Cold. Not bitterly so but boardering that edge where it’s a touch chilly without a wind jacket yet clammily sweaty with it. Earlier, we woke up to a sun that peeked out of the clouds, morning warmth one minute scattered shivering the next. Now the sun’s given up and settled behind a thick overcast sky. This will continue all day. We’re en route to the next scheduled border crossing pass, this one at Volcan Copahue. Some friends attempted this crossing at the beginning of summer, they met snow impenetrable. We’re here 4 or 5 months later, a hint of snow peeks down from the highest peaks but mostly everything is bare now.
At lunchtime, no change in the skies. The morning and early afternoon spent crawling over loose gravel rolling hills, Paul and me periodically ahead and behind the other as my failing shifter cables leave me with fewer and fewer pedaling options. Sometimes too hard, sometimes too easy, leg rhythm today mirrors the struggle to find that body temperature balance. Towards the end of the day, set the Rohloff into a gear comfortable for spinning, and we’ll form a paceline heads huddled down against the wind. Should have replaced those cables a few weeks ago when it was time to replace the worn sprockets, now will have to wait a week or so until we hit a town again. So it goes. Sitting at camp, muscle twinges in the knees and back foreshadow what the effects of singlespeeding will be on this stretch.
At nighttime and in the post-dawn pre-sun mealtimes, we’re drinking instant Nescafe coffee mixes out of toylike plastic mugs. Our professional mugs disappeared from the picnic table at a municipal campground before starting this stretch, the first in a ludicrous set of disappearances that started with the mugs and ended with Paul’s camera charger. I wrote to a friend about this, “we’ve been drinking warm-up coffee and tea in these puny little plastic mugs that embody an absolute shit effrontery against everything that was right with the last mug. I was furious the morning after that night. Maybe I still am.” and that’s that.
Skies clear in the next few days, autumn sun out to shine down on scattered homesteads. We pass cowboys and shepherds herding their charges down the road, but that’s about it for traffic until we reach Copahue town, an unexpectedly coveted tourist destination for elderly Argentinians. As dirty exhausted cyclists we don’t quite blend in well, but we’re leaving anyway. Short walk up to the pass, prepared to carry the bikes again but the intel on this pass that implied tough hike-a-bike turns out to be, well, wrong, and we’ll ride much more than we’ll push. The only sketchiness lies in a few meters of cliff-side clinging trail, don’t look down and do hope the cliff doesn’t collapse, after that get to a road and there’s a Chilean police station a few km away. “What stamp do you want? Entry, sure. Where? Let’s just stamp here, here, and here, surely that’s enough, ok, welcome to Chile.” So a suggestion: proper intel gathering for this route should probably include knowing what Chilean entrance paperwork you need, because remote officials are generally happy to oblige, but not necessarily so confident about what needs to be done.