March 20, 2013
Our third day in Patagonia begins with frost and fog in the little town of Futaleufú. It’s a short but chilly walk to the warm dining room for coffee and breakfast, where a wi-fi connection keeps everyone in touch with their businesses and loved ones. Still waking up, we don’t yet know that a spectacular day of riding lies ahead. The past two days have just been a teaser for the show to come. Our first stop is the gorgeous Futaleufú River, a popular spot for kayaking in season. We see it at a late summer flow rate and it is still a formidable force, its turquoise water reminding me of the glacier fed rivers in New Zealand.
The road is gravel most of the day, testing all the gear we brought and the parts installed on my bike by the others on this trip. The Rox Risers are a huge help. The R 1200 GS I’m riding is a big bike and I need to stand on the pegs to have the best control of it by shifting my weight from foot to foot. Since I’m on the small side, I need every advantage I can get to stay with the pack, and Chris Olin has the bar risers set up perfectly for me – just high enough to take the strain off my back, and with the bars pulled towards me enough to make sitting easy as well. Without them I wouldn’t have been confident enough to pass the big dump truck towing a grader that we encountered on a narrow gravel road. When the choice is eat dust or move ahead, I prefer the latter. Unfortunately, the same truck caught me at a photo stop as I was taking pictures half-way across a narrow bridge. It was too far back to run, so I clung to the guardrail as the behemoth roared by, shaking the bridge beneath my feet. Just another Patagonia experience – though not one I’d like to repeat!
This is farming land and not all the animals are behind the fences. It’s not unusual to come across a horse, cow or goat grazing at the side of the road. We slow for everything to make sure it won’t jump in front of us, then pick up the pace and move on. There is a lot of construction going on down here and one day every mile we travel will be paved. Such is the price of progress. It means economic opportunity for the locals, but at the same time will change their lifestyle forever.
Timing is everything today, since the road will be closed for dynamiting for three hours. We spend extra time over lunch at a beautiful lakeside resort trying to finesse our arrival for the shortest wait. The plan works, but is nearly foiled at the last moment when we discover a punctured tire on one of the bikes moments before the road opens. Ride leader Eric Lange finishes patching the tires while asking for a few more minutes to cross the blast zone before they close the road again. Who knew that a journey through such a paradise would require such split-second timing?
But the road situation was just deadline number one. Number two is making the ferry to our hotel for the night, the Puyuhuapi Lodge. We crack the throttles and make good time before parking the bikes on a farmer’s hillside. Then it’s time to unload our gear and stuff it and ourselves aboard the small craft for the short journey across the water. Set on an island, the lodge features fine dining, ocean view rooms and hot springs. The night at Puyuhuapi is a once in lifetime adventure, shared with new-found friends.