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CHILE - 1324KM

                     

 

wool country

My rented backpack

The start

Camping in the snow

Lake views

Mate, the drink of choice around here, (a kind of herbal tea) the cup it's shared with everyone in close proximity

We sailed passed the huge and spectacular Glacier Amalia, and although it was bitterly cold I ventured outside for a picture or 2.

The party is over, and its time to get back on the bike.

Street art in Chile

Following the Pan-American Highway north to Santiago

The local horse butchery

Horse meat seems fairly popular around here.

2 December - Rio Grande – San Sebastian (and by car to Punta Arenas) - 38km 

That morning the wind looked a lot less fierce than the previous day. I packed in a hurry and was out the gate as soon as possible, but to my horror the wind was no less violent than the previous day. I was battered by that wind kilometer after kilometer, and each turn of the pedal was an achievement in itself!  The wind, however, blows in gusts and every so often I got blow off the road and had to get off the bike, push it back onto the road and try again. Worse was that it also blew me into the road, which was rather narrow and even although the drivers were very courteous it was still nerve racking. It was still freezing cold and soon it started hailing!!  A friendly truck driver stopped and gave me a lift to San Sebastian. With renewed energy I set off again. The border crossing between Argentina and Chile is quite low key but still took a while before all was checked and cleared. This is also the end of the tarred road and from there on it was a dirt road. That was about as much as I could take. I felt rather sorry for myself pushing my bike (in high wind) along this desolate stretch.

 

So I weakened and when a friendly Chilean driver stopped and offered me a lift all the way to Punta Arenas, I got in and was grateful for the warmth and safety of the car. The people here are so incredibly friendly, I’ll have to watch out or I’ll be given lifts all the way through Patagonia!!  (Although it may be the only way I’m going the get through it).

  

3/4 December - Punta Arenas 

I camped at Hospedaje Independencia, easily the cheapest accommodation in town and therefore full of backpackers from all over. Much of this region once belonged to one person namely Jose Menendez, wool baron of his time. Even today it is still a sheep country and wool and lamb is big in this area.

 

Francois (one of the cyclists who I met at the Hostel Argentino in Rio Grande) also arrived by bus and it was like meeting an old friend. The weather station put out an alert for high winds in the area (according to them over 100/120km per hour) so there and then I decided to stay put and check the weather out the next day.

  

5 December - Punta Arenas – Puerto Natales - 21km (and the rest by bus)

 The weather looked really good and after a slow start I decided to cycle along, but once again I only cleared the city limits (about 10km) and the wind hit me with full force. I truly don’t know how people do this. I’m just too scared. I turned around and flew back, down-wind into the city centre again.

 

From there I took the bus to Puerto Natales, as I had already arranged with Yutta and Francois to do some trekking once in Puerto Natales. Even the bus seemed to have great difficulty in staying in the road. What an unforgiving area this is. The plains are rather barren, treeless and windswept. Every now and again there was a lonely and forlorne looking estancia, some even deserted. Once in Puerto Natales I found some good camping in Josmar Hostel with a nice protected campground and restaurant.

  

6 December - Puerto Natales 

I met up with Francois and Yutta again. The day flew by as we prepared for our 8-day Torres Del Paine trek. I rented a bag and walking sticks from the local shop and stocked up on some food stuff. The bag was rather heavy and I wondered if I’d even make the first few km (and that was even before I packed the wine). Just the very essential stuff like tent, sleeping bag, food and warm clothes was already a lot of stuff to carry.

  

7 December - Torres Del Paine - Las Torres – Campamento Seron

Things were rather well organized to get to the Torres Del Paine National Park. Francois, Yutta and I   grabbed a 7.30 bus to the park and then a small minibus to Hotel Las Torres, where we started our first day’s hike - a short and easy walk. I heaved up my heavy pack and we strolled off to our first camp site. We had lovely views of the snowy mountains and lakes nearly all the way. Our first campsite was a bit exposed to the elements and of course the wind blew like it can only blow in Patagonia. We managed to cook some food and I was quite sure that I was going to lose my tent during the night.

  

8 December - Torres Del Paine - Campamento Seron – Refugio Dickson

I woke to fairly sore ankles but paid no attention to it as little aches and pains normally come with the territory. We packed at leisure and then ambled along to our second campsite. Again it was a short and easy day, which I was happy about as it started raining and it drizzled all day. By the time we reached Refugio Dickson we were wet and cold, my ankles were throbbing and I found it quite difficult to walk. Dickson is, however, one of the nicest camping areas on the trek, and has a lovely Refugio with a fireplace, communal sitting area, coffee, tea - and one can even order food. Well you can just imagine all the wet and cold bodies (and boots) huddled around a small fireplace.

 

Outside it was bitterly cold, I dressed in all I had to ward off the cold, but nothing seemed to work. Soon it started snowing and turned the entire landscape around me a brilliant white. Falling snow is quite a novelty to me, but it was not as romantic as I imagined, instead it was just freezing cold. I thought my poor tent was going to collapse under the weight.

  

9 December - Torres Del Paine - Refugio Dickson – Campamento Los Perros 

Once again we were very slow at packing up. We knew it would be a short walk to our next camp and as there were rumors that it was even colder there, we only left at around 12h00. Although I’d tried to ignore the pain earlier, by now I was really struggling with my ankles and feet (too late now to think that I should have stayed an extra day at Dickson). The walk however, offered stunning views of the glaciers and surrounding mountains. I was going slower and slower, François walked with me as I crawled along at a snail’s pace. I wobbled along, and aided by my two walking poles I dragged myself to camp. I felt bad that I was holding up Francois and Yutta, but there was little I could do. It was bitterly cold by the time we arrived at camp and I knew that I should get my tent up as soon as possible.

 

People are just so incredible, all offering pain killers and lotions. I, however, knew that there was no way I could even think of crossing the pass in the morning. I understood that the pass was a steep climb of about 1 000m in deep snow and that it was at least a 6-hour walk to the next camp.

  

10 December - Torres Del Paine - Campamento Los Perros 

I was virtually stuck inside my tent and could not move!  My ankles and feet were so sore that I could place no weight on them at all. The slightest bit of pressure sent shock waves of pain through me. I waved Francois and Yutta good-bye and then had to think about how to get out of where I was. I understood that one could get a horse, but with no command of the Spanish language I felt lost and very sorry for myself. Eventually I understood that I could not get a horse there at Los Perros, but had to walk back to Dickson and maybe I could arrange something there. Just how I was going to achieve that, I did not know, as I found it quite impossible just to stand up.

 

Later that day a group of British horse riders arrived, and it was good to hear a language I could understand. The guide came to my tent and offered to take my backpack back to Dickson, if I thought I could make it there by foot.

  

11 December - Torres Del Paine - Campamento Los Perros – Refugio Dickson 

I soon discovered that two of the horse riders were South African doctors, now working in London. True to nature they had a fair amount of medicine with them and offered me some painkillers. Thanks to them, I could at least get out of the tent on could stand on my feet. I waited for the tablets to kick in and then, aided by my walking poles, shuffled back along the path. This was not only embarrassing but also very painful. I kept on telling myself “it’s only pain” but it did not work for me!! Even my usual motto of “even this will pass” was empty words that did not convince me one bit. I knew that I was not doing my ankles and feet a favour by walking back but what can one do?? 

 

I was very proud of myself for making it all the way back to Dickson. Once there I found 3 other trekkers waiting for horses. I pitched my tent and did all the necessary things, like filling up with water etc, etc, as I knew that once I sit down there was no getting up again - I had to keep on moving until everything was done. Exhausted I flopped into my tent.

 

Soon a storm wind picked up and I desperately had to get outside to secure my tent ropes. All I could do was to crawl on all fours around the tent and hammer in the pegs and tighten the ropes!  What a sight that must have been. Still I was not sure that the tent would hold up in such a strong wind. So I sat with my back against the side where the wind mostly came from, it blew so strong that I could hardly hold it up, even leaning against the side with all my weight.

  

12 December - Torres Del Paine - The “rescue” 

Early morning, and quite unexpectedly I was told that a horse has been arranged for me. The horse was however on the other side of the river. I took my last 4 painkillers, waited a while, and then tried to pack up. It felt that the tablets had no impact on the pain. I tried my utmost to pack my bag and tent in the high winds. Eventually the camp owner came to help and I set off towards the river. The wind was blowing so strong that one could hardly stand; driven by the wind the river was a torrent. The oarsmen of the boat which was to take me across the river could not get the boat hooked up to the cable which was already spanned across the river. In the meantime the ranger with horse was waiting on the other side!  Eventually everyone gave up, and we headed back to the Refugio. We had a hearty lunch after which the men went to check on the conditions of the river and the wind.

 

Eventually the boat got hooked up, they loaded me and backpack into boat and we made it across, by literally pulling the boat along the cable. Getting out of the boat, across the rocks, and onto the other bank must have been quite a spectacle. Eventually I could meet up with the very patient ranger and my horse - I later discovered that he was the most experienced and longest serving ranger in the park. Then I was heaved onto the horse by strong hands and off we went!!   In the process I was lucky to see an isolated part of the park as we followed one of the horse trails. After about 2 hours (and by now also with sore backside) we arrived at a small road where an off-road vehicle waited!!  I had no idea it was going to be such a mission. With a most skillful driver I set off on a very exciting ride through the park. The jeep track went up over mountains, through rivers and marshlands and past some of the most stunning scenery the park can offer. What an adventure I had, albeit a bit uncalled for.

 

Arriving at the main gate of the park I found an ambulance waiting!!!!  How embarrassing, well they loaded me in and took me all the way to Puerto Natales Hospital. At the hospital x-rays were taken, feet examined and I was declared fit and healthy except for pulled ligaments and tendonitis. Although the doctor indicated that my injuries will take 3 weeks to heal I paid little attention to it, and was sure I’d be up and running within a day or two. I had the luxury of an intravenous painkiller but as far as I could figure it did absolutely zilch for me!! So it was 11h00pm by the time I look the taxi for the short distance to the hostel. Finally I could rest my weary feet. Total cost US$470!!!!!   

 

13/25 December - Puerto Natales 

All was not well as yet!  I still needed the medication from the pharmacy and had to ask one of the staff at the hostel to get it for me. At least I shuffled along and had a much needed shower. Thank goodness for my laptop!  At least I could sit in my room and type up my adventure. To be quite honest with myself, I very much suspect that the problem was due to a lack of walking. After nearly 4 years on the bike, my ankles are not very strong. So all in all, it was my own fault for once again thinking that I can do more than the body was capable of!!! 

 

Both Yutta and François arrived back from their hike and both had a great time, needless to say I was very envois of them.

 

I waited for the ankles to improve, but it was slow in healing itself so I helped it along with some anti inflammatories, just so I could go to the bank and do some shopping. Day after day I waited but progress seemed dreadfully slow. Daily I shuffled to the supermarket, a painful exercise at snails pace. My friends all moved on and still I waited. I could not believe, that a simple ankle injury takes that long to heal. I was bored and desperately wanted to get on the road. I however had the bad news that tendonitis takes 3-6 weeks to heal!!!  This was not what I wanted to hear. There are unfortunately certain things in life that one can to pretty little about. This was one of those situations so I waited!!

 

Morning after morning I woke with great anticipation just to find that there was little difference since the day before. I was close to despair, bored stiff, and with virtually nobody to talk to I even started wishing that I could cycle into the wind.

 

The hostel where I stayed turned out to be a favorite among young  Israeli travelers, and they arrived in their hordes. They seem to favor South America as a travel destination and move in packs – you seldom see one travelling alone. They therefore have little need for other conversation and stick very much together, speaking Hebrew – so that lot was of no benefit to me as I impatiently waited.

 

And I waited … And I waited … And I waited!!!!

  

26 December - Puerto Natales 

At last if felt as though my injuries were on the mend and I could at least walk around with less pain than before. That evening Ernest arrived from the North looking rather haggard from weeks of battling the wind and the harsh conditions along the Carretera Austral in Chile, and the infamous Route 40 in Argentina. There was a lot to catch up on since I’d left him in Melbourne 2 months earlier, so we talked until late in the night. 

 

27 December - Puerto Natales 

That morning we went to the ticket office in order to find out about the Navimag Ferry which sails between Puerto Natales and Puerto Montt  to the North – apparently a spectacular 3-day voyage via the channels and fjords. We discovered that this weekly ferry sailed that very evening and there was a cabin available for us – so a quick decision was made to take the ferry, something which I secretly had my eye on for a long time. Although it was quite expensive, it included 4 nights and 3 full days of sailing plus all meals. It would also give my feet 3 more days rest, and it would get me out of the fierce Patagonian wind and cold conditions (I hoped).

 

An odd thing is that we had to board the ferry at 21h00, but it only left at 4h00 the next morning. I was as excited as a child just to be on the move again. Shortly after 21h00 we settled into our cabin on the Navimag ship “Evangelistos”, and although our cabin had 4 berths we were lucky to be the only two occupants.

  

28 December - Puerto Natales – Puerto Montt - Day 1 

Early morning we sailed, and by 6 AM the ship was maneuvering through narrow passages and fjords. Snow-covered jagged peaks surrounded us and a fierce wind whistled by, so I was happy to watch the spectacle through the cabin window.

 

That afternoon we passed the huge and spectacular Glacier Amalia, and although it was bitterly cold I ventured outside for a picture or 2. The scenery was impressive with thousands of uninhabited islands, snowy mountain peaks and icy looking glaciers in the distance.

 

We’d already had 2 good meals that day, and at supper I discovered that I could request a vegetarian main course instead of the usual fish/meat/chicken – so I had a very tasty vegetable stew and rice which came with a small side salad.

  

29 December - Puerto Natales – Puerto Montt - Day 2 

Breakfast like the previous day consisted of bread porridge/eggs, cheese, ham, fruit, yogurt, cereal, juice and coffee. Not bad for 2 homeless people!  All the meals have been excellent so far, with enough tasty food to go around. Through a narrow channel we passed the shrine on a small island which is the Guiding Spirit of all sailors, and we also passed an “insurance scam” floating shipwreck before heading out of the channels into the rolling swells of the Pacific Ocean (time to take the anti-seasickness tablets). Although the dinner was good as usual, I noticed that there were less passengers at the meal, and it was fairly tricky to balance your food tray on the way to the table. At least we were rocked to sleep that night.

 

30 December - Puerto Natales – Puerto Montt - Day 3 

Some of the passengers still seemed a bit “green around the gills”, but we again enjoyed our breakfast (proof that the seasickness tabs work). By mid-day we were back in the channels again and sailed smoothly along without having to cling onto every conceivable thing like tables, chairs, and especially railings. The early morning fog burned off and brought excellent views of the Southern Andes Mountains with its jagged peaks and snowy volcanoes. For the first time we had calm sailing and sun at the same time, and the upper deck outside the bar/lounge was very popular that afternoon (by evening some of the paler passengers resembled well-cooked crayfish).

 

Once again at dinner time we stuffed ourselves in the dining room, and as any good ship will have it there was a little bit of a party on our final night.

 

31 December - Puerto Montt 

We docked at Puerto Montt during the wee hours of the morning, and by the time I woke up most of the trucks had already left the cargo decks below. We enjoyed our final fancy breakfast and then it was time to pack the bikes and disembark to continue with our normal lives.

 

We took a short cycle to the city centre where we booked into the hospedaje where Ernest previously stayed on his way South. In the typical Chilean style it was a rickety triple-storey shingle clad home with lace curtains and wooden display cabinets housing all kinds of family heirlooms. I felt that I had finally arrived in Chile proper. The elderly owner of the place is also quite an interesting character (he’s owned that place – simply named B&B – for the past 40 years).

 

That evening we walked out in search of some excitement, but found that most restaurants and bars in the city were closed and everyone seemed to party at home in the suburbs. However, there were spectacular midnight fireworks at the pier, and our host invited us downstairs for a drink where his family and friends were partying.

  

1 – 2 January - Puerto Montt 

We stayed in Puerto Montt for the next 2 days, waiting for my ankles to heal. I lay watching TV while Ernest proceeded to polish off 2 bottles of whisky and a case of beer!

 

The weather in Puerto Montt was relatively mild and I was happy to be out of Patagonia. So all in all Patagonia was not as scenic as it sounded, all I remember is a ferocious wind and a hike that went wrong.

 

That afternoon a fairly strong earthquake hit Chile, fortunately it was quite far north and we only felt a moderate trembling. Our rickety accommodation where we stayed swayed from side to side but fortunately no damage was done.

 

3 January - Puerto Montt – Puerto Veras - 20km 

At last I felt that we could give the cycling a try and we cycled the short distance to picturesque Puerto Veras with its strong German influence. What a touristy place it was, I guess that picturesque places like that will always come with the hordes of backpackers, fancy hotels and pricy restaurants. Unfortunately it was overcast and drizzling so we did not see the famed volcanoes from across the lake.

 

At least my ankles held out and I felt a bit more confidant to continue north. Walking was still causing a lot of discomfort but at least it appeared that I could cycle.

 

4 January - Puerto Varas – Frutillar - 43km 

We cycled along to the next village along the lake, looking for a campsite on the lake, but could not find any. We did however find a lovely campsite in someone’s garden and camped under a cherry tree. I was happy that a second day on the road went well without any aches or pains.

 

5 January - Frutillar – Osorno - 70km 

I could not wish for a better start to my recovery cycle. The road was excellent, with a wide shoulder, a tailwind and it was a beautiful sunny day. For the first time in a very long while I could cycle with short sleeves, and could appreciate the countryside. Needless to say I was very happy.

 

We even found excellent accommodation in Osorno. Right in the town centre and with ground floor, outside rooms, TV and hot showers. I could not ask for more.

 

6 January - Osorno – Los Lagos - 95km 

It was another perfect day on the road as we followed the Pan-American Highway North. The weather was warm, a slight tailwind and excellent scenery past forested areas. We turned off the highway to the small and very un-touristy village of Los Lagos. We found some rickety accommodation in centre of the village, more a homestay than a guesthouse.

 

7 January - Osorno – Loncoche - 84km

One of the best days one can have on a bike. The weather was warm; the road was good, gently undulating, past forestry areas and all this with a gentle tailwind. I was truly happy to be out on the road. We stopped at a roadside stall to pick up some cheese, something that seems to be quite popular around here. We pulled into the small village of Loncoche and found an excellent room in town (outside & ground floor). Ernest went off to the supermarket and came back with a bag full of salad stuff. He then proceeded to make an awesome noodle salad and I stuffed myself before crawling into bed.

 

8/9 January - Loncoche – Temuco - 88km

I could not believe my luck as it was another perfect day - clear skies, sunshine and no head wind. I knew my bad luck had to change some time. We pedalled along at leisure until we reached Temuco, quite a large town. After looking around a bit, we again found an outside ground floor room, something that I always prefer to being cooped up in a 3rd floor room with no outside windows.

 

We also stayed the following day, did some laundry and some internet. A walk to the interesting local market brought us again to the cheese sellers, fruit, fish, and meat vendors, and also to the local horse butcheries - something that appears to be quite popular around here.

 

10 January - Temuco – Collipulli - 102km

It was another excellent day on the road, although we had a bit of a head wind in the afternoon. We had to use a lot of sunscreen cream as the time in the cold South has clearly softened us up. It was so nice to be in hot weather without a howling wind. We pulled into the fairly small town of Collipulli. I just love these small villages where people go about their lives without the tourist influence. Each town has a park/plaza in the town centre, and colorful wooden houses. We found a room in the centre at a very reasonable price and just chilled out for the rest of the evening.

 

11 January - Collipulli – Los Angles - 77km

Blue skies abound and the sun was out as we biked along the Pan Americana highway (Route 5) north. As in the previous days there were plenty of small stalls along the road, mostly frequented by the truck drivers. There were a few hilly sections, as we crossed a number of large rivers along the way.

 

Soon we reached Los Angeles and turned off the highway to inspect. Not to be confused with the Los Angeles in USA, this is an agricultural town, but also close to a National Park and therefore a jumping board for those wanting to visit the park. This region was hard hit by the severe earthquake a year ago, and the town is still busy recovering from the disaster – rebuilding is in the progress, and many buildings are still in ruins. We found a room, and could pick up BBC on TV – I don’t seem to have missed a lot, in fact it is sometimes amusing to see what is considered to be World News!

 

12/13 January - Los Angeles - Chillan - 113km

We made some sandwiches for the road and set off at 11h00, nothing unusual in this part of the world as people go to bed rather late and only get going at around 10h00. Ernest spotted a welding shop on our way out of town and quickly had his bike's front rack repaired - it broke along the infamous Ruta 40 when he was being blown over on the gravel roads. It was nice to cycle in warm weather for a change and we even looked for shade when we wanted to rest.

 

Chillan was interesting as it had an old city with cobblestone roads and is also the birthplace of Bernardo O'Higgins who is regarded as the liberator of Chile.

 

We found Chillan rather interesting with many squares and parks; in fact it was so nice that we even stayed the next day. The town had a nice Town Centre with a mall and plenty of shops and interesting roadside cafes. There are also some very interesting churches near the town centre.

 

Chillan was partially destroyed by earthquakes in 1742 and 1928, and sits near the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake (magnitude 8.8) which again caused severe damage. The damage is still quite visible and our accommodation was slanting at such a degree that we thought we might just roll out the door.

 

14 January - Chillan - Linares - 109km

Again we only left after 11h00, heading north on the Pan American highway. We turned off for Linares and found a little cycle path between the two lanes heading in and out of the town. Again the town surprised me with all its old buildings; unfortunately most are still off limits due to the earthquake of Feb 2010. Close to the town square is the Cathedral Church of San Ambrosio de Linares, one of the nicest buildings in town.

 

We found some nice affordable accommodation (with cable TV), we could store the bikes in a spare room and, as usual, Ernest lit his petrol stove and cooked some pasta in the bathroom.

 

15 January - Linares - Talca - 56km

For the first time in a long while we had a slight headwind. We felt rather lazy and turned off for Talca. Talca is a university town in a wine region and that sounded pretty good to me. Unfortunately we found Talca to be badly damaged from the Feb 2010 earthquake and all the cheap accommodation in the older areas that we'd heard about was destroyed - there were mostly just empty lots where these hostels had stood. It's rather shocking to see such devastation.

 

We took a walk to the local Santa Isabel supermarket (which you get in every town) to get some supplies for supper and for the road the next day.

 

16 January - Talca - Curico - 73km

We left at 10.30 with a nice tail wind, but it was not long before we heard a loud bang, which was Ernest's back tire having a blowout. He fixed it rather quickly and we were on our way again. This was Wine County and we cycled past many a wine farm which very much resembled those at home in the Western Cape. Once we reached Curico we found the very pleasant Hotel Prat - with a kitchen for guest use, and outside ground floor rooms which is always a convenience as we can park the bikes outside the door.

 

The town was destroyed by an earthquake in 1928 and rebuilt during the following year. As is the case with the other towns in the area, Curico was once again badly damaged in the February 2010 earthquake. The Plaza de Armas (the main square) is most likely the most visited place because of its trees and plants, as well as the historic bandstand.

 

In summer around this area the sun only sets after 9pm and it only gets dark at around 10pm, which makes it a fairly long day - no wonder people have such a long siesta in the afternoon. Shops could be closed anything from 12 - 4pm!!

 

17 January - Curico - Rancangua - 112km

As usual we left after 11h00; it was fairly hot with a slight tailwind, what a pleasure!  Vineyards stretched as far as the eye could see, always with the ever present Andes to the East. We stopped a few times for a cool drink and soon reached Rancagua. I did not expect much of the town, but was once again pleasantly surprised. Rancagua has a historic section with loads of old houses. It is quite a big and busy place with a very pleasant town square known as Plaza of the Heroes, and is the place where the Battle of Rancagua took place (also referred to as the disaster of Rancagua because O'Higgins and his army had to beat a hasty retreat and hide in the nearby caves).

 

18/23 January - Rancagua - Santiago - 92km

Santiago (population about 6 million) was one of the easiest cities I've had to cycle into. Once we got onto the local road, which runs next to the highway, it was straight into the city center. Ernest knew exactly where to go, so we headed straight for the Hostel Chile Inn - where he'd stayed a couple of months earlier before cycling South. It was located in Bario Brazil district close to the City Centre and within easy walking distance of almost everything. Of course, you don't have to walk because the underground metro railway station was about 100 m from the door and could take you almost anywhere in the city at a fairly cheap rate (we made good use of that).

 

The hostel was one of the many old 3-storey buildings in the area with high ceilings and large rooms (former grand homes with an upper deck and ground floor courtyard). The staff were really friendly and we even got invited to a free barbeque on the deck (after all, we were like locals as we stayed there a full week). We danced the Macarena till the wee hours of the morning together with the staff and a wild mixture of guests (Italians, Germans, Brasilians, Venesuelans, Mexicans, and of course Chileans from other areas).

 

We spent a few days wondering around town, enjoying the novelty of taking the underground around the city the funicular up the San Cristobal hill to the statue of the Virgin Mary which offers panoramic views of this vast and pleasant city. My laptop gave endless trouble and I handed it in to be fixed but once I got it back I discovered it was still not working. On the Friday afternoon I took it in to a proper repair shop, and could only get it back on Monday pm, the 24th.

 

24 January - Santiago - (continued)

I finally got my laptop back but then it only spoke Spanish, at least it was working again. I shopped for some essential stuff (i.e. nail varnish) and other stuff and was ready to leave.

 

25 January - Santiago - Los Andes - 81km (+3km through tunnel)

At last we were on our way again. The scenery changed as soon as we left on our way North, and quickly became very desert like. It was boiling hot as we followed the road north to Los Andes via a good old climb up the mountain. After about 55km we reached a tunnel where we were not allowed to pass through on our bikes due to the tunnel being very narrow. The people from the tunnel/highway company quickly loaded us up and took us through the tunnel with their pickup truck. Then it was a pleasant short downhill run to Los Andes valley. We carried on until we saw a small roadside stall with nice lawns, and upon enquiry we found out that they had a campground out back - they also sold homemade bread so that's where we stayed for the night.

 

26 January - Los Andes - Road side camping - 50km

We packed up at leisure and as could be expected the road was mostly uphill. Our pace was rather slow and we stopped numerous times to take photos and drink some water. We camped up on the hill above an emergency truck stop with good views of the surrounding mountains. The adjacent cascading stream from the snowy mountains provided fresh water. We stopped there a bit early, but we passed the time and Ernest had a wash in the icy cold river (without anything to drink!). While we were having supper a jackal came wandering past, and soon it was pitch dark and a zillion stars lit the sky.

 

                                                                                  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   


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