’s downhill practically all the way to El Bolson, a little town sitting in a huge green valley surrounded by jagged peaks. Lots of hippy vibes here with an abundance of natural food stores, dreadlocks, woolen ponchos, and a bustling craft market. El Bolson was even declared a “Non-Nuclear zone” in 1984.
It’s an area famous for all types of delicious edible things thanks to the valley’s micro climate which boasts unusually mild temperatures for its southern location. Berries and hops are grown all around town so it’s possible to survive solely on homemade jam and artisanal beer.
We planned on only staying last
night, but when we heard the owner of the hostel was cooking a big asado tonight, we decided to delay our departure. Cold weather may be imminent but we’re ignoring that little detail and taking a leisurely pace through the Lakes District. Besides, Argentinian asados are legendary and this guy is a former chef who worked at the Hilton in Buenos Aires so we couldn’t pass up this culinary experience.
Right now I’m looking at giant slabs of freshly slaughtered cow about to get grilled on hot coals. The secret to the asado is the low, indirect heat – and good chimichurri sauce.
Here’s the recipe for the kind we ate (no amounts were given so I guess it’s open to interpretation):
vinegar (red wine, apple cider but not balsamic)
Dry Sweet pepper
Alex wanted to fish. And I wanted to eat the fish he caught. Sadly though, the trout filled lakes and rivers of Patagonia that we’ve heard so much about remain elusive (this could be due to our skills, or lack there of, but at this point we’ve had a lot of casting practice without many interruptions from actual biting fish – so we should be pros by now) Lago Puelo, however, did not deliver the goods. Alex swears he got some nibbles so maybe that counts for something. The fish were probably scared away by his dangerously out of control beard and the new knife he likes to brandish (his third of the trip by the way, but who’s counting?)
From here we’re headed south to find Butch Cassidy’s cabin somewhere outside of Cholila and then into Los Alerces National Park to the border where we’ll cross into Chile and link up to the Carreterra Austral. According to our Aussie friends Tom
and Sarah who are a few weeks ahead of us, there are protests going on in this region of Chile over the chronically high fuel prices. Apparently the roadblocks only affect motorized vehicles so this may be a rare instance where riding a bike is actually faster than driving a car.Then again, the reported food shortages might affect us more adversely. So we might end up back in El Bolson eating berries, brewing beer, and playing bongos.