Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Continuing south for Argentina

Back to the camping
Between Santiago and Valparaiso I had spent a few weeks mostly off the bike which was a lot longer than planned. Several bike issues were some of the reasons for the longer stays but these weren't entirely to blame!  As has sometimes been the case getting back on the bike after a lay off I was in mixed emotions. Definitely a bit sad to be saying goodbye to lots of good people and when I thought about it, this was the first time that I was going to be back on my own in nearly a month as Jack and Michael had been over for the week before my stops in Santiago and Valparaiso. Sometimes it can take a day to change the mindset to get back into the solo bike ridding. That said I was definitely relieved and happy to be back on the open road on a lovely sunny afternoon.

Some pretty chilled surf towns along the coast south of Valparaiso
I wasn't cycling right by the coast for very long but I did tend to
 keep half an eye on the water after the tsunami
warnings a few weeks previous.
Autumn in the air
Despite the long lay off I was exhausted the day I left and knew I would need a night or two of good rest before I would be fully back in action. Being a hilly city I had to crawl up into the hills on my way out of town. Normally when I am on the road I try to get up at a decent time but on my first night I was going to allow myself a good sleep on. That first night back on the road I slept from 10 pm until 12 noon the next day pretty much straight through. I needed it.
What I didn't need was to be getting up late and still only doing shortish distances several days later. It wasn't long after I had left Valparaiso that I heard about the terrible wild fires that killed several people and destroyed homes making several thousand families homeless in the hills. While in Valparaiso the wind would get very strong in the afternoons especially higher up the hills and presumably made it very easy for a fire to spread.

It didn't take long back on the road to receive more incredible hospitality
from strangers. This lovely couple invited me to lunch. - delicious fish.
It was almost a week before I got a decent days cycling under my belt and that was because I had a specific target. The town of Constitution was where I was headed as I reckoned it would hopefully have a Bomberos (Fire station) where I might be able to get my first shower since getting back on the road. Having had a few hot days and cycled some very dusty tracks by the time I arrived into Constitution I don't think I've ever looked in more of a state. Of course I only realised this when I saw myself in the mirror after the Bomberos had kindly let my stay. There was a lot of dust stuck to my face and I looked like a chimney cleaner, a chimney cleaner in cycling gear.

Josue cycled with me for about 20 km into Chillan to show me where the Bomberos was.
I was finally back into doing proper distances the days after Constitution as I gradually made my way away from the coast and did a few days on the main north-south highway 5. Despite all the bike repairs in the previous weeks my rear gears were not running smoothly and the cable eventually snapped about 25km outside the town of Victoria where I was hoping to make that evening. I was stuck in a high gear (for going fast) and thankfully the hills weren't too bad on the main road which meant that I flew the last stretch at about 23 km per hour as it was like cycling a single speed. I decided to replace both gear cables in the local bike shop the next morning hoping that this would finally be the end of the bike issues.

No prizes for guessing who the patron saint in the town of San Nicolas was

Arriving into the lakeside tourist town of Pucon in Chile's lake district
A day later I was off the main highway making my way east towards the Andes and Argentina, passing into the beautiful lakes district of Chile. After I left the picturesque lake side tourist town of Pucon I was back up into the mountains where there was a more notable sense of autumn being in the air with lots of the trees changing colours as they started losing their leaves. For about a week after leaving Valparaiso I was in sandals and short sleeves with the hot weather but things were definitely changing quickly as I got further south and deeper into autumn.

For the birdwatchers... pretty bird.

 It was a step climb on gravel for the last 20 km out of Chile to the border crossing of Mamuil Malal. I crossed into Argentina in the late afternoon with 70 km still to do to get to the first town of Junin de los Andes. I would probably have camped if it wasn't for the fact that I had arranged to meet my old cycling buddies Simon and Olivia who were making their way north at this stage. They had said that they were going to prepare a feast to celebrate our brief reunion so there was no way I was going to miss that!

I've been telling people for a long time that I am cycling from Alaska
to Argentina so it was strange to finally cross into Argentina.

With a gradual downhill and a slight tail wind I managed to fly the 70 km to Junin and made it to the hostel where the guys were shortly after night fall. It was fantastic to get the team back together and they certainly hadn't lied when they said they were going to prepare a feast. Six delicious homemade pizzas no less and a chocolate mouse for desert. Thanks Simon and Olivia!

This is the sight that greeted me on a trip to my first Argentinan supermarket.
No wonder they are good at football if you can practice your headers while
popping in to pick up the milk and dribble your way round to the bread section.

"Now Billy I don't think you've eaten enough since you got to Junin so I
am filling your snack box full of banana bread and corn bread"
Thanks Olivia..!!

I took the following day off to hang out with the guys and that night we ate another ridiculous amount of food. A cottage pie large enough to satisfy at least 6 healthy adult appetites was polished off by the three hungry cyclists. As if that wasn't enough there was some banoffi, corn bread and banana bread that needed a home. By the time I rolled out of Junin I had probably consummed enough calories for a week's cycling!

Onto the famous "Ruta 40" that runs almost the length of Argentina

1 comment:

  1. Mijito, estoy robando tu foto de la araucaria para una presentación de la Universidad. Espero que estés bien, y ánimo! Ya falta menos!

    Si piensas volver a Santiago, no te olvides que tienes buenos amigos por acá. Saludos de Maeva y yo. CONCHETUMARE!