27 december 2014 upto 04 january 2015: Silvester and border crossing: 286km
NP Los Alerces – Esquel – Futaleufu (Chile) – Villa Santa Lucia
We cross the beautiful Nationalpark at a slow pace and admire the richness around. Green, green and more green. Huge trees, some of them hundreds of years old, endless variations of plants, water and rocks are once again the ingredients for endless variations of tremendous views.
In the afternoon we meet up with Diego and Dieisson to decide together where to stay for the night. Besides the nature the Nationalparks in Argentina are often very nice equipped with free campspots and fireplaces, so we choose one at the shore of Lago Futaleufquen and start cooking on bonfire when Pablo and Simone arrive as well.
They bring some eggs and sandwiches along and we share a delicious mixed meal of Pasta, roasted onions and potatoes, fried eggs and wild strawberries for dessert. Sometimes the simplest things are the best and we enjoy the food and the time together, sitting at the fire until late.
The next morning we cycle on together with Diego and Dieisson and after leaving the parc the four of us go to Esquel, a middlesized village and for us the last possibility for shopping argentinian stuff like Mate and sweets before we cross over to Chile again. Diego and Dieisson want to stay in Argentina what means to say good-bye after five really nice days together.
But once in town, we are not in the mood for this and the day passes by without any of us making the first step to say farewell. At one time it starts to rain and we take this as a reason for staying put and search for a free sleeping place. After some asking about at the Bomberos and the Municipalidad we finally meet Padre Quique at the local cathedral and are lucky, he lets us stay in the school next to his church which is abandoned now.
A luxury place in our opinion: we can use a big room with a kitchen and even an inside barbecue and there is a sportyard with hot showers in the changing cabins. All in all everything one needs for a good time and since it´s the 30th of december, we are going to have a good time and start preparing for New years eve 🙂
We cook marmelade from a 2kg pumpkin, we prepare tons of Tortas Fritas, we have barbecue with Chorizo and of course some beer and doing all these brings a lot of fun as well.
The year 2015 starts with the decision of Diego and Dieisson changing their itinerary and coming along to Chile with us, so we will be having company for some time to come and we are more than happy with this 🙂
On the first of january we start cycling West towards Chile. We have to cross the Andes again, but luckily they are not very high in this region although still with pretty views along the way.
We find a nice campspot next to the road for the night and reach the border the next day. Not long before we have a last picnic since we have to consume all fresh goods like vegetables, fruits, bread and toppings before passing the border.
The food, like always, is delicious but on top we get some presents from an argentinian family doing asado next to us: a big bowl of Ensalada rusa (similar to potato salad) and big chunks of meat. More than full we have to have Siesta before we can cycle on but no problem: nice company, sun shines, the nearby river sings a lullaby and trees provide shadow 🙂
What a change of atmosphere later in Futaleufu, the first chilean village we reach in the evening. A very moody and bossy police officer greets us with the announcement that it´s not allowed to camp anywhere except the (expensive) camping and he announces at the same time that there are controls and that the locals will call the police if they spot us somewhere. Not welcoming and a big surprise since we have experienced Chile as a very friendly place before. And it turns out, that the police officer is not representative for all locals. As we talk to other people around we finally get to put up our tent in the garden of a private home, for free, so all´s well ends well 🙂
At this evening we learn a lection about travelling without money as Diego and Dieisson are doing it. We also don´t have a lot and try to save expenses wherever it´s possible, but we can pay a Camping or Hostal from time to time and especially in villages it´s the easiest and most comfortable way. But without money one always depends on the hospitality and goodwill of others and although finally there is always a solution one needs a big amount of patience…
We leave Futaleufu rather late, Diego and Dieisson need to change their tyres which are worn out and we spend the waiting time drinking Mate in the sun. Than it is again onto unpaved roads, which will be our trail for the next 200km. Always up and down, sometimes steep sometimes not, always with stunning nature on each side and with the sun above.
Itˋs a really hot day and we take a lot of breaks but still manage a good distance before finding a gorgeous camping spot on a meadow closed in by trees, so we are invisible for anyone passing on the road.
A natural thing which comes along with cycling in a group now is a change of habits and adjustment to new ways of doing things. Whereas we were usually not very picky about campspots, the other two like to stay in more hidden places. This takes a little bit longer to find them, but at the same time they are often more pretty than the simple ones next to the road, worth the effort.
The same thing with cycling rythm, the brothers are slow in the morning and pick up speed in the afternoon, quite the opposite of us, but the compromise of both is a more steady rythm all day long, less exhausting so we are all happy 🙂
Our next encounters in Chile are far more nice than the first in Futaleufu. Along the way we stop at the “Casa Veronica” for a break and get to know the older couple who lives there.
They are very cute and serve us a nice breakfast with selfmade bread before we cycle onto Villa Santa Lucia (the crossing point with the Carretera Austral), which we reach at about 6PM under dark grey clouds, it might start raining any second. And once again the luckˋs on our side. While asking directions to a free campspot next to the river, the man we ask invites us to stay on his ground. There is a small cabana under construction we can use and just as we are all in and start to unpack, the first drops of a long nights´ rain start to fall…
From 14 upto 27 december 2014: Region de los Lagos Argentina: 432km
San Martin de los Andes – San Carlos de Bariloche – El Bolson – PN Los Alerces
Same, same – but different 🙂
Although we are now in Argentina, we are of course still in a similar landscape as before but with a little difference: the weather. Snowcapped mountains, dense green forests, colorful flowers, marvellous lakes – and a bright sun above it all.
We leave San Martin under a sparkling sun and cycle through the Nationalpark Lanin, enjoying the warmth and the bright colors. In the afternoon we take a break at the Lago Hermoso and itˋs really “hermoso” – a lake with water which is so clear that one can see the smallest stones even a few meters deep, surrounded by mountains and with a surface like a mirror. Itˋs a place of silence and beauty until wind comes up and changes the whole scenery within minutes.
Grey clouds and roaring thunder in the background force us to look out for a campplace very fast and luckily we find one at the next lake, the Lago Falkner. Sheltered by some trees we put up our tent and watch the thunderstorm passing by. Grey clouds let the mountain on the other side of the lake look like itˋs burning and even a group of cows craddle with us under the trees but one person doesnˋt seem to notice anything of this. A fisherman is sitting in his small boat on the lake and waits for fish biting his bate…
We donˋt know if he was successful but the next morning heˋs gone and we continue on our way as well. The NP Lanin changes into the NP Nahuel Huapi and both together cover an enormous area of untouched nature. Just a few cars pass by and for the larger parts we are alone in this peaceful silence before we reach the next village, Villa La Angostura and realize itˋs Christmas time 🙂
We spend a night at the camping, stock up our supplies and than it is on through ever pretty landscapes along more lakes to San Carlos de Bariloche, which we reach in two days. Like San Martin de los Andes, Bariloche is part of the argentinian Switzerland but everything is bigger. Whereas San Martin was small and cozy and somewhat a posh village where the richer Argentinians come for holidays, Bariloche is easier to reach, attracts a far larger crowd of tourists and misses the “small village”- charme of San Martin. So we decide to stay some 13km out of town in Villa Los Coihues which is a quite place, just a few houses at the shore of Lago Guttierez, but with a supermercado and a very nice camping.
Fabian, an ever friendly columbian guy working there, gives the place a familiar atmosphere and we end up staying for three days. Not the worst choice considering the cold and the strong wind which come up during these days. Fabian tells us, that this combination usually means snow in the region but officially itˋs summer, so we donˋt pay much attention to his words and leave on the third day when the winds seems to be less stronger and even a little bit of sunshine comes through the clouds.
During the following two days we think back to his words quite a few times. The first day is dominated by rain showers which turn into snow and hail as we cycle up in the mountains. In the night, when we camp near Lago Steffen, temperature drops to below freezing, so we have a frozen tent once again when waking up. Luckily the next day then is better, still cold and windy, but at least no more rain and the sun even comes out at times.
During this passage in Argentina we are cycling the famous Ruta 40. Itˋs the road which goes through the whole of Argentina from North to South and itˋs the road which Che Guevara took while discovering his homecountry by motorbike. At one point we pass km 1999, what means that the southern “end of the world” is now less than 2000km away. This doesnˋt matter too much to us, since we are planning to return to Chile and cycle there down South along the famous Carretera Austral, but passing all the km-stones counting down from 1999 is like going back in – european – history, in our minds than 🙂 A nice distraction next to watching the ever changing, never boring landscape around.
Shortly before we arrive in El Bolson, our next stopover, we visit the Cascada de la Virgen, a nice waterfall where we take a terere-break. Since being back in Argentina we again picked up the habit of drinking mate (yerba with hot water) in the morning and terere (yerba with cold water) in the afternoon.
Finding water is no problem here, there are plenty of arroyos and cascadas where we can fill our bottles.
And with Argentina another thing is back as well: a lot of different road-signs for signalling what´s coming up, sometimes strange sometimes funny, but always matching some kind of road. We made a selection, you can try to imagine the according road 🙂
And when one sees this one, you are tired even before starting…
Riding into El Bolson is easy, about 12km mostly flat, and we set up our tent at Camping “El Bolson”, without viewing any others, a little mistake. It turns out to be one of the most expensive campings around and worse, the nextdoor neighbour is a Motorcross-track. So after only one night (of which we spend the first half listening the Motorbikes making their laps) we leave and change to “La Farola”, some 500m further.More luck this time. The place is run by an elderly couple with italian roots, a lot of trees give shelter to the sun and one enormous cherry tree in the middle of all, laden with loads of ripe fruits lets us feel like being in the Garden of Eden.
And not to forget Bartolo: a HUGE Sint-Bernard with enormous paws, fails only the jar around his neck 🙂
We feel so at ease at this place that we decide to stay over the Christmas Days and relax as usual with good food and doing next to nothing besides some walks around town and a visit to the Christmas market. On Christmas Eve we get to know Daniel and his son Nahuel (meaning tiger in Mapuche language) at the camping and spend the evening with them, having parilla and beer. Not a bad way to celebrate although not quite the same like snow and hot wine 🙂
The most important part for Argentinians then is midnight, the whole town is up and has a big firework and than everybody starts calling family and friends to exchange wishes until the network collapses. And no, we donˋt mix up with New yearsˋs Eve, thatˋs really the Christmas tradition down here 🙂
After one more lazy day we head off, once again a little bit sad to leave people and a place we liked a lot and which we might never see again. Travellers´ fate…
60km behind El Bolson we leave the Ruta 40 towards Cholila, from where we plan to enter the Nationalpark Los Alerces. The Ruta 40 already wasn´t busy but from this point on the street becomes really desolate and the greater our surprise when we look out for a campspot and stumble upon another cyclist already hiding in the bushes.
Obviously thereˋs some kind of pattern in the search for campspots between cyclists 🙂
The next day then we pass Cholila and fight our way through 30km of very, very bad dirtroad to the entrance of the Nationalpark where we arrive in early afternoon. Tired from the days´ effort we sit down for a break and go through all the information material about the Nationalpark when two other cyclists arrive, Diego and Dieisson from Brasil. We chat a little bit and it takes no long until a chilean couple, Pablo and Simone join our round and shortly afterwards even three more cyclists show up. Seems to be an informal meeting point here 🙂
While the three latter move on to the next camping in search for a beer, the six of us stay put and have a great evening together. It won´t be the last one…
04 upto 14 december 2014: Region de los Rios y Lagos Chilena
Temuco – Villarica – Conaripe – Paso Hua Hum – San Martin de los Andes (Argentina)
Our re-entry into the cyclists´ world takes place in Temuco, from where we start exploring the chilean Lake district. Like the name already indicates, itˋs a huge region with an uncountable number of lakes of all sizes surrounded by a rich vegetation, crisscrossed with rivers big and small and sprenkled with snow-capped vulcanoes.
Not used to cycling anymore the first day is a little bit hard. The back aches, the legmuscles donˋt want to work properly, shoulders cramp and the dull road, just straight on, doesnˋt help. The second day the surrounding is more interesting but weather turns bad and we just manage to reach Villarica in a dry condition with a lot of rainstops in between.
Villarica and the neigbouring Pucon are the touristic hotspots in the area, but luckily itˋs not the season now, so everything is still quite and relaxed. With good weather itˋs possible to climb to the top of the still active Vulcano Villarica and watch the lava bubble inside the crater, but unfortunately rain and wind in Villarica means snow and storm at 2000m and so we canˋt make the climb.
Instead we move on the next day. Weather still everchanging but mostly dry, we leave the Lago Villarica behind and circle the next one, Lago Calafquen in a somehow mystical atmoshpere. Fast moving grey clouds cover large parts of the mountains or hang deep above the water, at times we have wide views over the landscape, the next moment we cycle inside a grey mass.
As usual itˋs an endless up and down, sometimes paved and sometimes not. And as usual we find a great variety of campspots for the nights: a private garden with a puppy dog as guard (for sure a good one, once heˋll learn not to bark EVERY ten minutes during the night), a meadow we share with a group of cattle (or the other way round) and the most beautiful one, a Mirador at the Lago Panguipulli with an exceptional sunset and deep-hanging mist over the water in the morning.
We are not cycling straight South but Southeast in direction of the argentinian border and although the whole region is really amazing, with few exceptions the weather isnˋt inviting for longer breaks.
So we move on at steady pace just with one resting day in Choshuenco before we set off to Puerto Fuy, where we shall take a ferry across the Lago Pirihueico, towards Paso Hua Hum, the border with Argentina.
Unpaved road and a steady climb – but nonetheless we get to the ferry about 5min before it leaves, even without knowing the schedule, so this is convenient. After a 90min crossing of the lake with magnificent views of immaculate nature, we arrive at the village of Pirihueico (three houses big), and get a nice surprise. Going to the border over the pass means here cycling down for us, apparently we were already higher than the pass is 🙂
After having checked into Argentina for the 5th time on this trip, we cycle on for about an hour and in search for water stumble upon one of the most beautiful campingspots upto now: away from the road, at the edge of the forest with a little sandy beach and a view over the lake, with the birds chanting as the only sound around – we´ve camped worse before 🙂
The next day we have to go 37km to the first argentinian village of San Martin de los Andes and think we will reach it quite easily but once again the road decides otherwise and the challenge we were expecting at the Paso Hua Hum awaits us now. The road consists of a deep mix of loose stones and sand, includes a steep uphill of 15km, uncountable sharp curves with special signs and even the following downhill is exhausting because of the loose underground. Besides the effort the really annoying part is, that we canˋt enjoy the surrounding but have to pay full attention to the small stretch in front of our tires.
Six hours later and with the help of our “emergency”-mueslibars we finally reach San Martin and find ourselves in the argentinian Switzerland. Wooden houses, chocolate shops at every corner, loads of ski rental stations and incredible high prices – but a stunning surrounding as well: nestled in between mountains at the shore of a deep blue lake, itˋs quite idyllic…With some luck we find a nice and affordable hostel, spend the weekend in town and ponder the next part of our way South over yummy ice-cream 🙂
11 october upto 04 december 2014:
Campo de las cabras, San Clemente
Cabras, cabras, cabras – goats, goats, goats.
At the day of our arrival we meet up in the evening with Luis, the employee at the campo, and help him herding the goats from the field into their corral. Our first meeting with around 50 female goats, their 40 small ones and “Pirata”, the only macho at the campo.
Every evening the small ones must be seperated from their mothers for the night, work for half an hour and a funny one: Once all the goats are in the corral, the adult ones can leave again, while we are guarding the door and try to prevent the small ones to leave with them. We feel like some kind of goalkeepers: the big ones can pass, the small ones not, although they try everything from hiding between their mothers, attacking in groups or jumping through our legs 🙂
But finally weˋre done and can enjoy the remaining hours of the evening. We meet Sergio, the owner of the campo and on the first impression he seems like a fellow who enjoys life with a big smile. An impression which will be confirmed during our stay, even throughout the most stressy times he stays relaxed and easy going as long as there is a cold beer in the fridge 🙂
The next morning we get to know the other part of the daily work, the milking, which is far more demanding then separating the goats in the evening.
The milking station consists of 24 places where the heads of the goats are locked in so that they can´t run around but have breakfast with the corn we give them during milking. So far the theory, in practice of course they never go all with their heads in these places and itˋs never 24 in one group but always more, so there are quite a few running around or turning or trying to hide.
Itˋs not easy to catch them all and to get to their udder and even the locked ones are not always willing to give us the milk. They are kicking and jumping and small injuries on our hands become a normal condition. Some others have different funny techniques as well, but even than they get milked 🙂
The milking itself is a two-step-process. First two sips with the hand at each nippel, to clean the udder and check the milk quality by sight, and than by machine. The milking by hand acquires practice, the first day we manage only about five goats between us, the next day it is already about 12-15, after a week we manage all we try. When the first group is ready, we let them out and let the second group in, the same milking process for them. When they are all done the second part of the job begins: cleaning. But first the weighing of the milk: 45ltr the first day, a little less then the usual 50-60litres, but still okay.
Cleaning the cans, cleaning the tubes (everything gets at least three cleaning rounds, with and without detergent), altogether it takes another two hours before we can do the last thing: freeing the small ones and have fun whilst watching the reunion. Loud bloating from both sides, big chaos of running around and searching before finally every kid has found its mother and starts sucking milk immediately. Poor nanny-goats, from one milking to the other, but at least they can find themselves comfortable places now 🙂
For us then itˋs free time. Late breakfast or early lunch, sitting at the terrace and enjoying the warm sun and the beautiful sight of the mountains, having siesta or anything else we like to do.
Sergio has two cars and lets us use one, so for once we have the luxury of travelling on four wheels and discover the beautiful area around in the afternoons.
Time passes by very easy and we fall into a comfortable daily routine. In time we know most of the goats and their specialties during the milking, the other daily chores of cooking, cleaning and shopping are fairly easy and we spend nice evenings with Sergio, chatting and sipping beer. After five days, when we have collected around 350l of milk, we learn something new, the cheese-making. Freshly showered and with clean clothes we enter the “queseria” and want to help converting the milk into tasty goat cheese.
It takes 1 1/2 days to process 350l of milk and usually the result is around 45kg of cheese, but not on this day. When we start working, disaster hits: the waterheater, which has to bring the water inside the double-wall of the pasteurisation tank upto temperature, refuses to co-operate. No solution will be found today and so the 350 litres are for the pigs – literally because there is a small group of them on the campo as well and the milk canˋt be stored any longer once it warmed up to more than 4°C. Not good for Sergio (who still holds his good mood), but the pigs are happy and itˋs still better then just throw it away…
The pigs are really funny and Bram becomes their best friend now, since he is the one who gives them the daily ration of milk. Whenever he comes near their corral or calls for them (“Cochi, cochi”, the Aymara word for pig) they start running towards him and running pigs are a very comical sight, with flapping ears and wobbling bellies 🙂
The first week ends on a happy note though: the problem with the waterheater gets solved, the health inspector comes along and finally (after weeks of bureaucratic processes) approves of the queseria so the cheese can be sold. The daily milk production increases to above 50 litres and two new goats are born. We find them one evening when we start herding in the goats and have one who does not want to move. When we approach her, we see two new-born lambs lying next to her, wet and with the umbilical cord still there, what a sweet sight 🙂
For the weekend Pachi, Sergio´s wife, comes over from Santiago where she lives with their two kids, and she is one happy lively lady, and oh so nice. As a little celebration we have asado, a nice treat and we get to know a new way of starting the fire. Itˋs very easy and efficient, try it out yourself!
Our second attempt of cheese making then is more successful 🙂
It is a rather long day, largely dominated by waiting hours and stirring milk.
We start with pasteurisation (milk is heated until 65°C and remains at that t° for 30min), than lower the temperature to 40°C, add the bacterias and incubate them for another hour before we add cuajo (a type of enzym) and let the milk rest again until the proteins are precipitated and can be cut into small pieces. Now the real manual labour starts: taking out the ´suero´ (whey) – some 80 litres – and replace this with the same amount of water at exactly 41°C which is then removed again, adding salt, stirring everything and than fill the plastic cups which go under a press. We finish our day at about 10:30PM, having started at 08AM. A long day but worth the while, a new and interesting experience for us.
The next day, after having woken up with a massage by an earthquake (but only a small one), the cheese is turned upside down so the pressure is devided evenly, and the pressing process can go on for some hours before we finally remove the cheeses carefully from the forms and bring them into the storage room, where they will ripe for 2-3weeks before we can savour them… 🙂
We just got used to the slow pace of life between goats and cheese when Sergio drives with us to his second campo to pick up another group of goats who stayed there for the winter.
Bringing over the group from Pecanhue turns out to be quite spectacular. Sergio rented a double-floor truck and 100 adult goats have to be packed into it. The loading of the top-floor happens in a particular way: they pull the goats up by their horns, three men for one goat, no joke.
Taking care of the new goats means a lot of additional work. They need antiparasitarian treatment, the ones without milk have to be separated and a lot of the ones with milk have inflammations on their udders (Mastitis) and have to be separated as well. Their milk canˋt be used for cheese though they need to be milked anyway, two times a day by hand to get rid of the bacterias and once again the pigs are happy…
Through the additional healthy ones our number of milkgoats in the morning increases to over 100 and all in all we are now doing more or less full working days. On top Luiz, our teacher, leaves the campo at the end of the month and the new employee who Sergio hired quits the job after six days, so we are alone to take care of all these goats by ourselves.
But slowly things get better. The two newborn ones who were rejected by their mother and whom we raised by hand are very helpful now. They suck every day a huge amount of milk from the Mastitis-goats, so itˋs less handmilking for us and thanks to this care and special treatment the number of ill goats decreases from 30 to 5 in 10 days. In parallel the daily amount of milk shoots up from some 50 to around 100 litres a day, so Sergio has to make cheese every three days at the latest 🙂
And the two ´little helpers´ grow incredibly fast with all the milk they get now, from weighing next to nothing to almost 10kg some four weeks later.
Hard times but also happy ones. We learn quite a lot and we are also proud because we manage the crisis and are able to implement a smooth daily routine once more. A good feeling!
Sergio even offers us a full-time paid job, and although itˋs not a bad offer, we decide to continue our travelling by the end of november. We want to go South (maybe even to the end of the world) and this is only possible during the summer months between december and march.
So we keep on working as we did until the last day. We watch the goats fool around, enjoy our last evenings with Sergio and the first hot summer days with some artesanal ice-cream in San Clemente, eat a lot of tasty self-made cheese and prepare mentally for the good-bye.
We leave the goats in the hands of Michael and Tara, a british couple who arrived at the end of november for a workaway-stay and whom we tried to teach everything weˋve learned by now.
We know we will be missing the goats, especially the “not-so-easy”-ones, because as always it are the troublemakers who get to ones heart 🙂
22 september upto 10 october 2014:
Arica – La Serena – Valparaiso – Santa Cruz – San Clemente
The whole North of Chile is dominated by the Atacama-desert – hot, dry, sparsely populated – and we decide to cross it by bus. After a 25-hour ride which passed by quite well (only disadvantage: on the other side of the aisle sits a 3-4 year-old boy who makes for hours a huge noise with his high voice), we get off 1500km further in La Serena, a beautiful village at the coast where we make our first friends in Chile 😉
The region is still deserted and dry since itˋs the offshoot of the Atacama, but will change during the next 1.400km which we want to cycle southwards. And Puerto Montt will only be the beginning of the Carretera Austral leading to our final destination…but this comes later.
For now there is only one way to take South, the famous Ruta Panamericana, but cycling here is no fun.
The endless up and down doesnˋt touch our cold bones anymore – but busses, trucks and cars pass by with enormous speed, itˋs very noisy and we have to spend the nights close to the road. Fences everywhere prevent access to the ground around and we feel lucky when we find a truck parking with a little bit of shelter for one evening.
On top itˋs a windy region, but this we just learn as we pass by several windmill plantations and then know why we had to fight against headwind (with some Beaufort) for two days…
Life gets easier as we reach Los Vilos, a small fishermansˋ village with a very good ambience. We find a nice hostal near the Pacific and spend two days relaxing and wandering the coastside. In the evenings we enjoy a fresh beer, sitting at the terrace, watching the sun pass away in the Pacific with the sound of the waves in the background. Not a bad way to spend one´s evening 🙂
Cycling from Los Vilos on is more interesting. 70km behind the village we can leave the busy Panamericana and vegetation changes as well. More and more green comes up, grass and small bushes, than larger plants and trees and finally, as we reach regions with sufficient humidity, masses of flowers. It´s like the whole country is maintained by a gardener who walks around and distributes flower seeds, a really amazing sight!
The only thing which remains the same are the fences everywhere. Each night itˋs difficult to find a camp place and we collect some unusual ones: the parking lot of the “Banco de Chile” where we get an unexpected visit of the police in the middle of the night and hot water for coffee from the employees in the morning; the entrance area of a big industrial complex with two guard dogs pacing around our tent; under a big tree on a meadow more or less in the center of a village with hundreds of curious views from by-passers – just to mention a few.
All the time weˋve cycled near the coast but only seldom with views of the ocean until we reach Papudo and the road becomes a real coastal road.
Up and down, cliffs and rocks to one side; waves, splashing water and seagulls to the other. From time to time we pass small old villages, but more often we see enormous private residencies and touristic appartement buildings which donˋt contribute to naturesˋ beauty but are still somewhat funny: sunny frontsides even with the luxury of lifts and shadowed backsides with stairs.
Hopefully this region wonˋt become a touristic hotspot one day, plastered with buildings, overrun with tourists in summer and ghostly abandonned in winter.
Right now itˋs spring and itˋs wonderful. Flowers blooming everywhere, thousands of birds singing, natureˋs awakening and temperature is mostly moderate with only a few colder days in between.
With Vina Del Mar and Valparaiso we reach two famous touristic cities at the chilean coastline with long, white sand beaches, but donˋt stay for more than one day. Although itˋs low season now, the cities are crowded and not to our liking, we prefer to cycle on and discover more of this green country.
Leaving the city means five km steep uphill – and the Chileans knew we were coming, followed by the biggest highway weˋve ever cycled: four lanes each direction, exit and entry lanes every few meter, itˋs a nightmare and we are glad when we can leave it some km further and return to smaller and quiter roads.
From this point on the road becomes once more a true cyclists´ dream: winding, turning, up and down, no traffic, and ever changing nature from coastal views to forest and back. It stays like this until we reach Tunquen and face the steepest uphill weˋve ever cycled: we have to push our bikes up in combined effort, one person alone can´t hold the bike. We estimate the road to be at 30-35%, at a certain point even a Pick-up was having trouble going up. No wonder there is no traffic here 😉
The weather now is like the road: ever-changing, from mist in the morning to clouded to sunny to clouded again.
In Isla Negra, again at the coast, we decide to ask at a muebleria (carpenter) if we can camp on the grass beside the shop, and as with most Chileans the first question is: how long will you be staying? We donˋt know if people think we want to spend our holidays in their gardens, but when we say it´s only overnight the owner immediately agrees 🙂
The next morning the weather turned completely to bad. We wake up to rain, a light drizzle but nevertheless…
We decide to cycle anyway, but after 16km, when halting for breakfast at Cartagena, we get talking to the woman owning the shop, and she invites us to stay in her parental house, which is empty anyway. The house has a fireplace, an old stove we can cook on and to top it of, the shower is heavenly. Hot and with sufficient water pressure, not self-evident in South America…
After an excellent night and a long breakfast talk with the owners, we start off late but take it easy, and nevertheless manage a good distance. The road is not as hilly and the wind is not present today. Since we left the Panamericana, weˋve fallen into a steady cycling rythm, nothing spectacular happens but we enjoy this quiet forwarding, the switching from coast to inland and back and the green surrounding. With San Antonio we pass the last coastal city and definitevely head inland.
On the way we see some nice infrastructure, some abandoned and some bizarre but beautiful nevertheless…
By now weˋve reached the Central valley area of Chile (although itˋs not the geographic centre) which is the most furtile area with moderate temperatures year round. We pass large vineyards and enormous orchards. Apples, plums, kiwis, cherries – all kind of fruits are cultivated here and then exported around the world. The garden of Eden, but unfortunately itˋs too early in year, otherwise we couldˋve collected half of our daily food rations fresh from the trees 😉
We make great progress and pass a lot of small villages such as Rapel, Litueche, Alcones and Marchihue. When we are near to Santa Cruz, we are stopped by two guys jumping out of a pick-up truck. One is a Chilean, Miguel, and the other one is a Spaniard (Pablo), a cyclist who was picked up on the street by Miguel and invited to stay a few days at his place.
After a bit of talking we are invited to stay as well and of course accept. The place where Miguel lives with his girlfriend and his father is an enormous agricultural property with a small nice “cabana” for visitors, which we share now with Pablo.
He travels with a small Puppet-on-a-string-theatre and a total luggage weight of 100kg! And weˋve always thought, our 30kg/person are much…
The next day we get the chance to watch one of his ˋespectaculos´ in a local primary school and itˋs great! Although we donˋt understand the whole story itˋs fun to see the kids listening and enjoying the play 🙂
Santa Cruz will stay in our memory for another reason as well. We meet another cyclist, Juan Lizana, a 73-year-old-guy, who has travelled the whole world by bicycle for more than 30 years. Watching his pictures and listening to his stories is new inspiration for our own tour. Who would have expected an encounter like this in the chilean country-side?
Behind Santa Cruz we continue cycling inland which means cycling towards the Andes and since Chile has an average width of only 160km from East to West, we can see their silhouettes coming up at the horizon fairly soon.
This sight will accompany us for the next weeks: sometimes snow-capped, sometimes hidden behind clouds – never the same and always beautiful. We pass Molina, the last bigger village on the way to San Clemente and have another unusual campplace at the backside of the local police station.
Then we are close to San Clemente, a small village near Talca where we will be doing another workaway-stopover, this time on a goat-farm.
For the last night “on the road” we find a nice meadow and enjoy a beautiful sunset, sending warm rays of sunshine over the land around us.
The greater is our surprise the next morning: winter came back overnight, once again temperature drops under zero and we have to get out of a frozen tent. The last sign of winter for a long time and luckily the sun brings back the warmth within a few hours, so we can dry the tent and stuff it away for a few weeks when we finally arrive on the goat-farm on Friday, the 11th of octubre.
It will be our home for the next weeks and working with animals will be a completely new experience, but we are looking forward to it!