I have to pinch myself while traveling to Patagonia from Cape Town, South Africa. I am actually visiting the land I believed to only exist in fairy tales narrated by David Attenborough. Heinrich is meeting me at the Buenos Aries Airport after his three week expedition to Mt Aconcagua in the Andes Mountains. From there we start the scouting of Onbike’s 14 day Patagonia mountain bike expedition.
Arriving in San Carlos Bariloche
As the rolling slums of Buenos Aries are left behind, Heinrich and I find it hard to imagine what our adventure will bring. Our exploring began at San Carlos Bariloche. The quaint town welcomed us with the most beautiful views starting the moment you arrive at the airport. Strings of specialised craft breweries, chocolate connoisseurs, friendly faces and the aromas of food line the streets. We completed our scouting of the area and finalised the route, super stoked with what Onbike’s clients will get to enjoy during their ride here.
The seven lakes road
The next couple of days took us through the breath taking seven lakes area. The overwhelming amount of natural beauty that surrounded us often left us in awe and giggling in disbelief. We were able to spot trout in the rivers from way up high on more than one occasion. Swerving condors often reminded us of the neighboring Atacama desert before we crossed over from lush green hills onto the beautiful steppe.
The land of plenty
Food glorious food. Covering this journey on bike is a great way to balance the unbelievably delicious food you get to eat. Vegetarians may want to look the other way as meat is really big in Argentina. Being avid foodies ourself, we learnt a few tricks from the masters of braai and could not resist indulging in the fine cuts of marbled Argentinean beef. When you order a side of fries, be hungry and prepared for the mountain of perfectly crispy papa fritas heading your way. The patagonia craft beer industry is an experience in itself. Most breweries have their own bars where you get to enjoy their brews, normally with some delicious food compliments. And then of course, there is the chocolate and ice cream shops that stay open well into the night!
A sanctuary in the mountain
Heinrich had just returned from a month in the Andes mountains so I did not want to insist on a hike up to Refugio Frey. Thankfully, I only needed to casually mention it conversation and we were packed and ready to go. Taking a welcome break from our scouting, we started our hike early in the morning. We had food for one night and a little tent I brought along from South-Africa. Little did we know, we were about to walk into what now remains a sanctuary in the mountain in my memories. The hike in gets the heartbeat up and is a true feast for the eyes. We saw some of the most epic rock climbing up the Cero Catedral and although we heard it can become quite crowded here, we were spoiled with a a small group visiting and a great vibe amongst everyone. We ordered our wood fired pizza from the hut which we enjoyed with a bottle of wine next to the lake that night. The weather was perfect and although the temperature dropped, the sky was clear and it felt like you could touch the shimmering cloud of stars above us.
Whenever Heinrich and I travel, we look for the true heart and soul of an area. When we arrived in Villa Pehunia, located on the North shore of lake Alumine and at the foot of the Patagonian Andes, we asked around about where the locals go to relax. We were directed via an isolated and overgrown dirt road which eventually brings you to a tiny wood shack with a boom. A young girl accepted our money in exchange for a hand written note and our dirt road continued. Just as our scepticism started building, the road brought us to a crystal clear lake with perfect camping spots right on its shores.
This area belongs to the Mapuche who allows people who knows about it to enjoy its beauty and serenity. I have never seen a camp site like this one. Soft moss like grass polls on the shores of the lake are frequented by the most beautiful parrots and butterflies who feed and enjoy the sun that bathes through the thick canopy of trees. A couple of fisherman could be seen far away and here and there we saw people swimming in the cool lake. We dipped into the lake with an ice cold beer a few times before pitching our tent and starting our fire to cook our meal for the evening.
Adventure paradise Pucon
We concluded our scouting with three nights in Pucon. An adventure hub situated on Lake Villarrica at the foothills of Volcano Villarrica. What an amazing place. I think a part of my heart is still amid the rushing blue rivers, temperate rainforest and lakeside beaches that welcomed us. The white water rafting in this part of the world is not to be missed. We met inspirational and hardcore local rafting guides who makes navigating a kayak down a class 4 river look as easy as driving a car. We explored the area on mountain bike and savoured wood fire oven bake Chivo (lamb) at cafes we would normally not give a second look. There really is something for everyone in Pucon. From warm water healing spas, raw and vegan eateries , snowboarding, down hill mountain biking and hiking to markets, craft fairs and elegant casinos.
Our stay here was the perfect ending to an unforgettable journey. I will have to find a way to get back here… perhaps as a second for the Onbike Patagonia expedition…hint, hint.