Lonquimay-Custa Las Raices-Crater Navidad.
Not to suggest that a dirt-coated fatbike is like a fish out of water, but I was finally able to baptise the Mighty One with the wintery scrunch of snow. And what fun it was, carving down deep, snowy jeep tracks and steering effortlessly through soft, jet black volcanic sand. I can see it even more clearly now: fat bikes are all about potential, not limitations.
As it is, the Chilean Lake District gets more than a little powdery at this time of year. Winter looms ever closer: out come the bobble hats and the ski rental gear, and chair lifts prepare to whir into life up the sides of volcanos. A metamorphosis of the landscape is in the air.
Bicycle tour in South America involve repeat criss-crossings of borders between Chile and Argentina, hurdling the Andes each time. Originally, I’d planned to persevere along the dirt roads that course their way through the northern reaches of the Chilean Lake District. In doing so, I’d delay the inevitable slog across the drier but windswept Argentinian pampas, that lie on the other side of the range. This route revolved around working my way through the region of Araucanía – home to such wonders as lava flows and Monkey Puzzle Trees – and picking my way north to the border at Paso Pichachen. But given the cold winter snap, and the probability that smaller border crossings and immigration offices would soon be closing their gates, I succumbed to lure of drier, sunnier climes in Argentina. So I backtracked east, crossing the border instead at Paso Pino Hachado.
Without doubt, Conguilio National Park and Reserva China Muerta have been Chilean highlights, and to these I can now add Reserva Malalcahuello. Indeed, the potential for bikepacking in Araucanía as a whole is incredible (check out Skyler’s blog post to see this very same area, just a few weeks before). Linking together these ethereal, magical forests via a lattice of volcanic, loamy jeep roads and singletrack would no doubt make for an incredible week of bikepacking. Another one to go back for, in fairer weather perhaps…
Next up: the Argentinian pampas, en route to Mendoza.
If you would like to keep up with where I am between blog entries, I try and keep my While Out Riding Facebook page regularly updated – along with posting extra photos and gear ponderings. You can find it here. Occasionally, I pop some pictures up on Instagram too.