(November 24 – written by “10K Dave”)
You guessed it – we had rain overnight and again this morning. The forecast of late is almost always that “tomorrow” it will be rain free. Sort of like the funny old sign you’d see in many a ski lodge bar – you know, “Free Beer Tomorrow”. You show up the next day looking for your free beer and the sign still says tomorrow. At least we had our little hut to keep us warm and we didn’t have to put away a wet tent this morning. Tomorrow, there is no rain in the forecast, again. We’ll see how that plays out.
Other than some wet early and then again in the middle, we had a pretty good day. Towards the end of the day we got some blue patches, had a tailwind and dry roads to ride on. So, while it sounds a little (ok, perhaps a lot) like I am complaining, today was more good than bad – an alright day overall.
I think that we were the first of the travellers to depart the refugio this morning. And just as we were getting ready to depart, the rain stopped. This was particularly nice as the first 3.5k from camp were very steep uphill – made much more comfortable riding without rain pants. We had a nice view back to the refugio from a viewpoint up the hill. The Rio Cisnes is much larger than we thought it was, making the trout that Brice (one of the cyclists) caught last night even more impressive.
At the top of the climb we rolled into the small town of Villa Amengual. We stopped last night 6k short of this village and this morning, we were glad that we did. It is a pretty small berg that’s appearance wasn’t helped this morning by the dark and foreboding skies. There was climb after Villa Amengual which we crested just about the same time that the rains came back. We had drizzle on and off for the next 25k.
We had a nice ride along a lake, Lago Los Torres. It was surrounded by craggy peaks that would have been spectacular to look at in blue skies. We stopped for a few photos even with the rain as it was still quite scenic. We finally got to take the rain pants off about 20k from Mañihuales, just before the last climb of the day. It was a short climb that only left us with a short, joyful tailwind blast downhill into town. As noted, there were some blue patches in the sky at this point, but we also had threats of rain in the last 5k as well – luckily, the rain held off.
We made it town just after lunch so what else to do before the hunt for a place to stay than eat. We found a great little diner that made us the biggest steak sandwiches that we’ve ever eaten (probably). While eating a motorcyclist from Toronto came in to say hello. He was on a 3,000 mile trip of the bottom of South America – one where the tour company provide bikes, a sag for luggage and follow van with tools/spares. He and some of his fellow riders gave us a nice round of applause as we left the cafe – that’s always fun.
We tried to stay in the Mañihuales Hostal but it took a while to raise someone on the phone numbers listed on the sign, only to then learn that they were full (or simply couldn’t be bothered to make their way over to the hostel for one-night customers). We tried a couple other places in town and got the same response. It was kind of weird as nothing looked overly busy but everyone was either full (or weren’t interested in dealing with customers, notwithstanding their signs) or they didn’t answer the door. We eventually ended up at the last spot on the south of town called Camping Los Margaritas. We were welcomed there by a very friendly hostess and encouraged to be the first guests in her new cabana. We were going to camp but then she lowered the price on the cabana, started a fire and got the gas hot water heater going. Sold!
The cabana is so new, we’ll have to take plastic off dishes and pans that we want to use tonight. It is not raining now and camping would have been fine but after the welcome we received, it seemed almost wrong to not be the honorary first guests – she even had her relatives come out and take our picture with her! The other folks in our current “group” (Adrian, Brice, the German and the Chilean) are all here at the same camp spot tonight. There are exactly 4 tent shelters so it worked out well that we didn’t clog one of them up. It is funny how we’ve linked up with another rolling crew – we’ll probably split off from this group at Coyhaique tomorrow as that’s a bigger town and everyone has a different budget and schedule.
After showers, I rode two miles back to town to pick-up a couple fresh empanadas to supplement our dinner. Nancy was happy enough to have me go solo, she likes empanadas and adding two miles to my annual total won’t affect her massive annual mileage lead all that much. She is so competitive! (Senior editor’s note – just for the record, the thought never even entered my mind and I was happy to hang out near the wood stove in our nice little cabana. Hmm, who is it that is competitive?!?!)
So tomorrow we are off to Coyhaique, the biggest city/town on the CA. We have an AirB&B booked and are looking forward to a few days off. We haven’t been riding big Ks but the rain and gravel roads wear you down all the same. There is no rain forecast but yeah, we aren’t putting or rain pants in storage just yet… But boy, wouldn’t it be fun to start the day without rain booties on as well? We can only dare to dream.