Monday, 25 April 2011

Running in El Bolson

This run began in the centre of the busy Argentinian town of El Bolson, located in a wide, flat valley with steep peaks running along either side.  The Patagonian pavements are irregular at best and the warm up took in a variety of terrain from uneven crazy paving, dirt, gravel and grass to concrete.  I ran round the centre of town first, passing a lovely street market where they sell entirely locally produced goods - chocolate, beer and an assortment of jewellery and crafts.  The market surrounded a small park with a pond and had a lively, welcoming atmosphere.

Stopping at the tourist information office next to the market, I checked out the tourist map and spotted a likely candidate for a hilly run with views back over town.  Ten minutes on gravel roads took me out of town to the start of a gentle ascent, following signs for Cerro Amigo.  At a small car park on the left, follow the signs for Mirador Principal as you hit the dirt trails.

After a short ascent I hit the viewpoint, alongside a giant white cross.  There is a viewing platform, where you can see the entire town and beyond, up and down the valley.  The cross is visible from most of the town - just look up to the East side of the valley - the run was on a large outcrop of rock, rather than on the mountainside proper.

I ran in wonderful evening sunshine, with darkly ominous clouds shading the mountain tops.  A smattering of tall poplar trees glowed bright yellow in the sunlight, towering above the many shades of green of the other trees covering the mountainsides.

Yellow poplars
The signposts could lead you to believe that the Mirador Principal is all there is to see here.  Head back down the wooden steps and take the first obvious, but unmarked, left turn onto another dirt trail and you will be rewarded with a flying run along a twisting trail, on a smooth hard packed surface.  There are several further rocky outcrops to pause and admire the sheer scale of the valley.  I only explored for an hour but it looks like you could keep heading up a lot further here.  I finished the run with a flat cool down back across to my campsite on the other side of the valley.

I highly recommend camping at the Cerveza Artensanal El Bolson, a delightful microbrewery with attached campsite under more of the very tall, yellow poplars.  The selection of beers includes chocolate, cherry, raspberry, dark and plenty of others.  I also picked up some of the best chocolates I have ever eaten from Lida Chocolates in the market.  An excellent way to refuel after a run!

El Bolson is reported to have some great walking trails, maybe next time I'll get to spend longer here.

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