Days 15 & 16 – Friday and Saturday March 11 & 12: R & R at Yelcho Fishing Lodge Slow days both, resting from the whitewater rafting and preparing for the next days of riding. On Friday we did little but get our gear sorted and dry ourselves out. It was windy and rainy, but still a few in our party tried fishing – with some success: a bunch of small rainbows that they tossed right back into the lake. Others went for a hike but couldn’t find the proper trailhead. Our guides started work on the bikes, getting rid of grit and lubing the drivetrains. Lake Yelcho Lodge (LakeYelcho.com) has a large main lodge and perhaps seven or eight self-catering cabins. We divided the group into four people apiece in two cabins and our three guides in a third. Each place has splendid views out over the lake, wood stoves for heating the large living space, kitchens and decks for lounging in good weather. We all eat breakfast and dinner in the main lodge, with its high beamed ceilings and lovely space with couches and a bar. Luxury compared with what we’ve grown accustomed to. The evening of our first day here brought us to the main lodge bar, waiting for dinner to start. We met two fishermen from Colorado, one of whom was a fishing guide and has been coming here for about 15 years. This day they both had caught rainbow trout as big as large salmon: the biggest weighed 22kg (over 45 lbs.). Of course there were photos. In the picture the guide holds the fish sideways towards the camera, and it stretched nearly three feet long. They released both fish. Maybe they have a date for next year? The eyes of our guide Tikka, also an avid fisherman, were out on stalks. Our second day at Lake Yelcho involved an afternoon trip to the Parque Pumelin, some twenty-five miles north of the lake. We hiked a beautiful trail through the forests and gawked at hanging glaciers we could see far up on a volcano. The vegetation is dense and lush, and the most outstanding plants are the gunnera with their gigantic leaves, some easily six feet across. And there are vined fuchsias that cover the trunks of trees like English Ivy. As it turns out, crossing the Andes from Bariloche brought us to a really different microclimate.
At the end of the hike we traveled up a long side road that led to a huge hot spring, where we jumped in for a true spa finish. Tomorrow it’s off on a fairly serious day of riding – between 80 and 95k on gravel, so we’ll need to be rested.