Cycling above the Clouds

Riding the Andes by Bicycle

Changing horizons

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Following days of peering through rain clouds to catch glimpses of greyish lakes and the tips of volcanoes, these next three days of riding would reward me for my patience. Finally I saw clear blue skies and superb views across emerald and sapphire lakes, with volcanoes apparently levitating in the sky above the low-lying mist beneath.

Volcano Osorno suspended in the sky

I rode out of Futrono early in the morning and skirted the lake for 30km. The morning mist was still clinging on to the far edge of Lago Ranco, and I could see the Andes mountains and border to Argentina over on the other side. With very little traffic on the quiet lakeside road, there was a mystic other-worldly feel about it.

Skirting Lago Rancho as the day begins and the mist rises

The Andes mountains appeared layered in 3D across the opposite side of the lake.

I started to see the first evidence of high-end architect-designed cabins lining the road. This was clearly also a place where the rich and wealthy of Chile come to enjoy the scenery, fish in the famous lakes and rivers, and relax.

The Chileans are generally quite melodramatic with their road signs. The Argentinians settle with a sign of a lady cow, but the Chileans can’t resist suggesting that there will be bulls in the road. I’m never overly ecstatic to see one of these signs!

The lake it so large it appears to bend slightly at the edges.

A penny for my thoughts

I pootled around the lake, and then took another ‘zig’ towards a town called Rio Bueno. The countryside and dairy farms passed by in flashes, and I just pedalled my way along. I’m never quite sure what I think about when I’m on the bike all day. Many people listen to podcasts and music. I’ve done that in the past, primarily if it I was doing a particularly tough climb or if I felt slightly anxious about something, but it’s a long time now since I’ve felt the need to distract myself whilst riding.

I guess my thoughts have probably slowed down and filtered themselves into a certain kind of order by now, so the world just sits nicely with me. At some stage I’ll probably think about where my next meal is going to come from, and where I might sleep that night. I like contemplating the lives of the people I pass by the side of the road, and wonder what their day is like and where they live. I enjoy thinking about what the future may bring, and I always feel a sense of warmth thinking about friends and family. I know it’s a good day if I say hello to the animals I pass in the fields (cows and guanacos especially make me chuckle because they’re so confused and curious about bicycles) and have a little spontaneous burst of a ‘tra la la’ sing song to myself at some point.

When I first started this ride I often used to do maths in my head, calculating speeds and gradients and distances, wondering what time I’d arrive at my destination. Now I have a lot more security and intuition about what’s achievable in a day so just keep pedalling till I get there. The same applies for hills – I used to watch my gps to see how far I’d climbed and what I had left to go. Now I just know that you just keep pedalling until you get to the top. The top is the top and it isn’t going to move, so just keep going until you get there.

Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth

From Rio Bueno (a really odd town, which had clearly seen better days and now had a bunch of dilapidated old hotels, boarded up and letting the rain in) I ‘zagged’ slightly via a back road to avoid the Ruta 5, via a small town called Trafun, then made another small ‘zig’ back towards the town of Osorno. The back road was lovely, riding through more farm land not all that different to the landscapes at home in the Peak District.

I arrived at my Airbnb homeshare in Osorno. Guide books are pretty rude about this city, and indeed I didn’t take any time to explore it, but my hosts were superb. Alejandra, the mum in the house ran the Airbnb side of things and her two sons lived at home whilst they studied at school and college. We cooked dinner together and shared pasta sauces (hers had spinach, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten that!) and ate together ‘en famille’. She was fascinated by our royal family and horrified to learn of my general indifference (although I do always have this thought when I go abroad that perhaps the Queen might pop her clogs whilst I’m away, and it would be extremely weird to see all of that unfold from foreign shores.). At least it made a change from being asked about Margaret Thatcher which is all that many of the South Americans I’ve met so far seem to know of the UK (not entirely surprising given her involvement in putting the dictator Pinochet into power in Chile, and then the Falklands war with Argentina), more’s the pity!

In the morning Alejandra fed me with a superb breakfast on english styled crockery. It was one of the best breakfasts I’d had so far, with scrambled eggs, fresh fruit and CAKE!!

I gobbled up my breakfast before heading out of the door to ride the final few days before meeting up with Los Padres Brindley!

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