I don’t really celebrate 25 of December much. Unless something great happens – I tend to celebrate something good rather than days on the calendar. Oh something amazing just happened – yeah, but it’s 22 of December, so who cares 🙁 Nothing happened at all, but it’s 25th December, lets celebrate!
What does happen here quite often is that the weather is amazing most days. And today was no exception.
So I took my bike for a bit of exploring and on purpose went to the areas I’ve never been before. Just being childishly curious – I wonder what if I take this turn to a little road or gravel path?
After one of these turns I went past a few houses in the middle of nowhere and something moved in one of the gardens. I stopped, turned around and there was a huge Ostrich looking at me.
I keep telling myself that I should really take my proper camera with me on these rides, but unfortunately only had my phone on me… Still an interesting moment and a bad picture
In the last few weeks I started to cycle more and more again. I can stay inside with my laptop for days, but I also have this strong feeling about exploring being outside, doing exercise.
And it started to snow here in Patagonia! Coyhaique is covered in snow. Another incentive to go for a ride. The good thing is that even if it is snowing, the temperatures are not very low. No ice under the snow. Enough grip for my massive WTB tyres. You can feel a slide here and there sometimes. But it is nothing like you get on a muddy cyclocross race in late autumn in England. Oh an the tyre on CX bike is probably half the width than on Genesis Longitude.
So that is what I did – went out on “The Tank” and enjoyed Patagonian winter.
Side note on WTB Trailblazer 2.8 tyres on WTB sti wheels. They are tubeless and filled with Stans no tubes sealant. The last time I remember using the pump was in January – exactly 6 months ago. And I only did that because I was using lower pressure for gravel road crossing from Chile into Argentina. After that the road was smooth tarmac again I decided to go with the higher pressure.
It feels so good to have my first haircut since February! I went to hairdresser recommended by people who lived here when I first arrived to this hostel in Coyhaique. That is in Patagonia. Which is in Chile. And is stunningly beautiful place.
So I was on my daily exercise walk – take some big plastic bottles filled with water, stick them into a backpack, put your face mask on and go for a walk! Believe it is not easy when you are in Patagonia – it is never flat!
On the way back I saw that the hairdressers/barber place was open! And at the end of May it is like flashing lights when the last time you had your haircut was in February…
I just said – make me guapo. And that’s the only word the lady understood 😂 She and all other people waiting were laughing 😂 Nobody was afraid that I am foreign. Laughing, smiling and asking me things on translation app where the fuck that Lithuania is and what language people speak there!
I am still far from guapo, but I look a bit like a human now 🙂
I was hearing from friends and relatives about this THING spreading in Europe. Here in Chile it was still quite calm – people are more worried about recent protests than some virus. Patagonia being one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world felt safe place to be. Very limited access with the only Chilean land access being Route 7 or better known as South road, Carretera Austral. Argentinian authorities closed borders with neighboring countries, including Chile very quickly.
When I arrived to the place I booked earlier the news were already in but opposite to European madness things were still very calm here. No shortage of toilet paper.
Warm welcome by the owners. The place is very nice. And then they show me around a massive kitchen that I can use. Ran to a little supermarket nearby and got going with some cooking. Nothing special, just warm food with about a billion calories! That’s what I need!
In the only other non empty room at the place was staying an English/American cycling couple. I met them at the breakfast. They were a little stressed as they both had cold – not what you want when you are foreign tourist and local media is shouting that there is deadly disease coming from abroad… They took the first available bus to Coyhaique and then flew from Balmaceda airport.
Before South American trip I was a little worried about abundance of stray dogs in Chile. I visited the country before and was a little surprised by the number of dogs on the streets anywhere outside Santiago. They are everywhere!
I was preparing mentaly and physically to meet them on my travel. By physically I mean I went to a pet shop and bought some dog threats 🙂
But I was nicely surprised how stray dogs really do not care about you most of the time. Ok, when the sun starts going down they become more scared and some start chasing you, but during the day they just lay by the side of the road and ignore you.
The further I went on my trip the more often I realised that my bike attracts lots of very friendly dogs. And then it hit me – I have these nice and smelly dog treats in my Apidura food pouch! I am sure it is impossible to a dog, especialy a hungry dog not to smell them, so like in Puerto Varas, my bike was always guarded by a few local friends 🙂
Today I was very late to pick up my clothes and backpack and everything else washable from a laundry in Panguipulli. Great service, but price close to England! It’s ok – according to people at the reception of my holiday home I was staying, it was maybe the only place in town. After that had a long phone call with the family while was waiting for someone to serve me Restaurant y pizzeria Florencia.
When I was finishing that nice steak a family of four walked past. The father said something in spanish to his teenage son pointing at my fully loaded bike. They all had a chat and decided to stay at the same restaurant. The man kept looking at my bike and then again saying something to his son. After a while he turned to me and said something in Spanish. I replied with my usual “poco español”. He thought for a few moments and then pointing to my Gensis Longitude said in in English – it’s my dream! I did’t know what should I say back and just answered what I thought was a very honest answer – Just do it! (Nike should pay me something for that, come on!) The man made this very sad face as we all do when we are kids and pointed his finger at his wife. We all started laughing, including the wife 🙂 The kids could speak quite a good english so them being translators we had a good chat about bike touring and where I’m planning to go next.
After the steep gravel bits were behind me I started to enjoy great weather, the views of beautiful Calle-Calle river and finally a smooth tarmac.
My destination was Los Lagos. Cycling friends who went the opposite way and whom I met in Valdivia told me that Los Lagos was just an ugly grim place with not many shops or places to sleep. Not what I was expecting. There are two different things – what you read on the Internet and what is real! On the Internet it wasn’t looking that bad! I was carrying my tent – they did not, so I felt safe. But they were right. The place was ugly. Probably still is. The guy from AirBnB texted me telling that there was as mistake and there is already someone staying in the room I booked. Nice. I asked if he knows any nearby campsites. Nope. But he said I can camp in his garden. Good option as it was already starting to get dark. Then I had to stop at the temporary traffic lights because of some bridge repairs. On the intersection of three major roads. Stuck in traffic on a bicycle FFS! People were out of their cars, walking around, chatting. Since I was going opposite direction some asked how long is this jam. About 5km according to my Garmin eTrex 30 GPS… Then further into the madness I saw a little car flashing lights. I stopped. It was the guy from AirBnB. He was waiting in that queue trying to find me. We loaded all my heavy bags into his little car. But there was no room for my bicycle. He told me it’s only a couple kilometers and he will leave his car on the side of the road so it is easier for me to find the place. Such a relief – I have a place to camp and I do not have to carry anything on my bicycle. My heavy bicycle felt like a Formula 1 car! Then suddenly another car is flashing lights. I stop – hey! Es mi amigo. This time with a big pickup truck! He put my Genesis into the back of his pickup, pointed to me to get in and just shouted – vamos!
The owner showed me a grass pitch in his garden and asked if it’s good enough. Then left and came back with a light so it would be easier for me to pitch the tent, gave instructions for the next day and left.
As soon as the tent was up a curious little dog came out of nowhere to check who is that stranger 🙂 Looks like everyone in Chile has at least one, especially in rural areas.
Since I booked my flight from Santiago to Valdivia some time ago it was supposed to be an easy relaxing day. It was not. I woke up a little late after going to Club 23 bar the night before. And I maybe had one cocktail too many. No, I think I didn’t. But that was fine as it was planned. First thing after I woke up was trying to pack the bike. When you know you only got enough stuff to carry on the bike you don’t stress about that much. It doesn’t take too much time.
I took the box outside and started disassembling the bike. The man came to watch. We had a chat. An American. In a dessert camo clothes. You could tell from the army. Flew back last night from Afghanistan. Used to do bike touring himself in “young days” and was impressed with the size of WTB Trailbrazer 28 tyres. By the time I finished packing the bike his friend arrived and they left. Apparently his hotels are paid for him and he was leaving for a little more posh option.
As my friend suggested I ordered the more expensive version of Cabify for the trip to the airport as they normally have bigger cars. Yep, the car was easily big enough and only about 28000 pesos. Really good price for the journey. I paid about twice the opposite direction. The catch – neither Cabify nor Uber(I think Uber is illegal in Santiago, but apparently still exist) allowed to drop you off at the airport drop off place. I only know this because the diver spoke to my phone while waiting in a traffic jam. And the phone tried to translate it.
So a bus ride to the airport from somewhere I don’t know. I didn’t know how much is going to cost.
Luckily the bus was free – I was dropped at the official airport car park. Cabify driver helped to take THE BOX onto the bus. Then while already driving on a tight corner the box hit some other passenger, but he was ok. Just grumpy.
A little late at the airport, but it’s fine it is a domestic flight. The girl at SKY counter asked me to put me the box on the scales… and boy I was happy that they didn’t weight back home at Heathrow! Paid some $$ for exes weight. Went trough security with almost no trouble – they always stop me because of the laptop, cameras, chargers, batteries and amount of cables I carry.
And so I was sitting on the floor at gate 28 of Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport. Or Santiago International Airport. Finally relaxed. With a beer that had my destination written on it 🙂
Top tip – don’t worry that Valdivia airport is more that 35km away from actual Valdivia. At the airport there are so many taxi services competing. With extra charge for my bike box I paid 18000 🙂
The hostel I was staying in Santiago has some bicycles that are free to use for those staying there. Wasn’t sure about them being single speed, but decided to give one a go anyway.
All paperwork sorted – there was a fair bit, deposit paid. I added my Garmin and bottle cage as you have to drink a bit when there’s 30 degrees outside and you are cycling. And the I went to explore a bit of Santiago. No direction, no route planned. Just going the opposite direction from the famous Plaza Baquedano as told by the locals.
I don’t think I ever ridden a bike with such skinny tyres – maybe 20mm max maybe even less 🙂 I was worried to get pinch flats all the time, but roads and especially cycling paths in Santiago are quite good so I was fine.
One thing for sure, in Santiago, and I image the rest of the Chile you probably need more than one gear to really enjoy it.
Just a couple of pictures of me testing my brand new, ok, ex-demo Genesis Longitude. It is a tank! I’ll write a bit more about it later, but here is what I did on a second day owning this great go-anywhere bike.
In fact 3 weeks later.
The bike is on the plane on the way to Santiago, Chile.