Meet Mark Beaumont and hear about his Adventures
We are all cooped up at home – my dog and young children have never been happier – which is the silver lining from work and adventures being disrupted. My thoughts are with the amazing healthcare professionals and public figures who are trying their best to navigate these unchartered times.
However, we are still allowed to dream of adventures, and we are still allowed to share our stories. Perhaps this is more important than ever, so we come out of lockdown with sharp minds, fitness, and the passion to get back out and explore.
Important to say, we don’t need to go to the other side of the planet to explore – in these past weeks I have run streets in Edinburgh that I didn’t know existed, within a mile from home. But that story can wait for another blog. For now, a short reminisce of my recent long weekend in the Lake District. No, not that one… the Lake District of Patagonia, South America!
Working with the team at Vango and Global Cycling Network, I was in Chile for a series of adventures and films. In mid-winter for the UK, I flew into mid-summer in Santiago to take a 3-day gravel bike packing route through the northern Lake District from Panguipilli to San Martin de Los Andes in Argentina, then back to the Chilean border at Paso Carirrine. My GPS routes are below in case you ever get the chance to explore this extraordinary part of the planet.
By the time we reached the start, it was already afternoon and we pedalled along the tarmac roads around Lago Panguipilli, relishing the warm sun and backdrop of glaciers and volcanoes. The bikes felt fast and light as we were carrying minimal summer kit. This included the new Project Hydrogen, the world's lightest AirBeam tent, which I was testing for the first time. By the time we made camp by the fast-flowing and crystal-clear Rio Truful, it was dark, which I thought would prove a challenge for tents we had never put up before.
However, the single AirBeam pole was blown up in seconds using the bike pump, with the 2, short, carbon poles pitched at each end, and the micro tent poles easily stretched the canvas. I was concerned about the thin, ultra-light canvas as it seemed to be rustling a lot in the wind as we unpacked it – but as soon as the tent had some tension, it stood silently and strong, despite the wind. In the morning we had some rain as well, which made me very glad not to be in a bivvy bag. Despite being less than 700g, I could sit upright and bring all my bags inside – which is saying something for a 6ft 3in and 90kg man!
As soon as we set out on day 2 it was a race uphill to the ferry from Puerto Fuy, a stunning meander along the lake to near the Argentinian border, from where we were onto gravel and then single track for the rest of the day. I have never cycled on technical single track with a laden gravel bike before – this would normally be the domain for my hardtail mountain bike. The geometry and ruggedness of these bikes, helped by the ultralight kit, made it so much fun. It felt like mountain biking did 20 years ago, without suspension and certainly tested my skills.
San Martin de Los Andes is a Kendal style town, with a bustling resort centre, catering for skiing in the winter and cycling/walking in the summer. It is a mecca for outdoor adventures, with the added bonus of a Lago Lacar, a huge lake for water sports or simply sunning yourself at the beach! We finished the day with an ‘asado’ – the traditional South American barbeque and social event, with friends of our guides Gonzo and Harry joining in late into the night around the campfire, singing songs.
Our final day was the main feat of endurance (not helped by slight headaches from the assado!) We would be putting big miles on gravel and tarmac on the long climb back up to the border of Chile and in search of the famous Tamuco hot springs. James Lowesly Williams, my cycling buddy and I have shared some fun adventures, but this was certainly a real test, especially on the constantly bumpy, corrugated gravel roads. After a few nights in our micro tents we had slept well, but were looking forwards to a swim to soak off the caked dust and sweat from the best bike packing trip of our lives.
This is certainly a part of the world deserves more time to explore.