Climbing 1060 and down 1160, and 40 km gravel
It did not rain over night but it looked like it could at any minute when we set off. The first 5 kilometres was gravel, we were going back the way we had come into camp out onto the highway again.
The 35 kilometres after that was a paved road, but it had a slight up gradient and I found it hard to get up to a decent speed. At 40 kilometres a number of us stopped for cake and coffee (once again warm milk and instant coffee) and I had one of the nicest lemon and meringue pies I have ever had.
The sun came out and the mist cleared, and I finally got to see some lakes. It was like riding in New Zealand around Lake Taupo, and I kept half expecting to see the town Taupo come into sight at any moment. A number of the houses and farms look like a lot of money has been spent on them. Again it was very green, and cows were full and dozing by mid morning.
My legs are tired and I found the hills hard going. Not as hard however as the 40 kilometres of gravel at the end of the day. The gravel was thick and it if you got too near the edge your tyres would skid.
Unfortunately it also had a fair bit of traffic so you either had to ride on the edge or stop. Most of the drivers slowed down so they would not spray us with dust and stones, though a couple were not at all considerate and stones flew everywhere.
I was pretty tired and grumpy by the time I got to camp. Without suspension and thick tyres, or a mountain bike, the average speed on this gravel is about 8 kilometres an hour, and it was 5:45pm by the time I arrived. There were a number of riders after me still, and dinner was put back an hour to give people a chance to arrive.
The campsite is in a town by a lake (Entre Lago), not as wealthy looking an area as the day before yesterday. I doubt there would be any USA $300,000 apartments here. The lake is just as pretty, but riding all day left little time to enjoy it. A number of the riders did not even go down to the lake which was at the bottom of the camp site.
I was amused riding towards camp to see 8 dogs sitting on the road watching a table of locals eating dinner, watching with great interest, hope and patience.
It was cold and drizzly and bleak. The campsite was crowded, as it was really too small for a group of our size. As usual by this time of day all the good and half decent campsites were already full with tents. There were cabana (cabin) options on both sides of the camp ground so I decided to get a cabin again. The place where I got the cabin, the family who ran it were having a family celebration for the birth of a new baby boy. There were small children running around playing, and adults sitting and talking and laughing. I had pangs of homesickness again.
Dinner was a beef stew and brown rice, and was actually really nice and a decent serving. I was eating a bit of meat and a cat came up and looked at me hopefully. I said hello, next minute it was standing up on its hind legs trying to get food off my plate – a more direct approach than the 8 watching, patient, but hopeful, dogs I had seen earlier.
I have managed to lose yet another pair of reading glasses (2 this week) and am now back down to my last pair again! Thankfully they are cheap reading glasses not optometrist prescribed, and I will be able to get some more in Puerto Montt.
I am not looking forward to another day of climbing, gravel and 147 kilometres tomorrow. This is the time of the trip where the going gets tough. Your body is tired from months of riding without good recovery time, and the bad weather and cold is starting to wear us down. Riders are getting scratchy and irritable with each other, and the TDA staff. The weather from here is going to only get worse, and we still have the Patagonia winds to come. The weather for the rest of the trip is expected to be more rain than not, and we still have a number of bush camps to look forward to. I try to stay in the moment and not worry about what is coming and enjoy the different scenery.
I play a number of mind games when I am riding along, when I am finding the going tough and the scenery is not inspiring, to be able to stay in the moment.
1. Dividing the ride into small portions like 16/16 and then ticking off each section.
2. If I think I can’t keep going up a hill, then I count to 1,000 and say if I still want to stop at 1,000 I can, and by 1000 the hill is usually over, or an easier gradient.
3. Making up stories that I am going to tell my grandchildren Xavier and Lucy when I get back, with the characters based on a few of the thousands of the stray dogs of South America. The story line: their journey to get a family to belong to, and or their various ailments like the dog that limped badly, the dog with the skin condition, the dog that followed us over the mountain pass, and my hairy friend from Uspallata.
4. I also think about the privilege of having the health and the financial ability to be able to take 6 months off and be able to do this. My sense of privilege is re-enforced by some of the living conditions and working lives seen on this trip.