Down to two. Just a pair of dirty, up to no good, strange looking in any country guys left. Kanaan and Andrew, the Bash Bros. This wasn’t our first time entering a country as just two punks. The other time was going from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, and it went a bit better. Not to say this one went bad, just… not as good. When you’ve had the awesome life that we have had for over a year and a half, it’s easy to find things to nag about. Like having to both go into a private customs office together while leaving our bikes unattended as everyone else goes to the public windows. Or having to fill out the exit form for Argentina twice because we had to throw the first one away when they wouldn’t believe that our middle names weren’t part of our first names. Or the entry stamp to Chile being on a page that’s already full in our passports and not dark enough to read. We’ll see if that works out down the road when we try to re-enter Argentina further south.
That’s all the whining we’ll do for now, we realize our lives are a dream come true. And if we didn’t, the downhill from the border definitely reminded us! We were at the top of an immense valley surrounded by massive snow-capped mountains, known as the Andes, looking down on a constant flow of about 20 switchbacks. We start our descent. This is why we climbed for three straight days against headwinds. The top is cold but soon we find ourselves shedding layers, pausing to take in the scene. We continue flowing down the non-stop switchbacks. Because we were on bikes, we were allowed to pass a line of cars and trucks, about a kilometer long, all waiting for the go ahead from the construction workers. The road is ours, 6 kilometers of incredible non-stop switchbacks, all to ourselves!
Other than the cat calls from the road crews (how degrading) nothing interrupts our exhilarating descent except our own hollers and cheers. When we switch the last of the backs we’re nothing but smiles and laughs. Luckily there’s another surprise in store for us. The downhill continues for another 30 kilometers! Then another easy 30 k’s to Los Andes.
After putting in so much work to get over the epic height of the mountain range it was good to get the paycheck, finally making some distance. In the Jumbo Supermarket we found things to make the day even better, things we haven’t seen for several countries, some maybe since Mexico. Tortillas, salsa, peanut butter, refried beans, and one of our favorite fruits: chirimoya. After getting a few stats on what lies ahead from a curious taxi driver and some new fancy cash money from the ATM we headed to the centro for lunch and a siesta. The weather was still much warmer than the warmest day Juneau has ever seen, but it was a good time with different scenery than we’ve seen. The mountain sides were covered from one end to the next with crops of grapes for winemaking. We know this kind of stuff after graduating from the Mendoza Ashley & Shane Academy of Wine Professionalism for Rookies (read the last blog). Anyway, as the sun decided it was done for the day we were riding past a cool looking town, Llay Llay. With a name like that, how could we not stay?!
The next day was filled mostly with anticipation. It had been 4 ½ long months since our departure from Montañitas, Ecuador and the Pacific Ocean. The goal was to reach Viña del Mar and head straight for the ocean for that salt water bath that would wash the multiple days of heavy sweat from our crusty bods. Unfortunately the way the city is laid out on the hills didn’t make that an easy feat.
A few days prior we were taking turns watching bikes outside while waiting for each other to supply at a market in Mendoza when a curious passerby inquired about our goofy looks. “Hey?! You speak English, Man?” Forty minutes later we left town to bike westward toward Chile with this guys’ contact info. Originally a Canadian from Victoria, Dave is now living in Viña Del Mar, Chile and invited us to stay with him when we got there. Well…here we are. Within an hour of calling we were inside his house drinking Arizona Ice Tea followed by cold white wine. Welcome to Viña I guess!
The rest of the night was spent on the outdoor patio eating pasta, sharing stories and pictures, and sampling the local Chilean wines. Hot water showers and it was off to our own beds. Who knows how long we slept the next morning, and who cares. It felt amazing. Dave and his girlfriend Daysi (the owner of the house) had quesadillas, tea, juice, and coffee ready for us when we walked downstairs. How do we get so lucky all the time? It seemed like no time had passed and we were sitting on the patio eating curried rice, grilled chicken, and drinking wine. What a life!
A couple hours of conversation and it was clear what should happen for the rest of the day, we had to go to the beach. Golly gee it was good to get back into the water after so much time away. It’s chilly water (literally, Chile water) and Dave thought we were crazy, but we think he’s crazy so it all works out in the end.
Waking up to another great breakfast made it an easy start to the day. A few stories later let us know that Dave is friends with our buddies at the Seaward Kayaks factory in Chemainus, BC. He pulled out two business cards from the owner and told us he has an engine stored on their property. What a small world.
After we ate breakfast the next day we took a bus to meet up with one of the guys working with a local surf program: the Valpo Surf Project. We had heard about this program and these guys through a mutual friend, Wes Farnsworth. As it turned out, most of the VSP crew was out of town for the holidays. But our new buddy, Billy, was there running the show and holding things down. Once we met him, we immediately knew the vibe was a chill and relaxed one. Maybe too chill and too relaxed, we ended up spending nearly two weeks bouncing back and forth between the Valpo surf house and the Viña expat’s house. Not that we’re bummed about it. A full selection of boards and wetsuits to choose from, surfing at six different spots, meeting several new friends, camping, climbing, learning Chilean slang, and unlimited access to a grilled cheese maker. It was a good time.
Once we finally pulled ourselves together to leave Dave, Daysi, and Viña behind, it was 8PM and there was only 1½ hours of daylight left. But we only needed one hour of light to get to the surf house in Valpo, so off we went. We spent the last night in Valpo with our two friends, Billy and Natasja, hanging out, watching Youtube clips, and drinking beer. It would be nice to say we were out of there bright and early the next day for a full day of biking, but let’s get real. We slept in, used the grilled cheese maker, drank coffee and mate, hung out with Billy & Jon, and dilly-dallied on the patio looking at the city.
When 5PM rolled around we figured we would be safe from the days’ heat (it was overcast and not at all hot at any part of the day) and able to leave. The new friendships and experiences from Viña and Valpo were some good ones and it’ll be a good day when we run into our friends again in the future.
The next morning we started at different times, and didn’t see each other again until San Antonio, many hours later. Separating while biking seems to come very natural for us. Kanaan took the more direct route to S.A., while Andy took the coastal route, which is about 25 kilometers longer. Both of us knew S.A. was probably as far as the other would go before meeting up and decided to check in via the interweb. The stars aligned and somehow we both found the same place to use internet in the large city of S.A. Flor Flai, Weon! (Right on, Man!).
After a bit of internetting and learning about each others’ days, we decided it was time to get on the bikes in order to get out of the city to camp. Andy took his bike out of the small internet café and Kanaan moved next door to the Polleria to grab his. Thanking the people that let us store our bikes led them to ask the question, “where are you staying tonight?” To which we replied ‘No sabemos. Vamos un poco más hacia el sur para acampar’ or ‘We don’t know. We’re going to bike a little farther south to camp.’ Well, the lady working at the Polleria, Noemi, was not at all interested in this answer. It was Christmas Eve and we were staying with her family. Good fortune strikes again.
Noemi got off work an hour later and we two neanderthals followed her car with our bikes until we made it to her house. Once there we met her two sons, Domingo (Mingoku) and Chino (don’t know his real name). Followed by Mingoku’s son, Noel, his two cousins, and their mother. Noemi told us she was tired of cooking the foods usually associated with Christmas and opted to make Chinese food instead. That sounds better than our typical biker-burrito.
Here, presents get opened on Christmas Eve and after dinner the kids went to town. Each of the two boys came away with a PlayStation 3 and the girl scored a PlayDoh play kit. They were beyond stoked and it was a good idea to give them a little space for a while until they came down from their gift wrap high. Mingoku and Chino took us outside for a couple of beers and some laughs. Before long our new road mother, Noemi, came out with two more gift wrapped packages for the bearded ones. We were caught off guard and at the same time super pumped to get to unwrap something. Inside the brightly colored wrapping we found socks, foot cream, and deodorant. Okay…we get it, we’ll go take showers now. Kanaan went first while Mingoku & Chino took Andy on a mission for adult beverages.
Soon we were both showered and sitting outside relaxing. Good times were had before Chino had to leave and we were down to three. As time went on, and more drink was consumed, the hobbies and talents of Mingoku slowly began to unfold. A couple self written songs on the guitar. A keyboard with an air hose connected to it so that you have to blow into it to make sounds. A bow with a coconut at the base that you play with a rock. He also practices Brazilian Capoeri martial arts and showed us videos of him in action followed by a live show of a couple acrobatic flips. But, Andy’s favorite part of the night came after Mingoku beat Kanaan at arm wrestling (both left and right hands) followed by a live demonstration of how to do a proper high kick. For this he needed a volunteer from the audience of two, and when he couldn’t find one he was glad to hand select Kanaan. He showed Kanaan how to brace his arm for the upcoming impact and followed up with a powerful kick to Kanaan’s shoulder. But he didn’t think we watched the form enough and had to demonstrate once more how the all the power comes from the legs. After the second showing of this amazing performance, Andy said he missed part of the form and needed to see it once more. The laughing quickly gave him away and Kanaan wasn’t having it. Shows over, folks.
Before leaving the next day, we walked around the city with Mingoku and got a casual tour. One more visit to the casa and we thought we were on our way. Yeah right. The next stop was the Polleria to say goodbye to Noemi and Noel, who we had just said goodbye to on our city tour. But she’s awesome so we were glad to see her one more time. The chicken she gave us por el camino (for the road) was a good way to be sent off. Mingoku led us out of the city on his motorcycle and we exchanged hugs and said our goodbyes. Ciao Hermano.
The end of the day took us down a fat hill into the quaint pueblito of Rapel. Walking past several ‘no camping’ signs put us at a relaxing spot on the river where we set up for the night. In the middle of our scorching 90 kilometer ride the next day we came across a Brazilian cyclist heading the opposite direction. Thirty minutes sitting on the side of the road, an exchange of coca leaves and a bomberos ball cap and we were on our way.
Once in Pichilemu, the vibe was that of a small, relaxed surf town. Our compadres in Valpo had given us contact info for a couple of their buddies who live there, but after failing to get in touch we decided to sit down at Dokas and chow down on a shawarma. The restaurant owner, Oscar, was pumped on how heavy our bikes were and brought out a couple cold ones to finish off our meals. Now it was time to camp. Right on the beach we found an abandon work trailer covered in graffiti with a nice platform to put our tents. The splashing waves soon had us happily dozing.
When we woke up the next morning we packed our bikes and headed back into town to find internet in order to find our local pitutos (contacts). Again, No luck. However, our German biker buddy Thomas happened to be in town and saw our bikes sitting outside the ciber we were at. After a while of catching up, Kanaan and Andy knew they needed to do what they were in town to do- surf. The three of us headed to one of the surf shops where Thomas was able to use internet while Andy and Kanaan got suited up and sent it to the Pacific Ocean with boards in hand.
Pichilemu has several breaks with consistent waves. Even though there were a lot of people in the water, the vibe was good and nobody had any trouble scoring a few rides. A couple hours later we were satisfied with the day and sufficiently cold. When we got changed into warm clothes we grabbed Thomas and headed for the center of town. Stumbling onto the scene of some live street music, we chose to park our bikes against the wall, grab three cervezas and take a seat on the corner across the street. The music was good and we were having a good time enjoying it and talking to some punk biker kids that stopped to talk to us.
Once in a while we would look at someone and play one of our favorite games, ‘who does that look like?’. Andrew is the all-time winner because he saw a girl crossing the street and said ‘Kendra Buerger’, a friend from home. He became extremely frightened when she started running at him full speed, but settled down when he realized that it was actually, indeed, Kendra Buerger. She, her boyfriend Craig Kasburg, his sister, Deborah and his brother-in-law, Alex were on their first day of a Chilean vacation and had just arrived on a bus from Santiago. Our minds were blown and for a while it was a little difficult to put words together that formed sentences. They were exhausted from a full day of travelling in planes and busses so we all made plans to meet up and surf the next day.
After a quick bite to eat with the whole gang the Alaskans headed for the waves. A couple good hours on the water and it was back to the surf shop to grab our gear. The short term vacationers headed to their lodging to get showered up and changed before we three long termers arrived ready to share a round of mate and conversation.Once the mate dried up and everyone became restless for some grub we headed back to our favorite restaurant, Dokas. Shawarmas all around. But tonight was special, dinner AND a show! It started with a guy, wearing a backpack both on the front and the back, speaking heatedly with a girl. Fifteen minutes later she decided she’d had enough and stormed away. Needing a new source for his anger, he found a guy nearby on the sidewalk and started another heated debate. Then he threw a punch. Bad move. The new guy wasn’t very tolerant of the double backpacked man taking a swing and let loose a flurry of fists, quickly sending the apparent instigator to the ground. Even though we all said we wouldn’t get involved, the clearly one-sided fight was too much to watch. We pulled them apart. Once separated it took at least thirty minutes to calm them down. One of the waiters at the restaurant finally had to give the fired up champion a solid shove to let him know he meant business and that he needed to leave. But, thirty minutes later, the hoodlum returned to throw a rock into the restaurant, aiming for the waiter but hitting an uninvolved guy instead before sprinting away. The waiter wasn’t pumped on this and the chase was on. We didn’t see them again that night. The rest of us decided that was too much action for one night and went our separate ways.
The next day brought more sunshine with it and we decided to have another good day relaxing. During the day we ran into another cycling buddy, Johanna, and nighttime once again brought us all to Dokas. Opting to sit inside this time we took over the back room. We ran into the waiter and he let us know that he found the rebel rouser from the previous night and had ‘won’. To celebrate he poured fiery cucaracha (cockroach) shots for Kanaan and Andy, on the house.
Alex & Deborah chose to take a bus ride south the next day and it was minus two from then on. The other six of us decided to take a six km bike ride to the world famous Punta de Lobos, well known in the surf world for it’s epic left-hand break. Again, just the Alaskans decided to get in the water and we decided it was more economical to get just two boards and switch out once cold or tired. We all had an awesome time but eventually had to begin the ride back to our homeland, Pichilemu.
We got cleaned up and rallied in Kendra and Craigs room to get ready to welcome in the New Year. Kendra and Johanna were a couple of dolls and volunteered to put braids into our beards and hair, making us a couple of regular beauties. Once we felt good and ready for the night we left the room and joined everyone in the streets flooding to the beach, where the fuegos artificiales (fireworks) were about to make a boom.
In front of the ocean, covering the sand were thousands of people of all ages. Everyone was there for the same reasons: to have a good time and see some colorful bangs. One of our party of friends was probably the only person at the show that was having a bad time. Thomas dropped his iPod into the sand and would never see it again. Aside from the sulky German, there was dancing, fires, and a lot of people with drums getting everyone riled up. The good and bad news is that the party never ended. Meaning our previous campsite was occupied through the whole night and we needed to resort to other options.
Everyone eventually found one another the next day after catching a few extra zzz’s (minus the depressed German, who decided to bus to Santiago for a new phone). Kendra, Craig, Baus and Andy had a solid couple of hours relaxing before finding a decent restaurant (Dokus wasn’t open). After that came the good part. A couple “he’s not going to do that”s and “no he didn’t”s later from an amped up Craig and we found ourselves halfway through a circus. Some impressive acts were seen (just ask Craig), and plenty of laughs were laughed before the curtain closed and another day had terminated.
Sadly, we had to bid our last two Juneau friends goodbye the next day, but that also meant we were finally going to be on the move again! Or did it?! When heading out of town that day we stopped 6 kilometers away at that epic Punta de Lobos lefty to check the scene. We could always bike after a bit more surfing, right? Kanaan tortuga’d his way to the water while Andy chose to sit this one out and enjoy some mate instead.
While Kanaan was splashing about and getting ripped up by the massive Pacific Ocean, Andy realized his jacket, that Patagonia was nice enough to give each of us when we visited them in Ventura, was missing. When Kanaan got out of the salty water we went back to Pichi to check the spots we’ve frequented. After thinking about our time in Pichi and not remembering Andrew ever wearing the jacket we decided to phone our Christmas host family and see if it was left behind. Sure enough, it was there. However, they said tomorrow was a bad day to come (we later found out their floor was being torn out that day). So the next day we decided to bike a bit, but not so much that it would make the following days hitchhike too hard. We ended up in Bucalemu, camping at a cancha de futbòl (soccer field). In the morning Pepe was setting up for a game that would happen in the afternoon and in conversation said it would be fine to store our bikes in his shed while we did the side mission back to San Antonio. The only thing that sketched us out about Pepe was that he told us the best spot to hitch from was next to the Carabineros (police), making their routine traffic stops of cars passing the bridge. But he insisted he was telling the truth and that hitching wasn’t illegal in Chile, so we went to the bridge. A few of the typical ‘where are you from?’ and ‘how long have you been travelling?’ questions later from the carabineros and we were asking every car they stopped for a ride. When we got a ride up the big hill leaving Bucalemu we saw our German friend, Thomas, biking down it. He must have woken up pretty early to be this far already. It ended up taking six rides to get to San Antonio and we had to walk the last 5 km’s to arrive at our X-mas home as the sun was setting.
Our awesome family immediately sent us to our old room and had us get comfortable. Soon after we were sitting at the table sharing another great meal prepared by our mother, Noemi. Later on Mingoku invited two of his buddies over and we spent hours learning new, Chile specific, slang words. We were with Mingoku so we obviously stayed up later than we should have, meaning the next day we slept later than we should have. Another silent agreement was had that we should stick around for the day. After-all, there’s futbòl americano on today. It just so happened to be Kanaan’s San Francisco 49ers, versus Andrew’s Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately the game ended on a bad note and Andrew was barely able to have a good time playing pool afterwards. Luckily his spirits were brought up when they went back to their home and had another dinner waiting for them. Too tired to stay up all night again, we headed to bed.
Breakfast was coffee, papaya juice from their yard, and a cake that Noemi made JUST for us. We love this family but we needed to get that jacket and get the heck outta there. We said our goodbye’s to Noel, then Mingoku shuttled us on his moto to the Polleria to say bye to Noemi. Of course she had us come inside and eat humitas before we could leave. Then prepared chicken sandwiches for our day of travelling. Final Chilean jokes were told and we were on our way. After six more rides and 180 kilometers we arrived back in Bucalemu just as the red sun was dunking its glowing head in ocean for the night.
Getting back into bike mode after so much relaxing turned out to be quite the endeavor. If sloth is a sin, as the good book says its so, we were certainly punished on our first day out of Bucalemu. Some of the steepest hills we’ve biked, a few of them sandy gravel, greeted us at the door and let us into the house of pain. We worked our butts off making slow progress and couldn’t stop saying ‘seriously?!’ We must have been guilty of all 7 of those dang sins on our month of Chillin on the coast because we got punished with “La Cuesta de Siete Vueltas” (the hill of seven turns). It turned out to be a bonus package with at least nine steep hairpin cut backs. Even the downhill on the other side was a bit too steep to enjoy.
We woke up under a bridge outside of Licanten and soon set out for a day on the bikes. It was another scorchingly hot day but the scenery was of a high enough class that we didn’t care how many ounces of sweat fell from our bodies. that afternoon put us in the large and ugly city of Constitution, where we ate lunch. Right out of the city was a huge hill. We thought nothing of it, but within seconds a truck pulled over and insisted to give us a ride to the top. A sketchy ride with two strangers urging us to go with them? Definitely! (Don’t let your kids read our blog). The hill ended up being long like they had said and we were glad to get dropped right at the top. Both of us were sleepy and hot so 15 km later we found a nice shady flat spot on the side of the road to take naps and play cards. A refreshing dip into a pond right by the ocean and we called it a day, stopping to eat in Las Cañas before finding a vacant lot just outside of town.
At this point we knew Kendra and Craig had returned from the deep south and would spend their last few days of vacation in Cobquecura, a coastal town not far south of us. We were excited to know we would have two sessions with them and knocked out another demanding 90 km’s the next day, stopping 12 km’s and two big hills short of a reunion. Camping on the beach, Mario approached us with hot water for mate and fresh fry bread. Quickly mowing the fry bread and slowly working our way through the mate we knew we needed to get clean before bed. With no more sun left in the day it took a minute to build up the courage for the impact the Pacific would hit us with. But we built it up and rushed full throttle into the frigid waters. A game of cribbage followed our cold water crusade and we hit the sack. When we conquered the two big hills the next day we headed to the only spot in town with internet on public computers and let our lovely friends know we made it to town and would wait in the plaza for them. Kendra and Craig showed up not long after with nothing but smiles on their faces. Informing us their hotel was within two blocks of the plaza, we followed them to their temporary home. In truth, we don’t even like these guys, we just like having a place to put our bikes and showers. After an awesome tour of their hotel the 4 of us sipped on mate and began hatching plans for what the day would bring.
The idea was to surf, but the only surf shop in town was out of decent tablas (boards) for the day. So we went to the beach anyway and body surfed. Craig was easily the most committed person in the water and would anxiously ride each wave until a sandy-stomach-slide would bring him to a halt.
Showers all around and it was time to get the night started. Between la playa y el hotel we had picked up the things necessary for an asado (barbeque). Our new friend Sarah had joined us and we were all soon eating like kings. Fully fueled we left the hotel and hit the plaza, where a concert was in full swing. Quickly finding our groove we found ourselves dancing all out with girls, guys, grandmas, kids, and anyone else in sight (later two guys came up to Kanaan and said they’d seen him dancing with their moms). The music was excellent and the night was an epic one we would not soon forget. Andy and Baus planned to camp on the beach and off they went, hitting one of the many beach bonfires on the way to bed.
A lazy morning and it was off to the hotel to meet up with the two Juneauites. Everyone was hungry for food and waves so we grabbed some chow, some boards, and hitched ten km’s to Buchupureo, the closest good break. A small beach nestled in a cozy cove was home for the next few hours. Alternating between surfing and resting on the beach was a good way to spend an afternoon. We got sloshed around for a while and it was time to return the boards, so we stuck out our thumbs and got dropped off right in front of the surf shop. Again, showers were had by all while Kendra and Craig packed their bags. We all headed for a restaurant to eat, but Kendra and Craig barely had time to get their to-go empanadas before they had to scurry off to catch their bus to Santiago. They were awesome to have around and we had a lot of good times together. Thanks guys!
It’s a bummer they couldn’t stay just a bit longer. The night got pretty exciting. While at the restaurant we met up with a surf buddy from Pichi and his buddy. When we were done eating we headed to the Plaza, where we knew there was karaoke going on. We arrived and immediately saw that the scene needed some help. Little kids shyly singing bad songs is cool for their parents…but that’s it. Luckily Kanaan owed Andrew a dare from a previous cribbage game and Andy was more than happy to dare Baus to sing some karaoke. Soon enough Kanaan was on stage getting down to Queen-Bohemian Rhapsody. Andy was down in the crowd trying to get people pumped, not that anyone needed help. Once people saw one of the crazy gringos from the prior night dancing they went insane. To say Kanaan put on an epic performance would be an understatement. Freddie Mercury would blush. Andrew couldn’t stop laughing and smiling for hours. Our French and Irish surfer friends decided they couldn’t take anymore and turned in for the night, leaving just us two. The karaoke immediately went back to shy children so we made our way to the beach to check out another bonfire before getting too tired and calling it a night.
The next day, the road was calling us. But so was playoff football. We were able to find a restaurant that was playing the 9ers vs. Panthers and Broncos vs. Chargers, so we postponed our takeoff. After we saw a successful result of the first game and the first half of the next game going the way we wanted it to go, we knew if we wanted to leave that day we would need to catch the last of the day’s light. So off we went, getting constant hollers on the way out of town. Cobquecura was an incredible spot to spend a couple days and we have tons of good memories from there! But it was good-bye to the coast…for now!
During the next 25 kilometers into the next day we had a couple of awesome downhills and before long had made it to Quirihue. While there we shopped for food and really took our time leaving; Kanaan’s stomach was bothering him. 10-15 km later we took another rest, napping at our favorite of places, a bus stop. Kanaan was still not doing so hot but said the 25 or so km’s to San Nicolas would be doable. We arrived in the scorching heat and played a game of cards before Kanaan passed out on the ground for another nap. It was pretty clear, we should stay in San Nicolàs that night. After a few hours of plaza resting, complete with free showers, we went to the town’s cancha de futbol and called it a night.
Although we woke up to another blue bird, beautiful day, it wouldn’t end up being that hot for Kanaan. He hadn’t slept all night from stomach pains and the days first order of business was going to the Clinica de Salud (health clinic). Immediately upon entering everyone assumed we spoke zero spanish and fetched a beautiful, young, english speaking female doctor in blue jeans and a tank top. Okay…No hablamos español!
A couple of quick questions and an IV later and Kanaan was napping on the bed in Ms. Doctor’s office. After a couple of hours he was feeling a bit better and we moved our show to the plaza. As time passed he began feeling worse and worse until it was clear that we needed to go back to the clinic. To Kanaan’s pleasure, our favorite doctor did another quick examination, but couldn’t figure it out. She said we needed to go to an actual hospital and arranged an ambulance to take us to San Carlos. Our driver and EMT were very relaxed and one of us had a great time hanging out with all of the toys in the back. Bausler was not the one that had a great time.
Between our arrival and departure Kanaan had a couple of tests done and received another IV. In the end we were told he was taking expired antibiotics and sent him away with a bunch of new magic pills that would make him all better inside. The awesome ambulance picked us up around eleven to return us to San Nicolas and our bikes. Everything involved with figuring out what was wrong with Kanaan and the follow up medications was free of charge. They let us shower and we were soon asleep at our cancha de futbol.
While Mr. Stomach Pains was napping at the health clinic the previous day, Andy-Boy ran off to use the internet. Amongst other things he discovered that a friend we had met in Cobquecura, just four days ago, lived in the nearby town of Ninhue. When evening rolled around and our friend, Mari, was done with work for the day we decided to hitch there and check out Ninhue, stashing our bikes at a restaurant where we had eaten a few hours prior.
It ended up being a pretty fun night at our Mari’s house. Most of the time was spent talking, listening to music, and attempting to learn different dances from our awesome teachers. Slowly the scene settled down and it was time for bed.
After we woke up, Mari’s brother, Pedro, who we hung out with the night before, picked us up for a drive we’d talked about doing. But first we went to his house for coffee and doughnuts. Soon after we were all loaded up in his truck. Pedro and his two sons up front and us two dogs plus his dog in the back. We were taken up and up and up a logging road and ended up getting out next to a patch of forest. Karate moves, tree climbing, and hitting pine cones with sticks while yelling ‘touchdown’ (instead of home run) were a couple of the highlights of our time on the mountain. One of the kids rode in the back with us on the way down and it was a great time, although his hat flew off twice.
As punishment for losing his hat we splashed him and his brother like madmen in the above ground pool at their casa. Everyone in Chile is a tio/tia (aunt/uncle) and the boys were soon begging us to stop, but the Bash-Bros take no prisoners and we continued to dominate. (In real life the kids whooped us). Pedro told us he was heading to Chillan soon and asked if we wanted a ride. Yes please. We hopped in the truck and off we went. During our pit-stop to pick-up our bikes we thanked their keeper and finished off the flat, hot truck ride with Pedro. He ended up dropping us off past the city at the Chilean mega gasoline provider, Copec. We found a futbol field nearby and decided to crash there for the night.
Morning came quickly and we found ourselves inside the Copec dining area eating desayuno (breakfast) before sending off for the day. Soon we came upon two Spaniard tourers fixing a flat. The typical side-of-the-road biker convo was had and we convinced them to come check out Saltos del Laja, a large waterfall we had heard about from Pedro and Mari. We swam around in the groovy rock features and in the flow of the falls before deciding it was way too touristy for the possibility of free camping. Our Spanish buds opted to stick it out at a campground for the night and we bid them farewell.
We planned on stopping to camp before reaching the next big city, but the 25 km’s snuck up on us and we found ourselves at the heart of Los Angeles. In this city of 180,000 people we decided to resort to one of our old tricks, asking the police (Carabineros in Chile) if they had a safe space. They said no, but after a bit of brainstorming they decided to escort us via moto to the fenced in public high school/park/pool. The night guardsman said it was chill and we exchanged goodbye’s with the pacos (cops). We were shown the options of where we could put our tents by one of the extremely Chilean speaking guards (Chileans speak very fast, shorten words, and use tons of Chile specific slang). Then we asked if there was a shower. Every pool we’ve ever been to says to shower first, before entering. Our new friend said they had no shower. Instead, we should just jump in the pool to rinse off. Damn, our lives are fun!
Morning came early again (the biker motto is ‘always tired, always hungry’) and we set out to see what the world had in store for us today. We knew we had to make some distance in order to get somewhere the following day for futbol Americano. Collipulli was the goal. Midway through the hot highway ride we re-encountered yet another long lost biker bud, Stephanie from Quebec. We ate together at a busstop and ended up camping a little past Collipulli, next to some train tracks. Soon we were exploring a train wreck close to our temporary home.
The big NFL conference championship games that day inspired our goal of reaching Temuco the next day and 100 km later we were there. We tried our old bomberos trick, but they told us to go to the hotel of a fellow bombero and see if he could help us. While searching for it we met Pablo. Not long after we were in his home with our gear safely stowed trying to find the best option for the games.
Steph and Pablo aren’t from the only country that’s crazy about football and took off within an hour, leaving the excessive hair crew to do our thing. Both games were awesome to watch, but watching Seattle beat San Fran was epic. By the time Seattle caught the game winning pick we had been joined by a handful of other people. After the exciting finish to the game we started talking more and found out two of them are involved with getting football off the ground in Chile & Brazil, recently having sent the first Brazilian, Leandro Veal, to the NFL. They’ve also been able to get the Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch and Sidney Rice to commit to a football camp coming up soon in Rio, which was incredible to hear about right after we watched them help their team to the Superbowl. The rest of the night was full of great exchanges of laughs, stories, and information. The whole crew was a blast and it was a pleasure to learn about the awesome stuff they are doing in South America. Here’s a link to a partner project: Chilean football
The Seahawks game was on west coast time, which is 5 hours behind our current time zone. Needless to say Stephanie beat us out the door the following morning. It ended up being a good thing though. Pablo thought he would be busy with school that day, but was able to sneak away from exams early enough to catch us as we were heading out. This crazy fella decided he wanted to bike with us to Villarrica and was soon ready to hit the road. A mix of rain and sun and the first blackberries in a long time was the ticket to helping us arrive at our destination. A lake swim with beautiful surroundings and too many good jokes were had before we sent this awesome guy home on a bus. Thanks so much Pablo, we look forward to seeing you in Juneau one day!
It didn’t take long the following morning to get kicked out of our campsite. The vacant lot we chose was pretty visible and we definitely lasted longer than we thought we would. At around 9 o’clock the carabineros (police) showed up, woke us up, and took down our names and passport numbers. We ended up joking around and having a good time, but still, we were in the books. We spent the day lounging around with Stephanie and not much more. At night we knew we had to find a new location for tents and began the search. Barely into the mission a car pulled over and asked us if we wanted to stay with them. Duh, let’s go. We loaded our bikes into the back of their van and drove the 8 dirt road km’s to the home of Maca and Juaco. Their house was amazing and we ended up eating a very good pesto pasta and salad for dinner, all from ingredients straight from their garden. Very welcoming beds topped off the night and we were extremely happy to not be spending another night in the rain.
A dope breakfast of homemade bread complete with all the possible spreads (including honey, jam, and dulce de leche from the neighbor’s bees, berries and cows) started the day with a positive vibe. This most excellent couple dropped us off in town and we were excited to have a day biking in the rain.
Many rain drops later we were in Lican Ray, eating fries and playing cards in a dry café. We knew the rain wouldn’t let up anytime soon and we were in a good position to make our goal (Juaco’s parent’s house) the next day. So we set out to find our nights home. Naturally the bomberos said no. We debated the covered public basketball court but decided we didn’t feel like being woken up by the carabineros again. We went to the store we stopped at when we arrived and asked if we could setup under their awning. She said yes of course and we were covered for the night. Our host, Katy, was very friendly and gave us bread and jam in the morning while we hung out with Aceo, her 8 year old son.
Starting out cold we were not overly excited about the rain this time, but we set out anyway. But the minute we started riding the rain stopped and within 30 minutes the clouds were parting. We had a beautiful ride among the trees along a couple different lakes. And encountered the first spruce trees since Oregon.
When the couple from Villarrica invited us to stay with them, Juaco ended up giving us the address of his family’s vacation home on Lago Neltume, right on our route. We stumbled upon the correct house and some of the first words from our host mother, Monica, were that we have total freedom while we’re there. We tossed our bags into our hostel style bedroom (5 sets of bunk-beds) and got comfortable. While moving our stuff the four staff of the house had prepared a plate of food and a beer for each of us. Fueled up on food we walked down to the lake and hopped into a couple of kayaks. Immediately finding our rhythm we began exploring the surrounding river and various cliff faces. It was great to be back in kayaks after so long and Lago Neltume proved to be the perfect spot to have a paddle in hand.
When we first were talking to our Monica’s they had joked about us being ladrones (thieves) and we joked back saying we were ladrones de comida (food thieves). At dinner we showed them we weren’t lying and cleaned up each dish. Afterwards they said they were going to lock the kitchen at night.
The reason for the excessive bunk beds soon became apparent after dinner. About 20 of Juaco’s 50 cousins and their friends came to the house and showed us Monica meant it when she said ‘complete freedom’. All of us were out on the patio sipping down piscolas until us old guys could no longer keep up and headed for our dorm.
Sad to have to leave such a beautiful spot where we were treated so well, we sulked off on our bikes the next morning. On the 20 km dirt road ride we met up with the Spaniards again and many bumps later we were all in Puerto Fuy. Unfortunately we had barely missed the ferry that is necessary to cross the lake and get to the Argentina border. The next one wouldn’t be for 5 hours so we got cozy.
The open deck ferry ride was beautiful and the ride was quite enjoyable and the two hour ride passed pretty quickly. Soon enough we were in Puerto Pirehueco as the sun began to set. Our group of four found an excellent campsite next to a nearby river and soon we were relaxing and eating dinner around a small fire. We went to bed happy that night, knowing that tomorrow we would be returning to the amazing country of Argentina!
Rising to cold air coming off the river put a hop in the step, and got us on our way for our return to Argentina. The bumpy dirt road chattered us through the borders and we knew we were back on familiar ground when we saw the customs agents all sipping mate. A couple kilometers of washboard gravel shook us up enough, and when a bus came up behind us we had no problem sticking out our thumbs to catch a ride for the next 40 kilometers of ‘ripio’ (dirt road).
Interestingly the bus picked up three more bicycle tourers about 30 seconds after we got on, a crew of Argentineans doing their duty to their country and cycling the siete lagos (7 lakes). Turns out this is a very popular thing to do for Argentineans, we ended up meeting tons of groups on short two or three week bike trips through the lakes. These guys were super pumped up, and ended up being the main mechanics when the bus driver hit a rock that knocked out the brake line. Not sure if it was their technical skill or just their enthusiasm that won them this position but we made it to San Martin de Los Andes nonetheless.
We stashed our bikes with the only warmshowers host in San Martin, an awesome dude named Cristian, and found an epic campsite above a cliff overlooking the lake. San Martin ended up being King Arthur’s round table for the knights of our trip south. Aside from being the one place where we saw probably the most bike tourers we’ve seen, it was also where many of our good friends from the road all came to meet at once. The legendary Argentineans Nick, Tatan, Candela, Mika and Augustin found us in the park, Madame Stephanie the Canadian came in a day after the Spaniards that we ditched for the bus ride, Noble Sir Seth the Great from Arizona came over from Valdivia for our fifth encounter, and the lovely Princess Nastasja came down from Valparaiso to keep her passport stamps legitimate. On top of this we met two awesome dudes, Gato and Negro, from Buenos Aires at our campsite who ended up hanging with us for our nights on the cliff. It was a little overwhelming to have so many great friends all in one place and wanting to spend time with all of them, but it was tons of fun and we ended up hanging there for about a week in total. Hiking, climbing, and swimming around the lake, sipping mate in the plaza, and chowing epic meals around the campfire were all daily chores to accomplish.
After San Martin, Nastasja accompanied us to Villa La Angostura, where we spent a couple days taking in the town before she had to send it back to Valpo for work. Steph, Nick, his buddy Devin from Oregon, and two Germans bikers from Steph’s hostel joined us for the Superbowl at the Ruta 40 bar. Turned out to be a blow out but at least the Seahawks won and it was cool to see that defense tear it up so impressively. The next day we decided to head back to Chile since the ferry from Bariloche looked to be crazy expensive and we wanted to go to Puerto Montt. So after a short stint of Fruttigrans and funny ways of saying ‘puedo llenar mi botella con agua?’ it was time to get back to the skinny country.
The border crossing was cold and wet and beautiful. We had to get over the Andes again, but the pass wasn’t too extreme. Lots of up and a good long ways down but a good day’s ride put us just past the Chilean customs. They were much more official this time, actually making us fill out paperwork to claim our produce. The threat of a fine made us tell the truth, and so we were forced to chow our freshies before crossing the line. We found a gorgeous campsite by the river soon after, and spent the night drying wood and our feet around a pleasant fire.
Another nice morning fire got us going the next day, and we waited for the rain to let up a little before hitting the road. About 20 km down, Kanaan stopped by the side of the road to hide his shirt from the rain. A sudden, unexpected and unexplained explosion told him that it was finally time. The first flat on the tires that he put on in Colombia turned out to be a nasty one. The bead had worn out, allowing the tube to poke through, exposed to easy pinch or puncture. Also, one of our pumps had gotten stolen back in Chillan, and since Andy loves getting flats, he had the only pump and was already ahead. There was no option but to stick out the thumb.
A friendly candy maker from Santiago picked Kanaan up, and after catching up to Andrew to tell him the situation, took Kanaan to Entre Lagos and dropped him at a tire service station. The attendant, Miguel, crafted a specialized tire boot for the repair and then invited Kanaan into the house for coffee. After meeting the family, we were invited to stay the night in the house, which was a real relief because by then it was raining like the dickens. Miguel and his father and brothers and sister and nephew were all happy to share their home with us, and we stayed up late playing video games and having drinks and listening to metal and playing jenga.
The next day we were a bit tired out and it was raining hard. Carlos offered to give us a ride to Puerto Varas the next day so we decided to chill out and get some bloggin done (thats this stuff your readin right now!). The next day was Miguel’s 24th birthday, and his mother came home from working Santiago and made some epic feasts for us. Carlos decided it would be best to wait another day, so we helped celebrate the birthday by taking a live pig and a brand new human to the grandparents house and accepted the invitation for a third night in a cozy bed. The next day we finally rallied after feeding the family their first quesadillas ever, and loaded the truck. Carlos let us know that he could actually take us all the way to Puerto Montt, if we wanted. There was really no reason why not.
After a few scenic detours we arrived by truck to Puerto Montt, the end of Chile’s main freeway, Ruta 5. It marked the end of a major leg of the trip, the Central Chile (with a sprinkle of Argentina) section. Knowing that the upcoming Carretera Austral would be a world of its own, we lined up a couchsurfing host in Puerto Montt to prepare the bikes and finish this blog. Juan Carlos and his family graciously hosted us for three nights, sharing some awesome meals (including the first fresh salmon since Canada), and showing some of the sights around the area. Comfortable couches and good people seemed to be quite a symbolic end to this leg of the journey. Chile has been one of the friendliest places we’ve visited, and the beautiful landscapes and comfortable climate have added to make it an easy favorite among the top locations of ATripSouth. Our two main SouthTripping partners, Chris and Max, both jumped ahead specifically to spend more time in this next upcoming section, and both reported amazingness, so we know that we’ve got a lot to look forward to real soon here.