Santiago was a beautiful city, full of culture, history, and people like herself from all over the world with a thirst for adventure. The largest and easiest major city to fly into, Santiago was the launching place for all things northern Patagonia. She’d been there once before, so the routine was a bit easier this time.
She always tried to rest for a full day when she arrived in country. It helped combat jet lag and reset her internal clock before getting on a bike and riding in unfamiliar territory. Her routine remained the same no matter where she went, regardless of the time change. Besides, after everything that had happened over the last month, it might take an extra day or two to get in the right headspace.
In Chile’s capital, burgeoning with nearly seven million people, there was no lack of things to see and do. She rode from Santiago to Pucón along the Pan-American Highway, which was a ride she hadn’t done previously. She stopped frequently, veering off the highway, taking copious notes and pictures along the way.
Pulling off the main highway, she rode west to Concepción on the coast, stopping for pictures at Ramuntcho, a gorgeous, U-shaped cove surrounded by cliffs overlooking a clean white beach. She hiked up onto the rock outcroppings and sat for a while. Mountainous landscapes that ended at the ocean were some of her favorite views, and she took it all in, allowing her body to relax and her mind to let go. Her feet dangled over the edge of the rocks, above the swirling eddies of the Pacific. It was strange sometimes to think this was the same mighty Pacific that crashed the cliffs of Mendocino and traveled in under the Golden Gate Bridge half a world away.
After lunch, she got back on the bike and ventured to los Saltos del Laja, a picturesque waterfall surrounded by horse trails and picnic spots along the Laja River. After capturing a few photos, she rented a cabin nearby.
She continued south for a couple of hours, enjoying the quiet of the early morning. Although the Pan-American was a busy, multi-lane highway, traffic was a non-issue on a weekday in the late spring before the tourist season really ramped up.
She stopped at Cerro Ñielol in Temuco and hiked up to an overlook with sweeping panoramic views. Here she enjoyed the dulce de leche and bread from Mia and a few handfuls of nuts from her bag.
Abby arrived in Pucón in the late afternoon. It was a picturesque mountain town nestled at the foot of an active volcano called Villarrica on the shores of a lake by the same name. Nicknamed the Adventure Capital of Chile, Pucón attracted outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds, from kayakers to mountain climbers and everything in between. Situated in the beautiful Chilean Lakes District, Pucón was bursting with tourists from all over the world.
She spent the next week riding the route they would take from Pucón. South along Route 5 until it became the Carretera Austral, or the southern highway, which then followed Route 7 through some of the most breathtaking and varied terrain on the planet. From pristine mountain lakes to volcanos, this tour had everything a rider could want, at times following the ocean, and at others winding deep into the mountains.
There were multiple ferry crossings, and as she went, she gave the ferry companies the information about their dates and verified the reservations for all ten bikes in advance to make sure they would get on all together.
The Argentinian side was a whole other world of riding. The winds were a formidable enemy and downright dangerous at times, but it was worth staring down the enemy, because Route 40 was one of the most beautiful stretches of riding in the world.
By the time she arrived in the picturesque, Swiss-style town of San Carlos de Bariloche, her nerves were fried from white-knuckling the bike. For the first time ever, she considered a midstream route reversal. At an elevation just shy of three thousand feet, San Carlos de Bariloche was like a postcard, perched in the middle of the Lakes District and overlooking Nahuel Huapi National Park. facebook