Ride To Lagunillas
When I was in school, probably sometime around 9th or 10th grade, we were taken on a class trip to Lagunillas, in the Cajón del Maipo. We stayed at a mountain lodge, run by an organization called SEAL. It was mid-winter, and I still hadn't managed to adapt to (or defend myself against) my classmates' nasty way of treating each other (and me). I wasn't a popular kid; I didn't see the point in endless, extremely mean teasing. Anyway.
I looked out the dirty bus window as we bumped along the winding road leading up to the lodge, and saw nothing but grey, grey skies, and snow, nothing but snow, and I knew these weren't to be happy days.
And they weren't. I hate grey days, the cold. I particularly hate them when I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere, on a cold, grey day because of something I can't change. During our time at the lodge we carried out several activities, whose objective –I can only guess– was to encourage personal growth, create bonds among classmates, and learn a few survival techniques. I think that could have all been exciting and interesting, if I hadn't had to deal constantly with some of my classmate's ingrained idiocy (most of which, to my great disappointment, did not change one bit after leaving school. See, for example, the introduction to this post.)
Anyway. Fast forward to the present, and there I am, riding up the same winding road, this time in spring, under a giant blue sky, hot sun on my helmet and jacket, flowers all over the place, and the smell of happiness and lenthening days. On my rides to the Cajón del Maipo I had always spotted the turnoff to Lagunillas, and I had always carried on, passing it by, partly because of the memories it brought back, partly because it didn't look too interesting on the map. In fact, it is quite a lot shorter than the roads to Termas Del Plomo and Baños de Colina.
A dusty road led me up past a few houses, and then to a height where I had a bit of a view of the rest of the valley. Up and up I went, switchbacking here and there. Every now and then I'd come across a car parked on a flat spot by one of the curves, its owners sitting nearby, enjoying a picnic or an asado, or just soaking up the sun and the sights.
I passed the SEAL lodge, and carried on up to the Refugio Andino. I was quite surprised to find a couple of ski lifts. It was hard to tell if they are used in winter. There was no one around to ask about carrying on up the hill, so I did.
Up and up I went, and came across a fence at the top of the hill. I turned left, and after having gone no more than 500 m, I had to turn back: too much mud, slope too steep.
So I started following the fence in the other direction. The view was incredible.
Wind, nothing but wind and the occasional silence. This patch of snow was too deep to ride through, so I searched for a place in the fence to pass through. After heaving and pushing, I was on the other side.
On I went, until I came to another fence. It looked like a rudimentary gate, but there was so much wire holding it shut, that I decided not to try to pass.
I spent quite a while up there, enjoying the silence, being alone. This was something that one could enjoy: this was mine, I made this happen. The sun burned and the wind cooled. I thought about how I was stuck in the middle of nowhere. The isolation was evident, emncompassing... until I glanced at my cellphone, to check the time, and saw that I had full signal strength. So much for isolation.
I hung around a while longer, took a self-pic, and rode down again.