Sunday, February 14, 2016

I Challenge You... to Ride the Ruta de los Siete Lagos, February 7th-9th

San Martín de los Andes-Villa La Angostura

Lake and bikes - life is good

Hannah and Chris's wheels are old and not totally straight, and we can't do anything about it because our spoke tool is broken! I'm worried that if we don't true them soon the increased weight on the back wheel might be a bit too much for the spokes to handle. Thus begins a search in San Martin de Los Andes for a spoke wrench. The first two shops I go to tell me that they only have them for their mechanics and they can't sell one. The lady at the third shop tells me the same. But then, in steps Taku, an extremely friendly bike mechanic who tells me, hold on, I think I might know where you can get one. We whiz off, biking fast together across town. The first shop is closed, but the second is open. We stoop low to enter a cave full of bike tools and a rather large bearded man working on a bike. The bearded guy is clearly a bit feisty. He has three spoke tools but insists that he needs all of them for maintenance. When Taku offers to buy him a new one tomorrow when a different shop is open, he turns to me. "What do you know about spoke maintenance? It's difficult adjusting a wheel." When I explain that I built the wheels on my bike, he tromps outside to take a look at them himself, then goes on a rant about how expensive spoke tools are. Mid rant, he turns and walks into the back of the shop, returning a few minutes later with a gleaming new spoke tool which he sells to me at a reasonable price. Got to love shopping in Latin America.

Cheers to Taku - I couldn't have completed this errand without his help and generosity!

It's a solid start to the famous Ruta de los Siete Lagos (Route of the Seven Lakes). It's quite late when we finally bike out of town, but we have enough daylight to find a cute campsite at a very reasonable price. We don't usually like to pay for camping, but due to some stomach problems, certain group members are grateful for a bathroom. Plus, we have a whole area to ourselves, including a beautiful bubbling stream.

Chris, Tam, Danny and Dan chatting and taking in the views of Party Lake (no, that`s not its real name... read on). Photo courtesy of Hannah

We know that the Ruta de los Siete Lagos is paved and touristy, which means that it's going to lack a certain charm that less traveled routes tend to hold. But we're determined to enjoy it as much as possible, and this leads to the creation of a game. There are seven lakes and six of us. That means that there's a lake for each of us, plus a party lake. At our lake we get to create a challenge for the other members of the group. We also develop some challenges that we can attempt at any point during the day. These include things such as:

- Get a tourist to share mate with you (easily achieved at the first viewpoint we reach)

- Convince a tourist that you've just seen a condor (attempted many times with limited success)

-Get in tourist photos (too easy! Everyone wants to take pictures of our bikes!)

-Make a grumpy-looking tourist smile. (Great success with this all day!)

-Accidentally confuse Argentina with Chile in conversation with a tourist. (I think they were just as confused as we were...)

Some stretching warmups at... uhh... one of the lakes. Dan`s not really stretching, but we`ll let it slide

Our day is filled with beautiful lakes, lots of laughter and singing along the way. Dan's lake is somehow combined with the party lake and we sit around for a good while reflecting on the values of a good boxed wine and the animals it reminds us of (cockroach, jellyfish, raccoon, etc).

Only the finest of wines for us. Photo courtesy of Hannah

Riding along Gina's lake we all switch bikes, and I get to have some fun on one of the fatties!

Bike switching: Tam on Dan`s, Dan on Tam`s, Hannah on Gina`s, Chris on mine... Photo courtesy of Gina
And for the perfect finale we find a fantastic, free, grassy camp spot on a lake where Hannah and Chris attempt to teach us how to do acro-yoga (aka we end up in a pile on the ground).

Danny being an unstable ¨flyer¨. Photo courtesy of Gina

Beautiful views of Lago... ummm...

Digitalis (Foxglove), a colorful flower known for its medicinal uses

The next day is just as fun, more beautiful weather and blue lakes, and more challenges. We take funny group photos, write haikus, and create interpretive dances. Check out the results below...

Peeking out from behind the bikes, photo courtesy of Gina. We attempted to get a finger in the photo in all the remaining group shots by picking the person least likely to know how to operate a camera

Can you guess who wrote which one?

Video credit: Gina

Only the end of the day is sad. We are splitting ways with Dan and Gina. They're heading south on a trail and us on roads for the moment. Safe and happy travels, dear friends!

One of the best parts of La Ruta de los Siete Lagos?


Route Notes:
The Ruta de los Siete Lagos is now all paved, 110 km. Free, legal camping at Lago Villarina about halfway. See our previous post for info on San Martin de los Andes and camping there.

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