San Martin los Andes to Chos Malal
My next big destination from San Martin los Andes is : Mendoza (mas o menos 1200km).
I was happy to leave the touristy region of “routa de 7 lagos” and was at the same time excited to see how the road to Mendoza (mainly the famous Routa 40) will be.
In Junin los Andes I stocked up with water and headed north. The surrounding became drier and I saw the first signs of fall, beautiful colored trees along the road. For lunch I stopped at a police control. I sat on the terrace of the police station, having lunch and getting entertained by the police man stopping cars (I had the impression he wanted to show his “guest” from Germany that he’s a great cop). When I was ready to continue another cyclist came along the road, it was Juan, whom I met before El Bolson about a week ago.
His destination is Mendoza as well, so we continued together.
The road was hilly and offered a lot of spectacular views, mostly the volcano “Lanin” in the background. In the evening, after a long and challenging climb, we got to high plans where we looked for a good camping spot with a good view at the sunset and the volcano “Lanin”.
Only a short distance from our camping spot, we came to the grocery store of Dona Maria (San Ignacio, in the middle of nowhere). We spent some time chatting with Maria (77yrs old and living by herself), she showed us around and we stocked up with water and bread for the further journey (next town in about 150kms!).
The late afternoon we looked for a place to fill up our water reserves, but there wasn’t anything.
Finally we got to some houses next to the road, a Mapuche Community. Asking for water, we got invited by Miguel to camp in front of his hut.
After setting up the tents we had Mate, Miguel was playing the guitare and we had all together a good diner. I love these kind of meeting locals, we got to know a lot about the indigene people in this region and even got presents from the host, who was obviously very happy the company of the us 2 cyclists.
In Zapala, Juan and me split up for the moment, because he had to get some spokes changed. I continued by myself, getting for lunch into the town of “las Lajas”. I stocked up with water (the sun is shining all day and there is literally no shadow on the road!). As usual the people in town told that there wouldn’t be any house or village on the way to the next town, Chos Malal 230km and as usual I didn’t believe it because until now I always at least one house next to the road. I left Las Lajas with 7 litres. After 115km that day (and half of the water gone due to the heat & wind) I found a beautiful camping spot in the desert.
I was only worried about getting water, the 3 litres I had left wouldn’t bring my to the next town and until that moment there was really no house / village next to the road. My map showed a little village at about 35km, but it should be some kms off the road. Around lunch time I got to that town and was happy to see one house right next to the road. Looking for water I bumped into a fiesta of about 20 people. They immediately invited me to join their huge Asado. The people worked for the local government, helping the farmers in the region with their animals. I had very much fun this lunch break with good fun and answering all the curious questions, it was so unexpected!!
With this great experience, a full stomach and lots of water I forced myself to get into Chos Malal that day (110km up and down). I got rewarded with a beautiful downhill to Chos Malal and a “dia de reposado”.