Day 1 – Futaleufu to Esquel
The 4 of us spent 2 nights in the breathtakingly beautiful Futaleufu. Marie and Miguel went rafting whilst Vanessa and Jon went canyoning (abseiling down waterfalls) on our respective ‘day off’ from cycling.
The next day we were back on the road again for our 78km cycle from Futaleufu to Esquel in Argentina. Again the forecast was for a warm sunny day, with little wind. The first 10km to the Chilean border patrol flew by as the road was paved and traffic free. However, at the Argentinian border the road turned to dirt. We had a bonus when motorists travelling in the opposite direction handed us their surplus fruit, as they weren’t allowed to take it into Chile (their loss, our gain), although the extra weight didn’t help us much.
We had 35km on the rough dirt road, which we managed to grind our way through thanks to the odd peach and orange, and we were pleased to turn north onto the sealed road towards Trevelin, which was our planned lunch spot.
Reaching Trevelin we were firstly surprised by its size (we had expected a small Patagonian size village…this was a lot larger) and also several indications of its links to a welsh heritage.After lunch in a park we were about to head off when we bumped into 2 Italian cyclists, complete with panniers. It transpired that they were father and son and were heading south, hoping to cover our route in reverse. Nothing remarkable about this until we discovered the father is 84 years old…There’s hope for us all!
The road from Trevelin to Esquel is paved and, although we had a 360m climb shortly after lunch, this was a lot simpler due to the road surface and a slight tail wind. The only concern for the rest of the day being the increasing amount of vehicles on the road. Approximately 5km before Esquel, Vanessa’s keen eyes spotted a cycle path adjacent to the road, which we were all more than happy to use as it gave us a break from the traffic. We arrived in Esquel at around 4.30km, very pleased with ourselves.
Day 2 Esquel to El Bolsen
Having arrived in Esquel and after little discussion, the 4 of us decided that the stretch of road between Esquel and El Bolsen was both unremarkable from a scenery perspective and very busy from a traffic perspective. We all decided it was best to give this section of Ruta 40 a miss if possible.
We bumped our collective heads and decided on either taking the meandering old steam train to El Mainten and then cycling approx 60km to El Bolsen on unknown dirt roads or persuading one of the bus companies to allow us to take our bikes with us to El Bolsen.
Jon headed off to the bus and train stations. He established that the train took 5 hours to meander, left sometime after 10am and might take bikes if the driver was ok with it. All bus companies bar 1 said ‘no’ to bikes, but the helpful assistant at ‘Mary Valle’ suggested turning up at 6.30am and asking the driver if we could squeeze in the bikes.
This wasnt much of a plan but we gave it a shot and got up ultra early next morning, cycling to the bus station in the dark. To our relief the bus was only half full and we managed to squeeze the 4 dismantled bikes in the small luggage compartment without too much of an issue, and caught up on some missed sleep during the 3 hour journey.