Thursday, January 20, 2011

Circuito Chico? Um, Circuito Long-o!

Eager to give our tired legs and overstressed knees a break (and eager to avoid any more haunted forests), we decided to take a day off of hiking in favor of... bike riding.  Yeah, I wasn't sold that it would be easier on the body either, but the bike rental guy assured me that riding the famous Circuito Chico - a reputedly gorgeous 30k loop around some of Bariloche's famous lakes - was no problem, especially "with our special gear system."  I'm not sure what kind of bikes this guy is used to riding, because the "special gear system" seemed to be a normal 21 speed bike with an exceptionally hard seat. "Mostly flat," he said, "and when not flat, use the special gear system."  I'm also not sure what kind of roads this guy is used to riding, because it turns out that the Circuito Chico alternates between steep, glorious downhills that are over way too quickly, and steep, horrible uphills that last forever. 

I swear, it's steeper than it looks.
 Anyway, not knowing any of this, I donned my bright orange safety vest, hopped eagerly on the bike, and set off with Dave and four new friends (who we met on the bus that morning) in tow.  Actually, I was in the back of the pack.  Whatever.

That's me and safety orange in the back. The other girl didn't have to wear one because "she had a bright shirt."
It's hard to ride and chat!
 Ten minutes later, grinding up the first hill, I looked over my shoulder and fell off my bike into the middle of the road.  Go orange safety vest for protecting me from being run over!

The Circuito Chico group.
The other people got to wear their safety orange on their backpacks.
I guess I'm not complaining, since Dave sherpa'ed our backpack all day.
[DSM: If you can't spot the dork in the first half hour at the table, then you are the dork]

  The rest of the day was full of wheeeeee downhills...

I zoomed by too fast for Dave to successfully capture me in this photo.
 Eye-poppingly oversaturated blue and yellow flowers...

Sparkling lakes set against lush green forests and snow capped mountains...

Who would have thought Dave's hair would look its most
styled in months only after he wore a bike helmet for a few hours.
Punishing, endless uphills...

Sometimes we walked.
Dave would like me to note here that he never walked.

And a celebratory almost-done beer!  Enjoyed, of course, in a bar that used to be a gas station. We needed the fuel...

Do you remember when in the footnote to his super-trek post Dave claimed a new empathy for friends and family who ski more slowly than he does?  I guess this doesn't apply to people who bike more slowly than he does.  On the final (giant) uphill before reaching the bike rental place Dave amused himself by riding up the hill, turning around and cruising down the hill, circling me a few times on his bike, admonishing me to "get moving", and riding back up the hill.  And then repeating this a few times while insisting that this was just a fun game of being my personal trainer!

Taunting me.  Always taunting me!
 The ride was beautiful, fun, and hard.
(That's what she said)

You can find all of our photos from Cerro Chico by clicking here.

Bring lots of water. And snacks. The food and drink options along the ride were few and far between.

Getting there
The public bus runs along the lake, there are bike rental shops at KM 18 and 18.5.  We thought the better route was to travel clockwise around the circuit; this way you see the best views early, before the only thing you can think about is getting off the stupid bike.

The bikes can be rented for about $15 and you can either make an advance reservation or just show up (or do what we did - make an advance reservation and then mistakenly show up at the wrong rental place and not realize until the end of the day when we got an "are you alive" email from the place we reserved at, woops!)

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