The day starts with the 10k climb back up out of the valley and down into the next one (retracing the end of yesterday) which is all great fun before heading left onto the new path.This also coincides with leaving the tarmac and the start of the 67km ride on the gravel track back to the main road. The good: for most of the next 40k or so the road follows lakes and rivers and is a beautiful track, flowing gently downhill. The bad: the track is very corrugated which means it is both painful (the body is constantly being jarred) and tiring as the bumps drain any speed that you manage to generate.
Then after about 40k, the road leaves the water behind and the valley broadens out with no sign of anything like a ground level exit.
Sure enough, the road soon starts to climb and quite a while later reaches the Cordoba Pass at about 1,350mts. It has been quite a climb given the heat, road surface and distance cycled so far but what traffic there is is all very encouraging with shouts, cheers and waves as I trundle on.
From the pass, I am hoping for another sight of a smooth, flowing paved road down to Confluencia. Unfortunately it is not to be as the surface gets even worse and the road twists and turns and is either steep up or down.
By this point both my back and breaks are on their last legs and creaking horribly – I wonder if either or both will give out before I finish today. There is not much to see after a while and it is just a schlep to bounce and bump along until I turn a corner and see a large river and tarmac road in the distance, Confluencia, where there is a shower, bed and meal waiting for me.
Marvellously, despite displaying an ‘abierto’ sign the hosteleria is locked and there is no one about. I am told at the service station opposite that they have seen the owner / manager that day but have no idea where she is and that she does not have a mobile phone so if she is not in the hostel it is not possible to contact her. The choice is therefore to wait and see if she turns up or start on the remaining 70k back to Bariloche and hope to make it before it gets too dark and cold – it is now about 18:00 and not wanting to be stuck outside at night I wearily remount and start back to Bariloche.
The road surface is good and generally downhill for the first 50k so I can make decent time for a bit. The last 20k is round the lake back to Bariloche and the wind picks up as the sun sets and I hit the confluence of evening traffic coming into town – marvellous again! I finally pull into the bike shop at 20:29 just one minute before it closes; cold, tired and weary to drop things off before I head off for a beer and bed. Not always the best at the time but pretty satisfying to look back upon.
Overall a cracking trip but you do need to be pretty fit to be in any shape to enjoy the scenery.