What is a road bike?
Another note is that most Chilean drivers are actually quite good towards cyclists. In the towns I find they always stop for a cyclist. Even if they have the right of way, they stop until you have crossed They also give you a bit of room on the roads by driving around. Of course, there are still the few jackasses that you find anywhere who think they own the road, but I think we have more of them in the states then I have encountered here.
Puerto Varas to Bariloche
After driving down the non-existent (according to Google and Garmin anyway) paved road I arrived at Villa la Angostura and continued on around the lake to Bariloche. I noticed that Argentinian towns have a police station, with policemen outside checking vehicles coming down the street at the entrance and exit to their towns. I discovered that it is required to have your lights on at one of those stops.
Geographically, it was like going from lush, green Portland to dry, but scenic Bend. Culturally, it was like going from Germany to Italy. Since the Germans immigrated to Chile and Italians to Argentina, I would wonder why?
Bariloche to San Martin de los Andes, Argentina
I was also told about the 7 Lakes route from Bariloche to San Martin as a possible bike route. The route started wonderfully with a good paved road, beautiful scenery, although a bit hilly, and there were cyclists on the road. Then about a third of the way there, the pavement stopped and it was road construction and loose gravel for the next third of the route. Then, again, suddenly, pavement for that last third. There were also lots of cyclists this time. However, due to that very long stretch of nasty road conditions I am not going to consider this route until it is closer to finishing which may be more than 1 year (in my opinion) when I want to do the tour.
Argentina restaurants and even gas stations didn't like credit cards. All they would accept is cash. It can be American dollars of which they loved, but not credit. Apparently they are on an economic roller coaster and their exchange rate is wild and crazy. It was a bit of a problem and I spent all of my US$ there until I got a bit of Argentinian pesos.
I get to the Argentinian border patrol and it is fairly painless getting through. Just down the road, the Chilean Border patrol. I believed I was the target of some underhanded border patrol guy trying to get some money from me. He comes out of the booth to where just I can hear him, muttering something about a tariff if I stayed in Argentina more than 3 days and I was there "Quatro...uno..dos..tres...quatro" (He is counting this for me.) I play dumb. "I don't understand". After a few minutes he gives up and passes me through. And here I thought it was the Argentinians who were going to give me issues.
At the border patrol, I saw about 25 cyclists with a tour group from Bariloche. They all had mountain bikes. It was raining hard now and the road was very muddy and slippery. Most of the cyclists wouldn't stop and really couldn't pull over due to the deep mud. So I just took my time as it was hazardous for driving as well.
My abode for the 2 days was a great little hippy style place and a bargain for once after the Argentinian hotel costs. They also have a little organic restaurant. My bed was a little weird as it leaned a bit sideways so I had to be careful which way I faced while I slept so I wouldn't roll off. It had a skylight over the bed which is cool to see if it is cloudy or sunny when Iwoke up.
The Villarrica Volcano is near the town, however, due to clouds I never saw it so wonder if it actually exists. It must. I was at dinner on my first night and there was a group of German climbing tourists who were going to head up the volcano the next morning. The climbing guide was tri-lingual as he spoke fluent Spanish, English and German. He was telling me about their upcoming climb and said the restaurant was the best for their pisco sours. Thus, they can't charge for a climb that doesn't exist, so I know there is a large volcano out there somewhere. I saw a man outside the restaurant grilling so I ask for the grilled lamb for dinner. The waitress came back with enough lamb for 2 or 3 people. A plate full of lamb. Well, I didn't have to buy lunch the next day.
Before heading off on my little cycling journey, I stopped in at the bicycle repair shop across the street from my little hippy abode to get a little more air from a floor pump. I asked if I could get some air and they said "Sure" and come on in. When they saw my bike, my status level rose a few notches. (Actually, this also happened in Bariloche and even back in Puerto Varas. They see me, uninterested, as the old fat lady until I bring out my travel bike. Then they are quite interested and my status seems to increase.) They ooooh-ed and awwww-ed over it. They asked where it was made and liked the coupling system. The repair guy then happily pumped up my tires and adjusted my seat a bit more. He even took out his smart phone and took a bunch of pictures of it.
Thus ends Part I of my road checking and sightseeing road trip. Back to Puerto Varas to wash clothes and get ready for Part II - Chiloe Island.