MTB + trek around Futaleufú

It was the morning after.
Post-paddling down Futaleufú River (Puente a Puente + Macal sections) – a challenging but can’t-miss-out-on experience.
Was it destiny interfering or nobody really wanted to join us on an Infierno descent that the rafting company of our choice was offering?
Plan B, then.

I had a lot of respect for the professionalism of the entire team that had accompanied us down the river the day before, but I didn’t have any good words to say about the company’s owner.
A bit two-faced, grumpy every morning while serving our breakfasts (we also slept in his place and, apart from the fantastic food, I do not recommend it), and money hungry.
He did seem a bit disappointed that we were not even going to consider a Full Day on the river, which he had proposed (knowing all the while that we had actually missed only 4 or 5 rapids from a Full Day’s sections).
On the other hand, he gladly rented us the mountain bikes booked with the help of our kind receptionist the night before (there were in high demand). 
See, my dears? Every penny counts.

It was win-win, after all, because we had something to fill our last day in Chile. I had spoken to a rafting teammate – turned friend – and she had told me that Reserva Nacional Futaleufú’s treks were a bit tough but beautiful and that she had almost spotted a condor from the highest-altitude mirador. We had to go.
-        - I think you can get there by bicycle.
Another local told us that it would take us 30 minutes… and that after crossing Río Chico, we would practically be there.
Of course, he didn’t know that there were less than two years since I started riding a bicycle again and that I had never done it on mountain roads or on a mountain bike route. :D
Good thing that I’m always brave to try new things out, even though I may not necessarily know how they’d all end. …or is that called foolishness?  

From the moment we exited Futaleufú, I noticed that something was not right. I mean, whenever I changed gears, it felt weird.
Marcel didn’t believe me (he rarely does :P):
-        - You are complaining again. Wouldn’t it be better to just ride the bike?
…at one point, when a young girl interrupted our line exchange with ‘Have you by any chance seen a key? We’ve lost it and cannot get into the house we’ve rented…’, I just stopped. I wanted to help but had not seen the key. Luck was, however, on my side when Marcel finally (!!) believed me and agreed that my bike was a bit faulty. We couldn’t do anything, so we relaxed and switched bikes.

A wave of turquoise left us speechless for a second or two as we crossed Futaleufú River and stopped. So beautiful, so cold, so out of this world!...
Río Futaleufú, Patagonia, Chile
It got hotter by the minute and we started running short on water. Sadly, we only found water to fill our bottles farther up the road. To me, it was difficult. At times, I just stopped and walked and then rode again. The trickiest part was simply trying not to skid on the many small rocks around. The soil was very dry and, well, on the last descent right before getting to Río Chico –which was calmly lovely-, I walked.
Río Chico, Patagonia, Chile

We then got lost, some big dogs chased us, but found the Reserva in the end. A very nice gentleman welcomed us. We could fill our water bottles, we could leave the bicycles there. We needn’t pay a fee, but we needed to pencil our names in the big register… ‘Aaaah, nobody from Romania. Not yet’ I smiled.  
The same gentleman told us that it took about 3 hours to the highest mirador and back.
-       - We don’t have 3 hours. The border closes at 8pm and we still need to get back to Futaleufú, have a shower, get our bags, and…
-        - I went there with my nephew – he’s a child – and we completed the trek in 2h30’.
/’That’s reassuring’ I thought to myself./
We decided for Marcel to try and make it to the top – it was his great wish –, as I would continue trekking at my own pace, as far and up as I could go.
The scenery was glorious – the mountains were perfectly framing the river that had given us so many thrills only 24 hours earlier. It seemed to flow so peacefully here. And that Patagonian summer feeling was again intoxicating.
We meet again, Río Futaleufú

- Just go!
What pissed me off? The fact that Marcel was not considering that I was already tired, that trekking trails with steps instead of a clear path was something I dreaded – remember Iran? –, and that we had a deal.
His intentions are good because he’s always trying to challenge me and make me keep up with him as far as physical activities are concerned.
We had a huge fight. The first huge one in months, the first huge one of this trip. He left, I stayed and I cried. At a point, I decided to climb again, and I heard him call my name. He had waited for me! ♥
It was hard and I was worried that we would not make it back to Argentina that evening – aaaah, I forgot to tell you, we had a bus to catch and it was already paid –, but… After some ‘Falta mucho?’ addressed to the other trekkers we met, we finally arrived at the first mirador (if I remember correctly, it was called ‘Pedrero’).
Mirador, Reserva Nacional Futaleufú, Patagonia, Chile

Mirador, Reserva Nacional Futaleufú, Patagonia, Chile (take 2)

Mirador, Reserva Nacional Futaleufú, Patagonia, Chile (take 3)

We were happy to have made it, we kissed, we took pictures, and then hurried back to grab our bikes. Of course, we refilled the bottles and poured the cold fresh water over our aching bodies. I felt as if my organs were starting to hurt… and I realised I had gotten sunstroke. It is business as usual for me. However, after Colombia’s Tayrona, I religiously put sunscreen on. Apparently, that day’s sun had proved to be very dangerous. I took a pill and recovered in a few minutes.
We sped it up and arrived back in town in under 1h30’ (with all the pictures and small breaks we took on the way).

It was about 16:30 when the guy who should’ve crossed us the border greeted us in front of the hostel and told us that we must leave. I had my plans – to shower and I had promised the owner of Café Mandala that I’d go there and have a slice of the cake she said she’d make –.
I keep my promises.
-        - We've still got 30 minutes left and I’m not leaving without a sip of raspberry smoothie.
I left him there. Don’t you agree that 5pm is 5pm?
I showered fast and changed while Marcel went to shower, too. There was an overnight bus ride ahead, so we needed some comfort with… ourselves.
Last two things to do? Eat the cake. Drink the smoothie.
Trileche at Café Mandala, Futaleufú, Chile
It turns out that our host’s friend was even scared of his own shadow and he had arrived early to make sure that we’d find the border open. In the end, he didn’t even take us all the way to Esquel but ditched us in Trevelin.

What have we learned from this? J
1.     Continue doing the things that you love if you feel that with all your heart. There will be many people trying to derail you from your course.
2.     Even when it feels tough, go all the way – even if it’s at a snail’s pace at times – if you truly enjoy it. In the end, it is no one else’s experience but your own.
3.     Travel memories tend to work funnily. This time around, our MTB + trek day ended up as one of the dearest of our South American trip this January. When time passes, you won’t feel bad that you cried or that you felt sick or that you fought. It will be that complex experience that will make you feel happy and race on.  

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