Tues 8 Feb (contd): Termas del PlomoLo Valdés (73km, 880m ascent)
Anticipating an easy descent to San Gabriel for lunch we dawdle over breakfast, keen to warm up and dry our footwear. We set off at 11 and find that the road is the worst sort of ripio so that even downhill progress is slow. Also San Gabriel is further than our map says about 50km.
We reach San Gabriel at 3 and find the carabineri between us and our restaurant, the Eagles Nest. We have to endure the frontier formalities before sitting down to the cold beer and large steak we deserve.
After lunch we follow a less bad road to Lo Valdés. Now its uphill, and still we share it with gypsum lorries and their clouds of dust. The final 500m to the Refugio are too steep to ride. Its after 7 when we get there.
Notes: The refuge is friendly and reasonably comfortable; the food is very good. One of the people there, Andy, is from England. The drawback to Lo Valdés is the lack of tranquillity. Not only are there trucks, there is also a processing yard in Lo Valdés itself, emitting occasional loud noises. Unbelievably, the activity continues through the night.
Weds 9: Baños de Colina (30km, 870m)
The first 6km are unrelentingly steep, averaging about 7%. Then the valley turns a corner and levels out, but by now were exhausted. We get to the Baños which were too mean to visit, continue to the end of the motorable road, and agree that were too tired to continue. We eat a packed lunch and head back, using the dilapidated old road on the right bank of the Colina.
Note: the link road between the left and right banks was recently built by the quarry company. Its junction with the road on the left bank is above the steep climb at 19H 0406715 6257870 (2331m). A fair amount of pushing is needed even for the descent on the right bank road.
Thurs 10: El Morado (distance unknown, 900m)
We rode as far as the park HQ and sure enough a notice prohibited us from taking bikes in. We locked the bikes there and continued on foot.
Its a pleasant walk, with Co. Morado at the head of the valley almost always in view. The glacier snout is the natural stopping place. We had lunch there, cooled our water in the stream, and returned. Tracey was by now quite exhausted and found the return journey an ordeal, though she perked up when she got back on her bike.
Note: do not enter the ice caves. They may collapse on you, or rocks may fall on you as you leave.
Fri 11: Lo ValdésSantiago (85km, 280m)
We rode to San Gabriel, where Tracey did a little dance to celebrate the end of ripio, and continued on good tarmac following the Río Maipo. Theres a moderate amount of traffic, and the drivers are a little maniacal. We had lunch at El Canelo and set off to Santiago, reaching the suburbs after 70km. Wed have liked to catch a taxi at once, but we needed to find a bank first to withdraw some money, and taxis arent easy to catch on the busy roads we were on. Eventually a taxi with a roof rack dropped someone off near us and we persuaded him to take us back to the Posada del Inglés.
Sat 12: SantiagoEngland
And so it ends.