Categories: Argentina, Destinations
Nadine’s Top 5 Reasons to Cycle Patagoniaby Nadine Dirksen - Monday, April 3, 2017
Nadine’s 5 Reasons to Cycle Patagonia
I recently returned from cycling Patagonia’s Lakes District Plus! The Island of Chiloé and am finding it nearly impossible to distill this amazing trip down when asked about my favorite parts. In an attempt to do so, I’ve narrowed my endless list of wonderful moments to a list of top 5 reasons why I can’t stop daydreaming about my bicycle tour in Patagonia.
I beat the winter blues!
As a self-declared lover of spring and summer, I relished the chance to escape winter at home in North America and spend two weeks in South America’s summer season. Not only did I get some amazing (and much-needed) pre-season cycling in, I also soaked up as much sun as possible before returning to Colorado. This escape helped speed up my wait for the much anticipated arrival of Spring and prepared me to jump right into cycling season by awakening my legs from their hibernation in February!
I rode across the Andes on a bike!
This ride is an important chapter in my personal book of the best cycling experiences. Aside from the stunning ride through the ever-changing landscape and vegetation between Chile and Argentina, the experience of going through customs side-by-side with locals was right up my alley of finding authentic experiences while traveling. As we were moving through the customs lines and I watched the locals chatting and walking side-by-side with our Tour Leaders, I realized that crossing the border is a regular occurrence, and necessity, for those that live in the area. Had I not ridden across the Andes I would have missed this small, yet significant slice of local life that expanded my view of such wonderful countries and the different lives we all lead.
I met intriguing people!
Whether I travel on my own or in a group, it’s as much about the people as the travel itself. On tour I felt privileged to get to know my amazing Tour Leaders who open my eyes and heart up to new perspectives and local customs (mate tea!), to meet many locals who welcomed us travelers with warm friendliness (lunch at intimate agriturismos and even a private home!), and, to get to know my fellow travelers. It was such a treat to get to meet the people associated with the voices and email signatures I often interact with while I’m working at the office. I loved experiencing the group dynamics as travelers bond and develop friendships with former strangers. The group picnics and lunches and ferry crossings along the way on this tour added extra opportunities to catch up on each others’ adventures and exchange impressions and experiences. Memories were made together!
I felt like I traveled around the world in 10 days!
The scenery and landscape on tour was so diverse I felt as if I was visiting multiple countries world-wide! Bariloche, our starting location, is indeed a picture-perfect image of a Swiss mountain town boasting European architecture, and amazing views of Lake Nahuel Huapi and the Andes. As we were pedaling our way towards the Andes, snow-capped volcanoes rising up into the clouds were our constant companions and made for a surreal out-of-this world feeling. This feeling was only intensified by the magical change of the landscape which had it all – Alpine views, meadows and emerald lakes, lush green hills adorned with waterfalls and dense green jungles with parrots flying overhead. Shimmering bodies of water were another constant theme as we made our way from the lakes to the ocean.
I slept in a Palafito!
On my shortlist of exciting hotels, stilt hotels are all the rage now. I slept in a lofty bed above the water and felt as if I was on a large wooden boat without any of the rocking. Lake towns and villages on the Island of Chiloé live and breathe with the tides and locals make their living off of what the island has to offer. Stilt buildings are a way to allow local fisherman to live right where they work.
I fell in love with an island!
Chiloé Island is truly what I would call a “Plus”! The island made this fascinating tour even more amazing. This pristine island community has emerged from an intriguing mix of indigenous and Spanish cultures that have been going hand in hand as the island developed independently of Chile’s mainland. Rich local folklore and the influx of catholic faith do not exclude each other. One example might be the beautiful wooden churches that dot the inhabited parts of the island. Their construction was based on stone architecture. Since materials were limited to what was available on the island, stone and even metal components were skillfully replaced by wood and artful joints were manufactured entirely out of wood. Chiloé’s landscape is green and lush and wild and large parts of it are undeveloped and sparsely populated. Chiloé is a diamond in the rough in so many ways.