By ExperiencePlus! travelers Starr and Phil Teague
The Patagonia Lakes District Plus! the Island of Chiloé bicycle trip was one of our best vacation experiences ever. The biking was challenging and fun, the scenery was varied and beautiful, the food was delicious and appropriately regional, the hotels were all lovely, the weather was perfect, and our tour leaders were simply the best. Every day brought us through new environments with delightful surprises. We felt that we really experienced not only the beauty of the countryside, but also the various cultures of the areas we biked through.
A little about us, we ride our bikes at home almost every day, but we do not usually ride longer than an hour or two, nor farther than 20 miles. Knowing that this tour was rated “301/401”, we started training as soon as we signed up (6 months in advance) by increasing our mileage, and our hill climbing. We did not approach this in as scientific a manner as Joel Friel suggests in the ExperiencePlus! training programs, but we did try to balance longer and shorter rides, and throw in an occasional non-biking day. We are very glad that we trained as much as we did, as we were able to bike up and down the many hills that we encountered without too much difficulty.
There were so many highlights of the trip it is hard to pick out just a few but we’ll do our best!
- Our first group dinner was at the home of friends of one of our tour leaders in their lovely dining room where they host small groups for gourmet meals. We feasted and enjoyed the authentic ambiance.
- Our picnic lunches were all different, delicious, and healthy. We sampled both Argentinean and Chilean empanadas, lots of fresh tomatoes and palta (avocado), and even some authentic German kuchen (cake). On the Island of Chiloé we were treated to a lunchtime feast of freshly caught King Crabs; another lunch was prepared by one of the indigenous Chilote from her garden, and served on her front porch.
- We were treated to an authentic curanto which is meat, seafood, potatoes, vegetables cooked in a 3 to 4 feet hole using stones that are heated in a bonfire until they are red hot and layered in the bottom. The food goes in next and is covered with wet leaves or sacks. The results are amazing and we indulged in all of this and more at a restaurant overlooking the bay where we had visited penguins.
- Everywhere we went our tour leaders had stories to share, and friends to meet, which added so much to the experience. Rather than feeling like tourists, we felt like our leaders were friends and we were visiting them and getting to know their countries “up close and personal”.
- The landscapes are unbelievably gorgeous! To see what we mean check out the photo gallery from our trip.
- All along the way we were greeted with smiles and warm welcomes.
We have recommended this tour to all of our biking friends. There was not one aspect of our 10 day experience that we did not enjoy. It was a perfect combination of excitement and adventure. Our leaders took such good care of us (and our bikes) and handled all the little details which on some vacations can get in the way of being carefree (for example, while our guides dealt with the complications of getting through Argentinean/Chilean customs, we amused ourselves by doing some “yoga on the border”.) Without a doubt we would rate this tour A++! In fact we are already planning to return to South America in April 2015 to do the Northern Argentina Plus! the Ruins of Quilmes tour. We invite you to join us – it’s going to be a blast.