March 13, 2013
Today we ride! After mucho paperwork at MotoAventura in Osorno, Chile, the company that arranges the motorcycles for RIDE Adventures, we hit the road. Osorno is to Chile what Wisconsin is to the U.S. – the nation’s dairyland. Passing trucks laden with hay and milk, and mile after mile of pastures and cows. We headed east through the Andes to Argentina. I’m riding a BMW R 1200 GS Special Edition, decked out in red/white/blue livery and loaded with a few extra features, plus a set of Rox Risers adjustable bar risers that bring the handlebars up for the standing position we’ll be using when we hit the dirt tomorrow.
As we approach the Andes the pastures disappear and jagged peaks poke through the clouds. We’re all overdressed from a chilly morning and shed clothes when the temps climb from the 50s to mid-60s.There are nine in our group, including Ulli, who drives the support truck. Everyone carries what they’ll need for the day on their bikes and the truck follows with the luggage. We ride through a low pass covered with enough pumice to keep the Lava soap folks happy for the next millennium, thanks to the Puyhue Cordon Caulle volcanic eruption in June of 2011. Ride leader Eric Lange tells us the thousands of acres of dead trees we see were green the last time he passed this way, but it is the rare green sprout we see today; otherwise all is gray. If you’ve been through Lassen Volcanic National Park in California you’ll have an idea of the scenery. The road twists and turns through the gray wasteland, with glimpses of high peaks in the distance.
Eventually we come to the Chilean checkpoint and hand over our papers and passports to exit Chile and enter Argentina through Cardenal Antonio Samore Pass within Nahuel Huapi National Park. A few of us (me included) proffer the wrong papers, but Eric – ever patient and organized – guides us through and handles all the paperwork for the motorcycles. We’re on our way through the forest in 45 minutes to the next stop – the Argentine checkpoint. Things go smoother here, though there is plenty of checking, stamping papers and waiting in line. Ulli points at the queue behind us and we realize we’ve actually had an easy go of it. Lunch has been promised for some time, and after a couple stops for photos we arrive in Villa La Angostura, a small village on Lake Nahuel Haupi (they re-use names a lot around here).
At Finnegan’s Pub (go figure), in the picturesque village, we stuff ourselves with empanadas (baked dough filled with chicken or cheese or ham or whatever else is on hand), plus pizza, burgers and pasta. Barely able to swing a leg over the bikes, we head for San Carlos de Bariloche, a much larger resort/tourist town on Lake Nahuel Huapi. The route takes use around a good portion of the enormous lake. The scenery overwhelms until we’re near the town, when signs and speed bumps attempt to keep this eager group of bloated rides from finding their hotel. Once in town, the chaotic Argentine traffic slowed us even more. But with some creative maneuvers, like Eric blocking a bus with his motorcycle so we could all re-group and move on en masse, we arrived unscathed at – you guessed it – the Nahuel Huapi Hotel. Tomorrow we’re promised a much longer day in the saddle and our first gravel roads.