26.4.2008 Mendoza, Argentina

After spending three weeks in and around Bariloche it was time to cover some kilometres to the north again.

Siete Lagos

Riding northwest of Bariloche along the Seven Lakes Route follows the Limay river at first and then takes you from arid grasslands to lush forests and jewel-like lakes all in a days ride. We camped for the night next to a river deep in the forests of the National park. Axel had to fix some electrics on his bike as he had problems with the lights again. While he was busy on the Dnepr I tried out some barefoot Tai Chi on the pebbly banks of the river. Ouch, good shaolin temple type training...
On the road again it started raining and the roads turned into slippery ribbons through the green. Good practice for me but I chickened out onto the Dnepr when the going got really tough.
Lucky for us it cleared up as we neared San Martin de los Andes. A picturesque little town on the shores of a lake that invited to stay longer. We only took the time to eat an ice-cream and rode on out of the lakes area towards Junin de los Andes and then Lanin National Park.

Volcan Lanin

The next morning we were already walking up to the Military Refugio on the slopes of Volcano Lanin. First we had had to prove our worthiness for a guide-free ascent by showing all of our gear to the rangers...ice axes, crampons etc. etc. aswell as our membership alias mountain guide card for Liechtenstein Alpeinverein! We spent an entertaining late afternoon at the Refugio watching guided groups of unfit city people limping in after 12 or more hours on the mountain, just like the Comrades! I was getting more and more nervous as this would be my first early start for a summit with 1500 metres in altitude to conquer. Would I also be crawling past the finish line?
At 3am after a short but good nights sleep we were up and moving, overtaking the first then the second guided groups. It was full moon so we soon switched off our headlamps, to our right a glacier glowed translucently shadowed by curving, yawning crevasses but we were on solid ground and volcanic scree slopes the whole way. The sky was getting paler in the distance and below us was a chain of slowly bobbing headlights belonging to the guided groups.
Sunrise was a colourful event but we still had a fair way to the summit. We were the first to arrive at 8:45 a.m. Not bad for a novice who was once one of those unfit city people too. We crossed a short section of glacier, with a detour round the well marked crevasse, to get a spectacular 360 degree view of Andes scenery.

Thermal Baths Los Pozones

A good soaking in thermal baths is just the thing after climbing a volcano but Axel had even more of a good reason to bathe those aching muscles. After we got back to the campsite and had had a well-deserved ice cold beer we discovered we had misplaced our stove pump. So Axel had to do it all over again. He ran up to the first and second refugio the next day to try and recover it, without any luck unfortunately.
So thermal baths were on top of the agenda when we arrived in Pucon and we spent a good few hours lazing around in the warm rocky pools of Los Pozones.

Our next goal is to meet up with Maria-Paula’s cousin who lives south of Santiago about a 1000km away in San Vicente de Tagua Tagua. Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?