We were definitely ready for some action.
Having spent the previous week either on long bus rides, or sitting in doors due to bad weather in order to catch up on work, we were ready to stretch our legs. And what better way was there to do that than a 16km bike ride around a couple of lakes on a beautifully sunny day?
This was a year ago in Bariloche, just across the Andes from Chile and right by the glacial lake Nahuel Huapi in the Patagonian Lake District, where in summer (December to March), the skies are bright blue, the pine forests an unrelenting green and the mountains a subtly diverse series of greys, occasionally topped with just the faintest sprinkling of snow.
We planned to cycle the circuito chico, a route around two of the Nahuel Huapi’s smaller siblings that we were told would take around four hours to complete.
To get out to the starting point, and the place where we’d pick up our bikes that our guesthouse owners’ had reserved for us, we had to take a bus 17km west along the lake to the base of Cerro Campanario, a hill with reportedly spectacular views over the lakes.
Renting the bikes was surprisingly easy. We were given helmets, locks and asked to sign a form to assure the company we wouldn’t sue them if we had an accident. They then gave us a map and pointed us on our way.
At first, the gently downward sloping hills alongside Nahuel Huapi and then down to the smaller lakes gave us some much needed momentum, and the feeling of whizzing along the road, the wind cooling my skin in the surprisingly warm midday heat was lovely. After stopping briefly at our first lake-side beach, though, the road became more windy and started ascending uphill.
I didn’t sign up for this! I thought, urging my bike uphill in first gear. I refused to wear myself out so soon after starting, so hopped off and pushed the bike. Zab, my partner, was far ahead and wouldn’t hear if I called him. Luckily, I finally crested the top of this particular hill and Zab was there waiting for me.
“I thought you wanted to get some exercise and work those little legs?!”
He was taunting me, laughing under in his breath, I’m sure, at the sweat patches under my arms and my face flushed with exertion. I may have made a gesture in his general direction.
The views were spectacular, and I was momentarily distracted from my physical state.
Once I had my breath back, I hopped back on the bike and raced down the hill, forgetting all the hard work I’d put in to ascend it in the first place. And so continued the ride for the next couple of hours; me alternating between hate at having to push the bike uphill and joy of rushing down in a blur of adrenaline.
Eventually, it was time for lunch, and following the recommendation of our guesthouse owners, we locked up our bikes by the side of the road and took a detour towards la Playa Escondida, or Hidden Beach, a recommendation we definitely wouldn’t pass on. It was a wonderfully serene place to stop for a while.
After empanadas and a short nap, we pressed on. Fortunately, the road was now much flatter all the way back to the starting point, and I barely stopped to complain about how hard it was, no doubt something for which Zab was very grateful.
Once we’d dropped the bikes off, we headed straight for the cable car to ascend Cerro Campanario for those acclaimed views. As soon as we were on our way up on the ski lift, we could tell that we’d made the right decision in going up there. The views were amazing.
After taking time to appreciate them, we indulged in coffee and cake at the hilltop café. After all the effort we’d made to get there, I’d say that we definitely deserved the enormous slices.