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Ten seasons in one day

Traditional Argentinian goat shepherd posing for a portrait picture
Dario Sepúlvada
October 28, 2017
Cyclist in yellow raincoat on the Carretera Austral
Carretera Austral
November 21, 2017

10th of October - 8 o'clock in the morning

We wake up with the tent in the middle of a lake. Around us everything is flooded with water. Astonished we are looking around, asking ourselves what happened last night. It must a miracle but our tent is standing on the only dry part. Yesterday evening we found a place for the tent on a playground in a rare artificial forest. We are looking around to see where all the water is coming from. The reason is the local plantation where they water the plants, but a little too enthusiastic. We arrived in Zapala, city of the wind, where everything is doomed by the endless wind and sand coming from the mountains. After our resting day in Chos Malal we cycled 230 kilometers in three days, sometimes wearing all our clothes against the cold, sometimes in a shirt with the sun, sometimes fighting against the wind, sometimes enjoying some tail wind. In Las Lajas we asked for a place at the local fireman, who directed us to the church. We knocked on the neighbours doors, and they invited us without any hesitation in their humble house. The cooking fire was on all day and used as heating source for the house, because the gas is coming from Patagonia and doesn't cost a thing. Apparently we can use things which are cheap abundant. Shops are full of cheap candies and cookies, while the healthy food is always more expensive. Fortunately the sun always shines and wind is for free so we can use the same mentality for this.

After Zapala we choose to cycle the more beautiful route on dirt roads passing the national park Lagunas Blancas. We are cycling right to the Andes, but it must be a miracle that their is no wind today. We climb up to 1.500 meter until we are cycling in between the melting snow. On the other side of the mountain the landscape changes dramatically and there is an abundance of water. A wild mountain river meanders through the landscape, sometimes fed by beautiful waterfalls. The freezing water has a green blue colour and makes everything green and provides the first trees since a very long time. Finally we don’t have to carry extra litres of water and hope to find a house to refill them. Here we drink straight from the river and even dare to take a bath after a day sweating on the bicycle. In the night the temperature drops well below zero, but the first sun rays warm us up rapidly. The dirt roads are better than the torture in the north, so we can enjoy the Swiss landscapes. The goats, which were abundant in the dry areas, are replaced by sheeps and cows, and in the sky mighty condors circle around tracing a death animal. In the evening we get to bed early and watch Harry Potter in Spanish to learn the language even better. This way the nights in the tent are pure joy. Three days later we arrive in Junin de los Andes, the start of the Lake District in Argentina, one of the highlights on our way to Ushuaia.

In San Martin de los Andes we have 1.200 kilometers on our meter since we left Mendoza. After the endles miles in the desert and solitude we finally reach civilisation again. Flor and Juan invite us in their dream house on the flanks of the mountains. From their panoramic loft they have the perfect view on the valley and only see trees. We sleep in our tent, but enjoy the warmth from the house during the day. When we see this house, we start dreaming about our own place. Our checklist is long and this place may even not exist, but their house definitely meets a lot of our demands. In the end we stay four nights in their house before we start cycling the famous Ruta de Siete Lagos, a beautiful route of 110 kilometers that passes seven lakes. We hope for some days with beautiful weather, but unfortunately spring isn’t showing up this week. We start with five degrees, ice storms, rain and snow, but sometimes the sun shows up and temperatures rises ten degrees. It are ten seasons in a day. Since two years the whole route is asphalted and this way we can enjoy fully the scenery. All the lakes are postcard worthy. The water isn’t a mirror, but the snow capped mountains and low hanging clouds make the scenery stunning to cycle through. At the third lake we pitch our tent and enjoy the solitude and tranquillity.

In two months the touristic season explodes and the peace disappears. Right now the route is all ours, but far away we see a little yellow tent. Finally we meet another cyclist in South America, a Brazilian, already cycling for five years. Today we even saw two other cyclist, but they were Argentinians only cycling the Siete Lagos, and they were walking more than cycling.

The end of the route is in Villa la Angostura, where Willem and Maxima celebrate their holidays, and where Maxima’s brother has a restaurant. We continue and opt for a place a little further on a abandoned camping. All the places are perfect spots with stunning views on Lago Nahuel Huapi and the snow capped peaks of the Andes. The place is so beautiful that we decide to stay two days with the tent and enjoy a day doing completely nothing, maybe for the first time in a year.

'Both of us look at Ushuaia as a big goal, but what do we do next? '

Our day at this stunning location gives us the time to rethink and give worth to our feelings. Both of us experience that the could temperatures start to count on us. After 14 nights living outdoor in this climate, Olivier longs for a bed and a little more comfort. For Zoë it felt al a bit to quick. In 25 days we traveled from Mendoza to Bariloche by weather and wind, which made her feel like a race on the bike instead of a cycling adventure. Both of us look at Ushuaia as a big goal, but what do we do next? For many cyclists this is the end of their adventure, but we don’t feel ready, although we need some rest and intellectual challenge after the harsh work on the bicycle. Bariloche feels as another important milestone in our trip. We cycled in 25 days to Bariloche, battling all types of weather, which felt to fast for Zoë. But now we have time to take it easy and enjoy the most beautiful part of the route. The luxurious warmshower canceled our visit on the last moment, but luckily we could go to the Casa de Ciclistas. Every year Coco receives more than 100 cyclists who sleep in a Domo, a kind of big wooden iglo in his garden. The iglo is still under construction, so we sleep on top of a pile of wood, packed in our sleeping bags on the footprint of our tent. So, the warm bed is still waiting for us.

From Bariloche we cross the border to Chile. We choose an alternative route with three lake crossings to get to the other side. We take the bicycles on the boat and in between we have to cycle to the next ferry. The first intermediate piece is only three kilometers and is a piece of cake. The second part is 30 kilometers long and crosses the Andes. The road is steep and follows a muddy, dirt road through the forest. The higher we get, the more snow we see, but the climb is so steep that we are cycling in t-shirt. At the border there is a big sign ‘Bienvenido en Chile’, whereafter the landscape changes dramatically. We are in the middle of a rain forest, surrounded by all the shades of green. It rains four times as much as in the Netherlands here, and moments later it starts raining again. The high peaks of the Andes block the clouds and make this one of the wettest parts on earth. The unpaved road is horrible, with big and wet stones which make us descend slower than we climbed. Our hands are cramped when we survived the downhill, but we still have 15 kilometers to cover to the ferry. We are running out of time and barely have time to enjoy the splendid colours and abundance of water. Half an hour before the ferry leaves we arrive at the border control. The officer appears to be half Belgian and let us pass without any control of our bags. Ten minutes before departure we arrive at the ferry, just on time. At the other side of the lake we pitch our tent. The camping is closed because of ‘maintenance’. There was a volcano eruption not so long ago and everything is covered under the ash, but it doesn’t look like there will be a new eruption tonight.


The next morning we have to cycle the last 70 kilometers to our warmshower. Surprisingly there is a cycling path to Puerto Varas and it even doesn’t rain. On this side of the Andes the spring started. Everything is blooming and the fields are full of yellow flowers. There are dutch cows everywhere and everything looks well maintained, which makes it feel european. We cycle to a villa district in Puerto Varas where Adriana lives. She has a huge house and even have our own bedroom, bathroom and living room. Her son cycled two years ago from Canada to his house and made a profile on Warmshowers for his mother. Since that moment there passed many cyclist who enjoy a little luxury on their long journey. We prepare for the 1.200 kilometers on the Carretera Austral, an insane route to the south of Chile. After one year our stuff starts to wear out and receives more and more pieces of blue tape. Every week we have to repair a part or sew some clothes. On Tuesday morning we leave, wearing our brand new yellow rain coats, ready for the rain, on our way to Villa O’Higgins.

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