Cycling Chile/Argentina '04 | Coyhaique Index Day 39 Day 41
Day 40: Cruce El Maiten -> Puerto Rio Tranquilo 45KM Big Micro

We woke up the next morning to a cloudy sky with light sprinkles and a visit by a carabinero. He gave us "the look" of "what is going on here" but drove off without saying anything.

The sun was out as we were getting ready. We didn't make much distance the past couple of days so we were anxious to get going. The ride around the lake was extremely scenic but was definitely not flat. Not so far down the road, we saw many more Mosqueta pickers working by the road and a perfect campsite down by a bridge - oh well.

Even we didn't find the nicest campsite, we had no complaints at all when we hit a section of smooth like butter hard packed ripio. It was better than pavement! With a slight wind in our back, we were cruising at 30kph in a breeze.

When crossing one of the many bridges, we ran into a bit of traffic problem - a wild horse stopped and stared at us on the other end of the bridge. We had some snacks, tomato, cookies. It would not move. We looked down on the ground to avoid eye contact. It looked up in the air with superiority.

Our silent communication with the wild horse lasted several minutes until a truck flew by. It jumped off the road and disappeared into the river valley.

No good things last forever. Smooth ripio ended after 8 kilometer and bad ripio returned. We passed a construction crew at the bottom of a downhill and were immediately blasted by westerly side wind that we thought was a thing of the past. Luckily it didn't last very long and we were sheltered by the mountains again.

With the sun out, it was too hot to be in jacket. Brian even took his leggings off as we started climbing another hill. As if we had made a complete U-turn, this time, we got wind behind us. It even pushed us uphill!

In the mountain, when there are winds, there are rains. At the last upclimb, dark cloud started to form over the distance, the direction where we were going. I quickly put my jacket back on and continued up the hill. Brian on the other hand, had a lot more work to do, Gortex socks, leggings, rain pants. As soon as I got back on the bike, the cloud couldn't hold the rain anymore. It poured on us like we were in a waterfall. Brian soon caught up with me waiting for him at the top of the hill. He barely had enough time to put everything on but managed to stay mostly dry.

There was a radio tower at the top of the hill and it also signaled our big descent. The raindrops felt like hails - they could well be hails indeed - when you were going at 30kph. My hands and feet became numb. With all the ice crystals stricking at me, my face hurt. I could barely keep my eyes open. We had to stop at least two times just to thaw up a bit.

Where did this microburst come from? It was sunny just minutes ago. An ominous dark cloud still hanged over the lake with even more threating-looking micros bursting out -- at least we were not there.

A few places on the road indicated we were close to a small town - Puerto Rio Tranquilo. But it didn't come until we were almost done with the micro. It was still early, 2PM, but I had visions of dry clothes, dry socks, and something warm. After talking to a young lady in a close-to-empty store, we settled into a hospetaja with a cabana - cabin.

Inside there were two bedrooms, a small kitchen, table, some chairs, and most importantly, a woodburning stove. Before long, we had ourselves a stoker. With dry clothes, dry socks on while sipping hot Milo and eating biscuits, we were 10,000 miles away from half hour ago.

Puerto Rio Tranquilo is, as its name says, tranquilo. After we were warmed inside out, we took a stroll in town. There was a camping area by the lake with beautiful view of the distant snowy mountain, and quite understandabily, nobody there. We visited all of the three stores in town and stocked up on cookies. We even got some Mosqueta jam from a bake shop.

At night, we treated ourselves to a dinner prepared by Silvia, the hostess. It must have been the biggest and heaviest plate I have ever finished. A giant heap of meshed potato bigger than the biggest mound we saw on the pampas with two huge slices of beef. Brian almost fell off his chair when he saw me finished everything. And oh, I forgot, that was after another two orders of papas fritas we got just couple of hours ago.

Back in our cabin, we sank deeper into tranquil comfort and a king-size bed that occupied the entire bedroom. All but one side of the wall was nothing but glass windows going from floor to ceiling, we felt like two belly-up fish in a giant fish bowl.

Index Day 39 Day 41