Day 110: More Cycling

Sat. 1st December 2012

Good bikes but the road was hard workIts the start of another month and also Day 11o marks the 1/3 point of our trip. We only have a few more days in South America before heading across the Pacific on a new phase of our adventure and so our minds are somewhat on what lies ahead. We do, however, want to make the most of our remaining time in Chile and certainly there is a lot we could do in Pucon.

Pretty flowers, but epiphyte or parasite? (Laguna Azul in the background)The weather forecast is better for today than it is for tomorrow though the skies once again are covered in white and grey clouds. One of the recommended activities is hiring cycles as there are a number of scenic points that are within cycling distance. So out come the cycling shorts, helmets and gloves again. Considering that we thought about sending the helmets on ahead to Australia after our Cuban cycling trip, we have had a lot of use out of them.

The joy of cycling in the countrysideHiring the cycles is easy, there are a number of the tour operators that have bicycles and they seem to be of good quality – relatively new, front shocks, lots of gears and in good condition. Pucon is a sleepy town though and the shops and tour operators are only just opening up as we walk down at 9:30am. Sign on the dotted line, leave driving licence (as collateral) and a thumb print, collect a lock and puncture repair kit and we are ready to go. Well, nearly ready to go as we need to call in to the supermarket to stock up with provisions for our trip (more empanadas!). Whilst Janet is getting the shopping, it starts spitting with rain – I hope we haven’t picked the wrong day for our cycling.

Not as sophisticated as the new bridge will be!The cycle shop (and the guide book) suggested that we go out to Los Ojos de Caburgua, a waterfall about 17km out of town. Whilst they provided a map, it was a long way short of Ordnance Survey standards! As ever, the tricky bit is finding the right road to get started on and sure enough we turned off the main road too soon and did an extra couple of kilometres down a bumpy gravel road. We would regret this detour later on in the day!

Salto CarileufuEventually, we found the right turning (just keep the faith!) and we headed off down another bumpy gravel road. Whilst the bikes are good the saddles are lacking in padding and we are already wishing that there was more padding in our cycle shorts. The road headed out towards the hills, crossed over a river and then turned to follow the river upstream (sort of logical as we were heading to waterfalls). Just as the bumps in the road were taking their toll on our backsides, the gravel and the hills were taking their toll on our legs. ‘Only 17km!’ – ah well, take it in short stints and have plenty of rests (and chocolate to keep up energy reserves!). Even the downhill was hard work and needed lots of concentration to maintain control on the slippery gravel.

Clear blue water - Laguna AzulOur first stop (that was longer than just getting our breath back) was at the Salto Carileufu waterfall. Clearly this was never going to compete with Iguassu but it was still in a pretty little spot – albeit one that wasn’t hugely well signposted and involved going round the back of a hotel. One thing that it did have over Iguassu was completely crystal clear water. Walking a little upstream from the waterfall we came to (another) Laguna Azul – the Ronseal school of advertising has clearly arrived in Chile as the rocky bottom was clearly visible through the blue water. A good spot for taking some photos and having our lunch.

At the Ojos de CaburguaA couple of kilometres further down the road we get to the Ojos de Caburgua and follow the signs to the park entrance. For some reason, we had to leave the bikes at the park entrance and walk a few hundred metres to the start of the trail to the waterfalls. All the more galling when we find a big car park at the trail start with several cars already parked up. When we get to the Ojos, we find a large pool being fed by waterfalls on three sides with the river exiting over some rapids on the fourth. Very scenic, but hard to capture in a photograph. It is clearly very early in the tourist season as not only was the park quiet with just a few other people but all of the lodgings and cabañas that we saw along the route were not yet open.

The old legs weren't too happy by this point!We didn’t linger too long at the Ojos – our bums were sore and our legs starting to get tired and we still had to cycle back. We had the option to cycle a further 2km on the gravel but then ride back to Pucon on what we hoped would be a tarmac road. This turned out to be a good call – not only did we get our wish for tarmac but also it was mostly downhill all the way back to town and so we were so much faster on the way back. We were also spurred on by the prospect of a slice of chocolate cake at one of the local coffee shops that we had promised ourselves.

That's what I call chocolate cake!Unsurprisingly, we were tired by the time that we dropped off our bikes. We had covered about 45km all told in 6 hours making it the longest day and furthest distance cycled (even comparing with Cuba). When you take the road surface in to account it is no wonder that we felt it. Fortunately the chocolate cake lived up to the promise – a huge slice layered with chocolate and caramel.

When we left the hotel this morning the Internet was not working (it had stopped last night just as I was going to put up a blog post) so we were very relieved to find that normal service had been resumed and we were able to catch up with the never ending set of tasks. Just as we got back the rain started and we could hear it pouring down as we were snug in the hotel – once again we were pleased that we had been lucky to have stayed dry whilst cycling.

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