(89) Fantastic friends, great food and a delicious lemon pie
After spending the night with the Chilean firefighters we were looking forward to some time off with Rafael and his family.
Monday 24th February – Wednesday 5th March
We said goodbye to the wonderful crew at Bomba Chicureo and headed off to meet Rafael.
It was so great to see him and meet his wife Andreas, daughter Sophia and son Martin – we couldn´t wait to get to know them better. We met Rafael on the Carratera Austral in southern Chile and within minutes we were being invited to stay with him in Santiago. We had kept in touch via email and had been really looking forward to meeting him again. Rafael and Sofia cycled with us to their house and Luna their dog travelled in the basket of Rafael´s bike the whole way not complaining once with a big smile on her face!
After weaving our way along a variety of roads we passed a couple of street dogs that live in the city. It is estimated that 2.5 million dogs live on the streets in Chile and they are very much part of everyday life here. Many of them are fed by kind locals but there’s no doubt that it’s a tough life for them. Dogs naturally want a master and we were followed many times by dogs wagging their tail at us as if to ask ‘please take me home’. If only we could. If you want to read more about the issue, this is an interesting article – http://www.lyd.com/wp-content/files_mf/pi1109.pdf
We finally arrived at their lovely home and were made to feel like one of the family as soon as we stepped in the house. We met Emanuel their eldest son who was training to be a pilot and spoke really great English. Next it was time to meet the rest of the family – their 2 dogs and 3 cats!
We also met other family members during our stay going to 2 birthday parties – where the celebrations were very similar to home, delicious cake and lots of laughter. We were welcomed as part of the family each time.
We made full use of their kitchen and treated the family to some English dishes such as steak and ale casserole, a roast beef dinner and fruit crumble and trifle!
Then Andreas, Tim, Sofia, Emanuel and Shaz
We were treated to some delicious Chilean meals – we had really missed home cooking.
They also treated us to dinner out at a Peruvian restaurant. The food was delicious and so we are looking forward to trying more when we get to Peru.
Tim offered to do some carpentry work and extended the worktop which Andrea was thrilled with. In typical Tim style it took him just half a day to transform the kitchen.
Tim and Martin who was 6 years old developed a love of hanging out in the pool together – as we had no use for our old thermarests they could use them in the pool much to Martin´s delight. Despite not sharing the same language we could all hear great laughter coming from the pool. Each time Martin saw Tim he would grin and say ´piscina´!
Whilst we were in Santiago we felt a few tremors – the strongest being 5.7 on the Richter scale which is considered ´moderate´. The Richter scale, which is a measurement of the energy realised by an earthquake was introduced in 1935 at the California Institute of Technology. The tremor was a rather strange feeling. We were in bed the first time and it felt like Tim was jumping up and down and the bed was on a floor made of jelly. The family were very relaxed about it all as it is a usual occurrence here and they had been through the 2010 earthquake in Santiago which had a magnitude of 8.8. Fortunately there was only minor damage done to the house but others weren´t so lucky. People lost their lives, their homes and the earthquake triggered a tsunami which devastated several coastal towns in south-central Chile and Tsunami warnings were issued in 53 countries. The wave caused minor damage in California and in Japan, where damage to the fisheries business was estimated at US$66.7 million. The earthquake also generated a blackout that affected 93 percent of the Chilean population and which went on for several days in some locations. We are really starting to understand what people living in these areas go through and it makes us proud to be supporting ShelterBox our chosen charity who respond to natural disasters by providing emergency shelter. You can read more about them on our ´Donate to ShelterBox´ page.
We also got lots of jobs done that we had been meaning to do for months. One was to put the flags of the countries we were cycling through on our bikes. Many people have stopped us along the way to ask about our trip and we wanted something visual to show them plus we could test our flag knowledge as we rode! We also needed maps of Bolivia and Peru and of-course we had to back-up photos and catch up on the blog. Rafael and Andreas worked hard to ensure we had everything we needed – they drove us around town on many occasion and gave us the time and space we needed to get things done.
One issue we needed to solve was that the zips on the tent were coming apart due to the longevity of our trip and being in testing conditions. We had contacted Alpkit in the UK and they offered to send us a new inner and outer which had started leaking, both of which they sent to Santiago for free. They told us that our tent was in a line of new products and they were interested in seeing how it had coped in different climates. Pretty well we thought considering we’d used it nearly everyday for over a year. An incredible service and we are very grateful. If you are interested in looking at their products they are at –www.alpkit.com An equally good service was the replacement of both our thermarests from the company in the States. Both had started to de-laminate and replacements were sent to us also for free. When you are on the road one of the hardest things to deal with is kit failure and/or replacement. This kind of support is invaluable. Thanks to Rafael too for letting us use his address in Santiago.
We also managed to fit in a bit of site seeing too. Palacio de La Moneda, hosts the seat of the President of the Republic of Chile and the building was built in 1784 by an Italian architect.
Rafael was keen for us to rest too as he has done many cycle tours and understands how important it is and as a result our stay kept extending.
After 10 days the final evening arrived and Rafael organised a BBQ for us. We sat around the table for a final time with Rafael´s family including his nephews Gabriel and Rodrigo. Rafael had a unique way of turning the meat with a pair of cycling gloves on!
It tasted delicious – we had pork, steak and chicken and ate like kings. We finally got to meet Andrea´s parents who had been on holiday in the south. It was a great evening full of the usual laughter – we were really going to miss this family.
Thursday 6th March
After a great BBQ with Rafael and Andrea´s family the previous evening we woke up sad to be leaving our home in Santiago. We had stayed much longer then we intended and it felt like we were leaving home all over again which was tough. We were so grateful to Rafael, Andreas and their family for making us feel so at home and giving us the break we needed. One decision we made there was to book a flight to the UK for a few weeks in July as our best friend Andrew was getting married and it had been way too long (nearly 2 years) since we had been home. We excitedly booked a flight only to find just before we left that the payment had not gone through. Sharon had unfortunately put the wrong postcode during the security check which had blocked the payment. The same flight was now way out of our price range. It was a hard fact to swallow and we felt like the wind was taken from our sails. We would try again when we got to the coast.
We got our bikes ready when Rodrigo and Gabriel, Rafael´s nephews, arrived to ride with us. They would be with us for the few days out to the coast and we knew there would be a lot of laughter ahead.
We had decided rather than take the pickup a few miles out of the city to avoid the motorway we would head south west out of the city so not to miss out any miles even though it was further. Rafael arrived back home from work to see us off. It was hard to think we would be leaving.
We said our tearful goodbyes and started our long trip north made longer by heading south first. After about 30 minutes, Rodrigo told us we were very close to Rafael’s parents place and would we like to see them again? We were soon outside the house and greeted by a big smile from Rafael’s father. Soon we were joined by his mother and were invited in for a dinner of meat and potatoes. It was so nice and being able to see them again made it all the more worth while heading south.
We left around 3pm and still only being about 10 miles from Rafael´s house we got our heads down and got out of the city. The road was good having a hard shoulder most of the way making riding in the heavy traffic much easier. We stopped for a coke to give us a pick me up. We got chatting about earthquakes and Gabriel told about the one in 2010 which reached 8.8 on the Richter scale. He said it was so violent he couldn’t stand up and him and his sister climbed under a 2.5 ton truck which started to bounce like a toy. It’s hard to thick how much energy it takes to shake a house let alone how much energy it takes to shake a city. The quake was so violent it changed the axis of the earth very slightly and made the days very slightly shorter. It was quite unbelievable.
We continued on finally reaching the outskirts of Melipilla. From here the road headed northwest towards the coastal mountains and Valparaiso.
We stopped for a drink in a cafe enjoying a freshly squeezed juice deciding on how much further we should go. We had covered 39 miles within half a day was pretty good going. Tim went to the cafe toilet to find a shower so making the most of it came back and told the others so Sharon popped off to have a wash. We continued on for another half an hour arriving in the small pottery town of Pomaire. It looked a nice place and with the sun not having many hours left Gabriel knew of a place he had camped before. Before long we were set up in a field eating our dinner.
The guys went into town to buy noodles and once back we sat and watched a film. It felt strange no to be heading to our room but with our new tent being so familiar it made our transition back on the road much easier. Now we had an inner tent with new zips it felt like a dream and along with new thermarests we looked forward to a good nights sleep.
Friday 7th March
After a good night’s sleep we were only disturbed by a tiny quake that lasted for about 10 seconds – at least in a field nothing was going to fall on us. We got going by 10 and followed a quiet windy road out of town.
The temperature started to rise towards midday and as we rode into a small town we decided to have a cold drink and sit in the shade of the trees on the square. It was such a nice spot we popped to the supermarket to get goodies for lunch.
We headed on about 2 but the temperature was still high around 40 degrees. We started a climb and wished it was cooler. Rodrigo set off at quite a pace and we did our best to keep up with him. After an hour or so we reached the top and had a drink to cool down. We enjoyed some downhill before it continued to undulate to the town of Casablanca. As we entered the town Tim spotted a bakery and we quickly chose a large lemon meringue pie – enough for 4. We devoured it all sitting in the town square and felt rather sick afterwards.
We decided to head out of town to find a free camp spot and soon spotted a suitable looking one. After dragging our bikes in, on closer inspection we realised it was clearly regularly used as a toilet so we turned back to the road and continued on. The road headed downhill so we enjoyed freewheeling and passed a large yard. We called in and asked the owner if we could camp – he said yes so we made ourselves at home in one of his sheds and were able to use the shower block.
Saturday 8th March
We woke up tired but well rested and found there was no movement from the boy´s tent. We packed our stuff and started breakfast to give them a bit of a lay in. With still no movement we played the ´Rocky´ theme tune at full volume, then Top Gun but still nothing. It was time for the big guns – Sharon put on Madonna. This seemed to do the trick and they both appeared looking bleary eyed. The owner arrived to say goodbye as he needed to leave and once fixing a puncture in Gabriel’s bike we were off.
With just over 20 miles to cover we knew it wasn’t going to be long before we reached Valparaiso. Once we had covered 10 miles, 5 of which we were followed by a nice dog, we joined the highway and soon covered the remaining miles. Being still at 350 metres we had a great descent down into the town. We brought a snack and found a place to take a break. We decided to look for a hostel to store our things and wander around looking at the incredible street art. It was an amazing town with stunning buildings and paintings – here are some of our favourites.
We were soon joined by Rafael, Andrea, Sofia and Martin who had come to collect Gabriel and Rodrigo. The boy’s bikes were loaded on to the pickup and Tim asked if we could drive up the steep hill to the top of the town.
As we turned up the street the steepness of the hill was almost unbelievable. We are very used to steep hills in the UK but this was amazing and we couldn’t believe anyone could build a road so steep let alone lay Tarmac on it. As we sat in the back we held on tight happy we were in a 4×4.
Within a mile we had reached 350 metres. We took some pictures and stood in disbelief. Valparaiso is famous for its extreme downhill mountain bike race sponsored by Red Bull which starts at the top and passes through the steep streets. We continued on and took a less extreme downhill back into town to find a restaurant the boys had recommended. It was really nice being all together again and we enjoyed great company and a mountain of food. The dish below consists of chips, sausages, cheese and egg- perfect after a day’s ride!
We wandered around town enjoying the old buildings but dreading the time we would say goodbye for the last time.
We had been made to feel so welcome by Rafael’s whole family who were always smiling, they were wonderful and we would miss them dearly. We could have stayed forever but we had to keep going. Saying goodbye with lots of tears and hugs was tough and this family will always be in our hearts – we hope they’ll visit us in England one day.
We headed back to our hostel with heavy hearts and once back we trailed the Internet trying to find flights to the UK via different places that would be within our price range. We decided we were too tired and tried to sleep. The double bed wasn’t much bigger than a single and to add to the recipe of a bad night´s sleep a loud party was happening below our room – it was no good. Tim asked if there was a dorm bed he could sleep in and was soon snuggled up in a different bed. Thinking he may still get some sleep at 3.30 am he was then taunted by a mosquito that had clearly been on a 3 week diet and was trying to catch up on many missed meals. It took an hour to finally kill the little mite and get some well needed sleep to be ready to head north.
Our next section would take us north along the coast of Chile to La Serena and on to the world famous observatories at Vicuna which have some of the clearest skies in the world and the chance to see the stars close up.
Thanks for reading!