The route from Santa Rosa to Bariloche I have done in accordance with the thought from my last post. I was Here and Now! In doing so I haven’t thought much about you who read my sporadic writings. What can I say – Though luck!
With Andres we have set our course due SW. Kilometres and kilometres of nothingness. A long, straight road leading to infinity, shade only if we were lucky, sun that burns and emptiness. Not a living soul, just cars passing by. Every now and then we had access to water when there was a windmill pumping water from a well was close to the road.
Obviously when the windmill was intact and the wind was blowing. There was lots of wind but not always when one needed it. And when I didn’t need it, there it was. I particularly didn’t like the fact that it normally the wind was not going in the same direction that I was going. It was very much in a rush in the opposite direction. A typically cyclists situation – headwind. Though I have to admit that it wasn’t always so and that there were days without wind or even some tailwind.
From Santa Rosa to Bariloche it is 999km (supposedly, never saw a sign with this info). Andres and I have done a bit more. The route that we choose wasn’t the most direct one. It did however took as on a road nicknamed »Ruta Campaña al Desierto« or I also heard » Conquista del Desierto«. It could be translated as »Route Campaign into the Desert« or »Conquest of the Desert«. And who would have thought – there is nothing there. It’s not that classical sandy desert with camels and dunes. Here the highest plant reaches about shoulders high, we came across two small towns and that was all for about 400km until the border with the province of Rio Negro. Lots of sun, little water. But at the end of the day we always managed to find something to pitch our tents.
Wind shelter in the form of trees of a roadside rest area, water from the windmill and picture perfect sunsets.
Then at the border between La Pampa and Rio Negro, we have crossed Rio Colorado and the countryside on the other side was identical. Just the vegetation moved a step down so the highest plants reached our hips, normally only up to our knees. So we had about 150km of this and then greenery, trees, river and population. And encounter with Slovenians or their descendants that live in the city of Neuquen and its surroundings. Edgardo was our guide, Mariana our host. Bed, hot water and commodities of civilization.
We took advantage of the time we spent there doing some standard chores, like bicycle maintenance, stocking up on provisions, laundry and spending time with the locals. Amongst others, the Slovenians organized a small reunion in our honour.
After three days being spoiled by Mariana and Edgardo who also took us on a tour of the vineries (I strongly urge you not to do it on an empty stomach), we were back on the Road. Back to what we are used to and became used to in the kilometres to here. Lots of nothing, headwind, sun and then a quiet evening when a cup of coffee accompanied by a chat makes you forget the effort you have put into getting here. Our goal were hills and a new route with a name – “Ruta de los 7 Lagos” (Route of the 7 lakes). Still more than 350km away, but there again we were greeted by greenery and water.
The hills made sure the road started swerving a bit. This meant the end of the endless straight lines where you could find yourself staring at an antenna on the horizon for more than 20km. You watch it grow from a size of a toothpick to reaching more than 50, 60 metres high.
Meeting with Slovenians in Neuquen started some sort of a chain reaction, we started to visit Slovenians. In Junin de los Andes we were invited to Janko and Martina. Not only they had welcomed us, Martina almost made me cry when she put krofi (Slovenian type of doughnut) in front of me and I certainly did cry when horseradish appeared on the table.
A day of luxury and comfort and we hit the road again. This time for real “Ruta de los 7 Lagos”. The road winds between the mountains, forest all around, s smell of pine fills the air, all is green and one is never too far away from water. And since the route is called 7 lakes, there are lakes as well (reinventing the wheel, I know). On the shores of one of the lake there is a small cottage where Victor and Regina, descendants of Slovenian parents, otherwise living in Buenos Aires, are spending their holidays.
Again a warm welcome and with difficulty we said goodbye and moved on. But we “had to” move on since a few days later we were expected in Bariloche by Janez and Maria. Next stop on Slovenian tour.
Before Bariloche we visit a few more lakes, we take a few brakes on the riverbanks, mate or coffee or just a chat with a camp employee.
Not to appear too kitsch. We also had rain, that small, drizzling kind that just lingers on and on, there was also wind moving us all over the road,… But I was always Here and Now!
If I was to write that I was enjoying and screaming of joy all the time, no one would have believed me. Also because I would have been lying writing that. But I was Here and Now! Listening to the river or music, whatever felt like right thing to do. Soaking in the sunshine or searching for a roof so that I would not get too wet. Pedalling like mad being swept by the moment on a downhill or cursing into the wind that almost stopped me… And if it looked like it’s going to be miserable since the rain is going to soak everything, I remembered that tomorrow is another day. Another new day awaken by the sun that will dry the tent.
With a Smile on my face, until next time!