The Long and Winding Road

Hurtling down steep cobbled streets and stairways, the world’s best mountain bike racers will compete for the Redbull Valparaíso Cerro Abajo this Sunday 11th February, leaping over obstacles in their race against the clock.

We faced the problem of climbing the 20-25% gradient up those very same streets with our fully loaded touring bikes. Of course we cheated and found a very nice taxi with a bike rack.

img_1826

This made for a very pleasant 70km cycling day down the coast to the small seaside town of El Quisco.

img_1845
Our bikes are thrilled to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time

Refreshed from a fish supper straight out of the sea, we cruised through several more seaside towns the next day, watching families enjoy all the traditional activities. With cool air temperatures from the cold sea and a rocky coastline it felt a bit like Whitby!

img_1871
Playing dare with waves

From the port of San Antonio we climbed slowly up the brilliantly named Ruta de la Fruta (Fruit Road) which brings a procession of fruit trucks from the interior to the ports laden with all our winter strawberries and blueberries.

These trucks are huge. Fortunately we could hear them coming from a long way off, roaring like dragons until they showered us with dust as they whooshed past. After an hour we were glad to turn off onto a side road and head back to the coast.

img_1880
At the top of the Ruta de la Fruta (the wrist protectors are for sunburn)

I’d warned Clare that this would be a long and winding 100km day. I hadn’t warned her about the sting in the tail … mainly because I didn’t have a clue it was coming.

Needing to recharge for the final 20km, we stopped for peaches, bananas and yoga in a shady bus stop. There are lots of these in Chile, all identical and they are fast becoming our favourite picnic spots. As Clare completed her sun salutations to help ease her back, I studied the map and elevation charts … and almost choked on my lemon soda!

img_1890
Yoga in a bus shelter

Ahead of us were 7 … SEVEN!!! … Bath sized hills to climb before we got to our destination, the surf village of Matanzas.

I decided to soften the blow a little so told her there were “just a few small hills” ahead. At the bottom of the second hill I then pretended to look hard at the map before announcing there might be a “few more”. I only admitted to the full horror of the situation at the 5th peak.

To be fair, Clare was an absolute trooper even as we pushed our bikes up the 10% gradient into a strong headwind on the last climb … well and truly knackered.

img_1898
Reaching 101.6km just ahead of the last climb

Looking again at the map that evening it seemed that the terrain for the rest of the coastroad was going to be much the same … lots and lots of ups and downs. Time for a) an unscheduled rest day and b) a new plan.

After a very pleasant day on this strange, wild, foggy coast we decided to head inland through what looked like wide undulating valleys. The only problem was that there were hardly any hotels or casas on the way … so the daily mileage was still going to be big.

Passing lots of signs for rodeos, we were clearly in cowboy country as we wound our way past small wooden homesteads each with a tiny field overflowing with produce.

img_1937
Can we hitch a ride?

The smooth paved road then abruptly ended and we had our first taste of the legendary Camino de Ripio (gravel roads) that criss-cross Chile. These become corrugated on the flat, loose and sandy uphill so they are not at all the ideal cycle path. Not bad on a mountain bike, impossible on a road bike they were just about manageable on our touring bikes.

img_1953

img_0452

Two hours and 30km later, we were very relieved to get back to a normal road at Litueche.

img_1992

“As God looked at the world he had created in seven days, he realised that there were still some things left over: volcanoes, virgin forests, deserts, fjords, rivers and ice. So he ordered the angels to dump all these things behind a long mountain range. The mountains were the Andes and so Chile was born. The most diversified country in the world!”

Anon

From Litueche the cycling was magnificent as we swept through the wide Colchagua Valley on the smoothest of roads. This is big, beautiful, earthy country with wide horizons across farms and scrubland dotted with rocky outcrops.

img_2047

It seems that Chile is adopting all the best trees from across the world. Australian eucalypts, American giant cacti, Scandinavian pine, Caribbean palms, European poplars make for an eclectic mix. We often looked out at beautifully nurtured vineyards on one side of the road, acacia bushes on the other. France to the left, Africa to the right.

img_0479
France to the left, Africa to the right

One night we stayed in an old Jesuit Hacienda (estate) at Marchigue. The next in a glamping pod set high above vineyards south of the old colonial village of Lolol. Both were the only accommodation within a 50 mile radius, both lovely in very different ways.

img_2005
Hacienda
img_0499
Glamping

Now we’re further inland the days are hotter. On the day we reached Talca, we both drank seven litres of water … and it was still a long time until we needed to pee!

Perhaps it was heat and dehydration, perhaps it was the last steep hill or perhaps it was the stress of having to use the main highway to cross two rivers … but we were both very, very tired when we staggered into the city. Consecutive days of 90km across hill country had proved too much for us.

Fortunately we found a lovely German oasis, Casa Chueca (the wobbly house), set in beautiful grounds with many quirky features that include an outdoor bath, a go karting track and an arboretum. A bell is rung at 7pm each night for delicious vegetarian meals that are served at a communal table.

img_2072
Casa Chueca

img_2119

img_2083
It really is an outdoor bath!

“I don’t want to leave” says Clare, “I’m not ready to get back on my bike.”

Perhaps we’ll stay an extra night … or two?

Andy

 

Our route so far …

img_0320

 

10 thoughts on “The Long and Winding Road”

  1. What an amazing and exhausting journey on your road bikes. Can you not have an extended holiday in Casa Chueca ? You look comfortable in the outdoor bath Clare . Was the water warm or cold? Still very cold here
    My new coat is proving to be a ‘ Best Buy ‘ Much love xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love it! Great writing Andy, feels like we’re with you on the journey. Chile seems like a great place for an a touring adventure 😀.

    I’m reading a book you might enjoy – “Cycling to The Ashes” … young guy who’s had enough of London life & sets out on his bike to cross the world to Brisbane a year & half before Ashes series. Very amusing & perfect if you like cycling, travel adventures & cricket!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don’t encourage them Matthew, they might set off in good time for the next Ashes down under. What a great read, thank you for sharing it all with us. Great pics, great writing, great story.

    Like

  4. & so the adventure continues! Fantastic travelogue Andy, Clare I applaud your staying power!! SEVEN hills would leave me mightily unimpressed! Wow 😳🚴‍♂️🚴‍♂️🚴‍♂️ xxx

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

  5. I have just sat down and read all of your posts in one session!! I was enthralled!! What an amazing adventure you are having. Thank you for sharing it with us – it really is a privilege to ‘be on the road’ with you. Take care and keep posting. Namaste, Laura xxx

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s