South of the heavy hitting tourist highlights of Bariloche and around we slowly returned to the welcoming embrace of the less tourist laden Argentina. Supermarket queues, bumper to bumper paved roads and angry honking horns were replaced with small shop chats, enthusiastic waves and quiet dirt roads.
Trevelin is a former Welsh settlement and still has signs in Welsh and Spanish. What a fantastically bizarre language Welsh is. Never have a people seemingly had such an intense hatred of vowels. Every word seems to be an incomprehensible scattering of consonants with no respect to how one would actually pronounce it. After a few giggles and raiding the local La Anónima supermarket, we pushed on to camp out of town.
South of Trevelin it’s surprisingly difficult to find a good camp spot. It was farming country. Barren, fenced and lacking in good tent sized nooks and crannies with good views. We settled for what we decided was our shittest campsite yet. Close to the road, terribly uneven and possessing no view. But it did the trick – and new low benchmarks are always nice as the next rubbish spot never seems quite as bad.
It’s fine riding towards the Argentine border post at Las Pampas, and this place is everything a border post should be – an isolated big old wooden building looked after by a big old St. Bernard and a friendly Argentine fellow. He enthusiastically offered us accommodation but it was early in the day so we kept on pedalling. A superb camp spot it looked to be though.
Filled up with generous border post banter we headed off towards Lago Verde. This road was pedal re-affirming. Rideable and quiet, with several river crossings and fine vistas. It’s a good option for crossing the Andes, and was making our random decision to stay in Argentina longer down the dreaded Ruta 40 feel like the right one.
From Lago Verde a scenic, rough route connects to the village of La Tapera. What used to be a trail has in recent years been turned into a ‘road’, widening the track with brute force to join these two small towns which are part of the same municipality. However, like so much infrastructure here, it seems there was no maintenance plan and now it’s only passable by foot, bike, horse and maybe a serious 4×4 with a chainsaw. I can’t see this changing in a hurry. Whether people needed the road in the first place is another question entirely.
It involves some hot hike-a-bike ascents up some absurd grades, surrounded by what we dubbed ‘clouds of hell-death’, otherwise known as horse flies. Sometimes up to 30 or 40 of these large biting flies would swarm around each of us, landing stealthily and readying their sharp, blood-sucking straws, which pierce through clothing with ease. Luckily they’re pretty dopey in their blood-drunk stupors and easy to kill with a swift swat. Redeemingly these sections are followed by some outstanding campspots and fine downhills, including one genuine whoop-whoop inducing flowing section of winding double track. It’s the kind of trail that makes you think about riding back up and doing it all again.
After this joyfully remote stretch we were braced for traffic filled roads with no shoulder when we finally hit the classic Carretera Austral. Much to our pleasant surprise the road was quiet, with a good shoulder and dramatic views, and it wasn’t far to a beer.
Pink thistle pom poms with an Andean backdrop near Trevelin
Argentina up to its spiky old tricks again while we hunted for a most elusive camp spot
Stoked on the friendliness of Corcovado, quiet roads (finally), nice views and Argentina’s constant sunshine
It was time for showering and charging, so we stopped in at this muy tranquilo little campground, run by a lovely family. The kids rowed their dad up and down the river while he fished from a reclining seat in the front of the boat. It was a far cry from the music festival style camping of El Bolson – crowded and complete with wristbands and a rule list as long as the Andes (quite long)
A blustery ride along the beautiful Lago Vintter
Morning stroll to go stand on some rocks and admire some views
You’re never far from a roadside shrine in Argentina
On route to and restocking in the oddly/awesomely named village of Doctor Atilio Oscar Viglione. Aka The Good Doctor
In search of a border crossing. Who’d have thought such a thing would be confusing to find?
The Argentine border post, watched over by an ancient Saint Bernard. Border posts here always have dogs.
Sublime pedalling towards the border and La Tapera
Horsefly tactics – sitting back to back limits surface exposure to the ‘bloodthirsty clouds of hell-death’
A route best not tackled after rain. At this point it hadn’t even rained in weeks.
Nothing good comes easy. Eileen pushing up some steep and loose sections.
Zero chance of seeing cars around here, and very slim chance of seeing any people
A shepherd’s hut with a wonderful roof but no shepherd
Locked gates along the road to La Tapera drive us down to the river, which we followed until intercepting the road again a few hundred metres later
Mental problem solving required to triumph over some creative local fencing techniques
A final river crossing into La Tapera. With the number of crossings on the route it’s worth just resigning oneself early on to having wet feet for a few days.
Winding out of the valley from La Tapera to join South America’s most famous and popular cycle route – Patagonia’s Carretera Austral
First day on the Carretera Austral and so far the rumours are true – beautiful scenery, questionable weather
Super smooth tarmac of the Austral. It’s novel how fast one flies across it.
Trevelin – Corcovado – Lago Vintter – Doctor Atilio Oscar Viglione – Paso Las Pampas – Lago Verde – La Tapera – Villa Mañihuales – Coyhaique
454km over 8.5 days
Cycled in late January, 2018
8km south of Corcovado is a lovely family run campground. Hot showers, power, wifi, small shop.
Restock water at the outflow/bridge of Lago Vinnter, there are no more reliable sources until Doctor Atilio Oscar Viglione.
From Doctor Atilio Oscar Viglione head over Río Pampa via the bridge at the southern end of town. Our gpx shows where the bridge crosses, it’s not where the trail on OSM is marked. Keep left over the bridge and follow the biggest road, this will take you to the border. There are several tracks branching off, but we always chose the biggest road.
Lago Verde is a cute little town with camping, shops, free Plaza wifi.
From Lago Verde to La Tapera we took two and a half days and followed the excellent route notes from Fatcycling (Thanks again Dan and Gina!) Two longer days would also be possible.
At 44.473149 S, 71.761161 W (44km from Lago Verde) there is a locked gate. On advice from Lorenzo we headed left at the gate and followed the horse track down to the river. We walked down the river for about 300m and rejoined the track at 44.475429 S, 71.758944 W.
It’s possible there is an easier way than heading down the river, either by jumping the fences at each end of the property, or jumping one without your bike to find the owner and ask to pass through. I’m not sure on the legal status of this new farm and locked gates – the police in La Tapera are apparently not happy about it blocking a public road.
The first two passes involve some steep pushes, but the third pass we found was almost all rideable and a nice track.
La Tapera has a couple of shops to restock, and a small bakery in a house to find bread.
Beware if you’re looking for alcohol fuel – we weren’t able to restock until Coyhaique.