The time has come. The blog has gone somewhat dark for the next two months. We have headed off on our long-awaited bike tour of Patagonia. We started off with a 16-hour bus ride to Bariloche, Argentina from where we had hoped to set out by bike. For a number of reasons we ended up hiring a car to take us the 120 kilometers to El Bolson, a major center for fruit growing and a hippie refuge ever since the 1970´s. Here we camped at a campsite that doubled as a brewery, microbrew at every dinner!
In El Bolson we made a somewhat disheartening discovery- the gravel roads in Patagonia, which we had hoped to ride considerable distances on, are quite unlike any un-paved road I have ridden anywhere else. They road surface- only partially consolidated- is made up of loose rocks, ranging in size from gravel to the size of one´s fist. This make it very difficult to control a fully loaded bike. This is especially hard for Jenny, as she is riding drop bars and cantilever brakes. What this means in the coming weeks regarding route changes remains to be seen. It is a bit stressful.
In the meantime we have landed by bike on a WWOFFing farm, actually a small strawberry´chacra´of about 2.5 acres outside of Lago Puelo, a beautiful lake and national park. The family has a 6-year old daughter, who has a 9-year old friend, which works out great for the girls. We sleep in our tent along-side a open-air, two-sided shack with a stove, table and prep area. Outside the south wall of the shack is a sink. We share this space with several twenty-something volunteers: three French, a Dutch, and two North Americans. They are fun company and we enjoy working and cooking with them. Two nights ago we enjoyed a wonderful dinner by candlelight, the girls sat among the group listening to laughter and commentary in three different languages.
The routine is to pick strawberries-with an all-you-can-eat policy!- from 8 until noon and then continue for a few hours in the early evening after the siesta. However, it has been anything but routine here. A forest fire was raging for the last 5 days, cutting power to the local towns, closing roads, and seeding mayhem. All the local fruit producers depend of refrigeration to hold their harvests and the loss of power presents a real challenge. Relief came in the form a rain storm in the last two days and the fire is now believed to be out and power is expected to be restored in the coming few days. The weekend fruit festival which we were hoping to attend will likely end up being cancelled. However, in many ways, residing at the farm has insulated us from the affects. Yes, we have no electricity or running water (which is dependent on an electric pump), but we cook by candlelight and we draw buckets of water from the nearby stream. No need for cash machines or other services. The girls run about the farm and we pick strawberries. No, we have not showered in 4 days, but who cares.
The map gives an idea of the projected bike route but it is clear that it will have to be altered significantly given the road conditions. Perhaps, just as in so many other ways, Chile´s road infrastructure will be an improvement over Argentina´s. I am crossing my fingers. Happy new year! More reports down the road.