Friday, May 9, 2008

Armaggedon Alerces

Saturday 3rd Sunday 4th

Saturday is a right off as the ash is too thick in the air to ride. Sunday is not much better, but there is a rumour from travellers coming South that El Bolson (250kms North) is clear, so we head out figuring the ash could be around here for many days....

We head north to National Park de los Alerces which proves to be a grim sight in hues of grey. Trees and land blur under the weight of grey ash and dust.

The apocalyptic scene is heightened when we discover the road in to the park has been closed. Road barriers add to the sense of unreality and I am reminded of "end of the world" disaster films and imagine the last 2 humans escaping to the mountains covered is ash.

Debating whether the the barriers and road closures relate to cyclists or just cars - we head on to search for further information... We see no one, we hear nothing, animal sounds are curiously absent as birds take in their changed world. Gusts of wind raise smoke pillars from the trees that twist and turn in eddies. The park is named for the Alerces tree - an ancient conifer which should be turning a golden yellow as autumn progresses. All trees are indistiguishable and uniform grey now.

We climb, light rain falls, but does nothing to clear the air. The road turns sticky as water hits ash and we struggle up the steep incline past dead machinery left by construction workers. It´s Sunday so they are absent..... or are we really the last 2 humans? We venture on - and see no one....

Descending - colour returns briefly to the world as the land is shielded from the ash carrying wind. We reach beautiful Lago Futalaufquen turned milky aqua marine and covered with a white dusting of powder. Punta del Mattos affords amazing views along 3 legs of the lake and we find a camp spot right by the beach.

We BBQ steak and chorizo sausage over the fire pit and watch an amazing sunset as the ash heavy air turns an angry crimson, echoed by the still lake waters. We see no one....

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