San Martin De Los Andes

Well what excitement! We are finally back on 2 wheels again, having returned to Rio Mayo to collect our bikes. Teresa had looked after them well in our absence (they were sat in the hotel function room draped with dust covers). We had a lovely footnote to our adventures in Rio Mayo on the Tuesday morning before we left. Having come to grief on the Ruta 40 and been rescued & aided by our Mexican friends, the 3 Amigos, we were granted the opportunity to assist another biker! Teresa’s hotel, ‘El Viejo Covadonga’ at Rio Mayo, is something of sanctuary for road victims – a last outpost of civilisation before heading out into the mountains on the rugged Ripio. At breakfast on our last morning we met a young chap who wanted to know if the BMWs in the function room were ours. With our poor Spanish we assumed he wanted to know why they were there & if there was a problem with one of our bikes and we thought he was offering to help. We told him our story and he told us he had a Kawasaki KLR 650, which we assumed was at home. We thanked him for his kind offer to help us but explained that no, it was all OK now and we were fully sorted to get back on the road. We parted, wishing him a safe journey, and we both thought he looked a bit dejected as we left. It was only when Mags went into the function room to start loading the bikes and found a KLR parked with our bikes that the penny dropped! We replayed the breakfast conversation and realised that he had a problem with his bike and had been asking us for help!

Mauricio was a Chilean biker and had broken down on the road yesterday, waiting seven hours for a passing pick-up truck to rescue him and bring him in to Rio Mayo. He arrived late at the hotel, which explained why we hadn’t seen him or his bike until this morning. The problem was that the bike would start fine & then it would cut out as he went to drive off. Fortunately I had encountered this problem before, when I helped a young German on the road in Scotland with the same problem on another Kawasaki. There is a safety switch fitted to prevent riding off with the side-stand down and for some reason Kawasaki’s are prone to this switch failing – when you go to drive off the bike thinks the side-stand is still down and the motor cuts out. It took a while to explain the problem and persuade him to cut & short the leads going into the switch to cure it. When he did this, Hey Presto – the bike was working again! His face lit up all at once with a big beaming smile when he realised his bike was fixed – it was a priceless moment as I think he was in the depths of despair at breakfast thinking how he would recover his bike back to Chile, it was the end of his trip etc, etc. We all loaded up & parted after a bout of photographs, hand shaking, hugs and kisses!

Eventually after a sad farewell to the Saint of Rio Mayo – Teresa, we set off and retraced our route north, taking it easy for a few days as we wound our way back through Esquel to Bariloche and on to San Martin De Los Andes at the heart of an area known as ‘Los Seite Lagos’ – the seven lakes. Riding back over a previously travelled road can be tedious and we normally avoid this practice but we had no choice, as we want to get up north to Mendoza. As it turned out, the road was even more beautiful heading north as we were climbing back into the mountains and the views this way were even more spectacular. Mags is really elated to be back on her bike again. Her arm is still a little tender so we are covering moderate distances each day and she is coping well. After a few days we arrived at San Martin sat in a pine-clad valley, at the head of Lago Lacar. Our friends the Volcanoes where out to greet us with the awesome splendour of the 3600 metre Volcan Lanin (classic pointy snow-topped cone) dominating the road into the area. San Martin de Los Andes is a very fashionable, up-market ski resort in winter (July / August) but the climate is marred by 3 months of non-stop rain from April to June – a local weather effect due to it’s situation in the mountains. Junin de Los Andes, a smaller town only 25 miles away, gets only ¼ of the rainfall that San Martin receives. The town itself is really pretty with streets lined with rose bushes all in bloom and lots of little stone & wood buildings more reminiscent of Bavaria than Patagonia. We found a delightful little Cabana where we set up base for a few days to explore the lakes.

This morning greeted us with grey skies, the first since Ushuaia and we set off to explore the lakes riding the bikes without the clutter of their touring kit. The twisty road under grey skies wound close in amongst the looming mountains, giving the impression that we were riding in Wales rather than South America. The road was dotted with ‘Miradors’ – scenic viewpoints where we stopped to admire and photograph the different lakes. However the heavy clouds eventually began to yield some rain and we returned for a lazy afternoon in the Cabana followed by a mooch around town in the early evening. For dinner tonight we cooked up some pasta and were joined by Mario – a friendly gardener who we’d been chatting to yesterday. He was a crazy guy – he loved to talk and we learned a lot about his family and a little of life here in sleepy San Martin.

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