Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Embalse El Yeso and Termas Del Plomo

Originally posted to El Cantar de la Lluvia on Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ah, where to begin. It was another ride to the Cajón del Maipo, but in a certain sense this time it was different. Most things stayed the same: I went alone, after lunch, under a bright sun and a blue sky.

Perhaps it was different because it was Friday, and not a weekend, or perhaps because the popular season is over, and the snow has started up in the high Andes.

Whatever it was, I enjoyed it a lot. I took the ride up calmly, slowly. I was well equipped: set of tools, cold weather gear, water, extra oil, tyre irons and patch kit. Also, my camera: the trusty Canon A85, worn, bashed, dented and polished from the thousands of kilometres it has spent in the pouch on the handlebars.

Here's a Google Earth KMZ so you get a general idea of where I was in the world.

The grader had been over the road up to the Embalse El Yeso recently. It was coming back down again, going over the other side of the road. I stopped to one side, and goats started peering over the ridge of a large mound of dirt and stones. One, two, three. All looking at me. They're curious beasts, aren't they?

This must be the best time to go to the Cajón del Maipo.

And a zoom of the previous pic.

And from further down the road.

The embalse was a deep and beautiful colour. I could ask for no more.

The mountains around it dusted with the first snow.

And in the distance... well, that's where I was headed.

I didn't meet anyone on the way up.

The road is narrow, firm and dusty. Nothing like hearing the XR's uncorked exhaust booming off the rock wall just inches form your head.

This is the road. Unfortunately, unless a vehicle makes its appearance, there really is no way to take in the relative scale of the vast rockslide.

In the distance, one of the ends of the Embalse.

And from that end, looking back. I decided to get off the road, and ride on the flat. Now that I thought of it, what's the rush?

I got a chance to test the stiffer front suspension, after switching from 5 to 15 fork oil. Since this was a river plain, there were rather pronounced ondulations running parallel to the river. Riding across them, I could get an idea of what had changed. Not bad. Better? Worse? I have no idea.

The colours, the colours!

I spent some time doing low speed off-roading, enjoying zig-zagging in and out of dry bushes, and sometimes over them. It was only when I was back on the road again that I realised that they were all thorn bushes. Oh well...

I went up the side of the hill, following one of the many trails that peter out to nothing, probably old mining trails.

I stopped, I didn't want to go any further. I have done worse trails, but it wasn't worth it. I'd surely have trouble turning around, and I had no desire to set the bike down again.

Right over my head flew a condor, huge, close, about 10 metres away, no more. Silent, I saw how one or two tiny feathers rippled sporadically. He flew away, following the hill's contour. He came back, but higher up. He was climbing, climbing. I wasn't able to take a pic on the first pass. I lay down on the ground in the sweltering sun, playing dead. No dice.

Oh well, I missed the opportunity of photographing a condor. Great.

But no! He came back again, though much higher.

I put my kit on once more and started turning the bike around. For a fraction of a second the sun went out. A plane? I look up, and not more than 5 metres away, a giant bird, this time brown all over, flying slowly and silently over me. I got off the bike, waited, played dead again, but no dice.

The rest of the way up to the Termas was uneventful.

Except, of course, when I came around a curve, and saw this.


Contrast between a blue-violet sky, a yellow afternoon sun, white and radiant snow–confused, surely, not knowing what colour to reflect–and an ever reddish soil.

From here on I'm guilty of that which I have so far avoided: repetition of nearly identical pictures, or pics that vary little from one to the other. I'm sorry, but I can't help it. The scenery calls for it.

The problem with this, placing many similar pics one after the other, is that you get de-sensitized, saturated.

That's why we must place filler text between the pics. :-P

The previous picture was taken just before crossing the river. Now it was shallow, docile. I crossed it easily, getting my feet wet with gusto and enthusiasm, happy with my waterproof boots, and on I went to Termas Del Plomo.

And I got there. The place was obviously deserted.

I backtracked about a kilometre, and then left the road, before crossing the river. I wanted to see if I could come down the valley, but on the other side of the river. The stones got larger and larger, and then the inevitable happened.

But at least the view was nice.

I rode around a bit more before crossing the river again.

She's pretty, isn't she?

She's lucky to get taken out to places like this, don't you think?

Good girl!

I did warn you that you'd have to put up with repetitive pics, so don't complain.

Just before crossing the river again.

As my front wheel just touched the water, something came over me and I took a left, riding in the river itself for about 30 metres, the water up to the engine's side covers. Ah, the joy of waterproof boots. And my trousers will surely dry with the last of the sun.

I hadn't gone more than 500 metres beyond the river, when I noticed that the stones in the road were giving the front shocks a hard time. Bang... bang. I could feel it in the handlebars. Oh no, something's failed after my maintenance session, and I've bust a seal. I stopped. I looked. No, that wet stuff on the shocks is water, not oil. I carried on. More hard whacks on the handle bar.

I stopped again. I looked: Aha! That's it!

My front wheel is flat. But in such a nice place, I didn't mind.

I rolled the bike into the last bit of sun, set it on its side, and removed the front wheel.

My main discomfort was my headache, from the altitude. What altitude, you ask? Well, Googling for Termas del Plomo's altitude just gave me El Cantar de la Lluvia as first and second hits. That's no use to me! :-)

Google Earth to the rescue. 3000 metres above sea level. The puncture was a thorn. I patched it, took some pics.

I installed the tyre on the rim. I was constantly congratulating myself on being well prepared. And to think that on other rides I just carried that useless puncture repair spray.

The temperature plummeted, I put on all my cold weather gear, my hands hurt from the cold air and the cold tools. I grazed my knuckles several times wrestling with the tyre irons, but it didn't hurt. They were numb by now.

I put the wheel back on the bike. I rode home under a full moon.

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Blogger Unknown said...

hm, may be the forward tyre is installed not correctly?)

this places are... i want there, fuck! why I am living in woods and bogs?

thank you for pictures, man!

1:48 PM  

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