Day 3: Crossing to Chile was the longest and the hardest day of riding. It was also the day with the most bureaucracy because we left Argentina and entered Chile. Thank goodness we had beautiful weather! After leaving the hotel, we regrouped at the Argentine custom house after about 28 miles. Then, we began a 15km climb to Cardenal Samore Pass where we had lunch in no man’s land at the top, which is the official border between Argentina and Chile.
The bad news of the day is that one of the members of our tour, Harold, had an accident during the climb. It only took a couple of minutes for our tour leader, Tristan, to arrive on the scene. We were just a few kilometers from customs so Tristan took Harold back to Argentina, an ambulance arrived and Harold was taken to the clinic in Villa la Angostura. Harold did suffer a broken clavicle – showing his usual strength and spirit though after arriving back in Argentina he did, at one point, ask Tristan if he could still ride tomorrow. Tough guy! I was really impressed by how the tour leaders handled the accident and the way it was communicated to the rest of the group. Nothing was interrupted and I didn’t feel neglected, even during this obvious emergency.
Knowing that Harold was in good hands, I think everyone was still able to enjoy themselves although we all chatted about how unfortunately, these things do happen. After lunch, I began my descent early. I’m not comfortable with downhills and usually have to stop to rest my hands several times before reaching the bottom. This descent wasn’t too bad because it wasn’t exposed and included some rolling hills so I had the opportunity to slow down once in a while without giving my hands a workout. On my way down, I finally figured out that what scared me the most about descents – my awareness of how fast I was going. As soon as I turned the odometer on my bike upside down and I couldn’t read the numbers, I felt much more comfortable.
The entry to Chile was a little cumbersome as at customs they check everyone’s bag and wanted to make sure we are all together. It certainly was an interesting cultural experience but Javier took care of everything so all we needed to do was wait and follow instructions by the folks in uniform and our own tour leaders. I drank a bottle of water and enjoyed the shade.
After customs, we had about 25km left before we arrived at the Hotel Termas De Puyehue. While a little more upscale then what I’m used to, the spa was beautiful – and all inclusive – which means that I went straight to the bar and ordered the signature Chilean drink, a Pisco Sour. I didn’t have quite as much time to enjoy the thermal pools as I hoped that I would but the “free” drink and buffet dinner more than made up for it.