(101) Heading for the Hills
After 10 days of being made to feel at home and well and truly part of the family it was now time to get fit and strenghten my mind. I had been made very much at home and the thought of leaving for the hills on my own was hard. I did however have Rafael joining for the first couple days which was amazing and really helped me settle back into to what we were so used to. I would just have to find out if I had retained any fitness at all.
Saturday 28th Feb
Waking up with it still dark wasn’t nice as I thought it was 8am as Rafael was packing his things up. I asked him if he was ok and he replied he had to move his tent as he was camped on an ants nest and they were biting him. I looked at the clock and saw it was 4.15am so I new I still had a good bit of sleep left. I fell into a deep sleep waking at 9.30am to have breakfast. I only had a little water left so Rafael let me have some for a coffee. We set off around 10.30 as the sun was slowly warming us up. Being already at 800 metres and being told the pass was at 1,200 we should have around 500metres to climb.
The climb was a nice gradient but with the temperature at 30 degrees we stopped at a small stream to soak our shirts and wet our hair and faces plus the Bella Luna the dog who looked much happier.
We reached the top of the Chacabuco climb at 1,350 metres at around 12.30 and stopped to take in the view we had a short drink and cooled down on the descent down the windy road back to the highway. Once we joined the road we approached a fruit and veg shop on our right. We brought some fruit and sat to enjoy how amazing it tasted.
The fruit here was amazing and so juicy
We chatted to an oldish lady who told us she was going to visit her daughter who was dieing of cancer after having it for only a few months. I felt for her so much knowing what a horrible illness it was and how helpless one can feel to stop it, I didn’t say anything about why I was there and just gave her a hug and wished her well and to stay strong. I couldn’t think of what else could I do it was hard enough. We put our hands up as her and her husband headed off and then shortly after a cyclist passed us at the stall who waved.
We finished the juicy fruits we were eating and stowed the rest in our bags and set off for Los Andes.
As we reached the town we met the cyclist Matious who was on a tour between Argentina and Chile and so joined us for the ride into town and for dinner. As we rode into town I was in front, Matious behind me, then Rafael behind him when a car pulled up beside Rafael and asked where we were from. Rafael replied I was English, Matious was Argentinian and that he was Chilean. The driver laughed and mentioned the Falklands and how Chile had helped the British during the war and there we were together but for us we were equal, our interests weren’t in who owned the island but that we were enjoying a common interest with good company.
We stopped in town and Rafael treated us to fish and chips and a nice break from the bike. Matious set off to see a friend while we set off for the pass and the Argentine border.
As we rode east the sky darkened
Bella Luna making sure Rafael was going the right way
Around 40 minutes we were joined again by Matious and continued the climb. not long after he did the heavens opened and the rain came down. They both brought there things into to the shelter of a bus stop but I wanted to see if anything would get wet in my bags knowing it would soon dry and could prepare for the real rains in the future.
Testing my kit out
Once it had stopped we all rode on through the rivers on the road that would soon ease into a nic sunny day, It was steady going not to steep and passed the spot where Sharon and I were given wine by an amazing English group on a wine tour. It felt so weird to be there heading the wrong way and no Sharon why was this so hard. I didn’t say anything to the others and rode on in silence. I was starting to tire and asked Rafael if he was tired. He said he could keep going so we rode on climbing another few hundred metres and spotted a church. We looked around to see if there was a good camp spot while Rafael looked across the road he found that the building was an abandoned hostel.
It was perfect with fresh grapes hanging from vines, a good place to camp and wash and next to the river. We found some seats made our little camp and sat around cooking eating and swooping story’s whilst resting our legs. Tomorrow was going to be a big day with a massive climb and we needed the rest.
Sunday 1st Mar
Apart from the trains shunting heavy carriages for the mines and the odd truck thundering down the pass we all sleep well. Even though I was the closest to an ants nest they left me alone and didn’t try to eat me. I was worried about how sore my back side was after just a day and a half on the bike and though it might be the position of the saddle. We got up around 9am and sat to have breakfast, drying our things from the heavy rain and the light condensation. I ended up using Rafael’s stove as it seemed to take ages to light with mine being diesel. The sky was clear and already the temperature was rising. We didn’t rush as we would have a long climb ahead so gathered a few bunches of grapes and pushed our bikes up on to the road. The traffic was light and with a nice wide hard shoulder keeping us safe from the traffic. We picked up bread and slowly climbed up through a long valley with the old railway line rising and falling next to the road.
We stopped at a river to cool which was amazing but still at 1,400 metres we rode on to get more height before lunch. I managed to pick up my first puncture and so after 15 minutes of changing the tube we set off continuing to climb. It was tough going but there were the odd slight down hill to rest the legs from the continuous climbing. As we got close to the main climb and being around 2pm we decided to stop and have lunch.
Matious, Rafael and Bella Luna
Do I really have to pick up my bike and keep riding?
What I call the wall, A series of roads stacked on top of each other connected by 20 hairpin bends
It was going to be hard to ride on my own but with the huge climb in front of me to keep my mind occupied I should be ok. The road clung to the steep mountainside with each road almost sat on the last then turning sharply to return to the next hairpin bend. I waved good bye as Matious shot off infant of me and waved to Rafael who set off back down leaving me to slowly climb ever getting higher and counting down the metres. Our lunch stop was at 1,200 and I had another 2,000 metres to climb to reach the tunnel.
Climbing the next series of hairpin bends
It stayed warm and people waved encouragement as I plugged away ever getting higher. The were a few dodgy bit where I had a long tunnel ahead where there was no way around. With no hard shoulder I would wait until there was no traffic and go for it. I would appear out the other side like a possessed man breathing heavily and ready to collapse.
This one we had the option of going round
After a couple hours of climbing a few tunnels and a lot of sweet I reached the Chilean border. They told me to go on as I would be stamped in later at another imitation post. This made me worried and had visions of having to ride back but with the clear instruction to go on I had no choice. I felt shattered but pushed on stopping to eat some biscuits. noticing a few long tunnels ahead I found on them I could ride around the outside to stay safe.
Nearing the top I was pleased I could ride on the outside of this tunnel
I finally reached the tunnel at 3,200 metres and with it only being 5.30pm and knowing Matious had tackled the old pass I thought I would tackle the old pass as well. I had originally thought I would ride it on the way back but needing the extra training and knowing I would be off the bike for 2 weeks once back in Santiago I thought I would give it ago. I knew I was tired but still had a lot of energy left and give me the chance to camp high as well. I asked a local guy about the border stamps and told me it was the other side of the mountain just south of Aconcagua. This made me relax and so set off on the dirt track filling my bottle up from the river and slowly started the climb and it was slow. The track was steep although levelled in places and the sun always seemed to be behind the hill. For each left hand bend that was lit with the warmth of the sun by the time I reached it the shadow of the mountain had moved up to take its place pushing the suns rays to the next bend higher.
I kept climbing wanting to be as close to the top as I could but my energy levels were starting to fade fast. I ate the chocolate m&m’s that Rafael gave me which helped a lot and so climbed as much as I could until it became to steep. I got off to push on the parts that were to steep but also because I was exhausted. I spotted a building above me and decided it would be a great place to camp. As long as it was clean it would protect me from the elements and give me a good nights sleep. By the time I reached it the sun was already setting and I needed to cook fast and get the tent up. I was getting cold and I knew I had to get it all done quickly. I was pleased how high I had reached but still had a good climb to get over the rest if the old pass tomorrow.
Monday 2nd March
It was a big mistake having a coffee before I went to sleep. Being at 3,500 metres was hard on the body anyway, then having pain in the backside from climbing all day,the temperature already at 3 degrees, my heart beating at around 120 bpm, having to breath deeply and added to this it was my first night on my own with out anyone. Needless to say I didn’t sleep. I was shattered, cold, caffeine induced, in pain and lonely. I did get a little sleep and being in the building out of sight helped although looking at the state of the building and hearing bits drop off I hoped it wasn’t the last night the roof would last.
My camp for the night, I decided to keep away from the hole in the roof
I woke cold but with the sun shining under the steel door. I moaned and groaned as I put my shorts on and put on my down jacket to take a look outside. It was a stunning day with clear blue sky and the odd baby eagle to keep me company while I had toast. I would have had a coffee but being low on water I wanted to keep it for the climb.
My little mate who joined me for breakfast
Still with a chill I put my waterproof jacket on and started the climb. It was 10.45am and although I had been aching I soon got into the rhythm and steadily climbed stopping at times to take pictures. It was places like this I wished Sharon was with me. Seeing scenes like these makes them so much more rewarding when shared with someone you love. Just having that understanding of how amazing it is and to share it makes it so much more valuable.
Cristo Redento 3,850metres
I reached the top of saint Cristo Redento at 3,850m around midday and absorbed the view. It was amazing with coloured mountains and hanging glaciers from the many high peaks that surrounded the pass and the strong cold wind just reaffirm I was high up. Needing to reach Uspallata by nightfall I started the long stoney descent to the highway below.
I was pleased to have ridden up the side I had as the Argentinian side was in much worse condition. I reached the bottom and joined the concrete road and started the descent. It was amazing descending with the wind on my back but had a few wobbles with the strong gusts that would try and throw me off balance as I past bridges, trucks or tunnels.
The last bit to the arch and then its concrete
I soon came to the large immigration building where I was taken from one place to the next. They stamped my passport and gave me bits of paper and told me that was it I was free to go.
The incredible Aconcagua
It was stunning scenery as I descended but felt sad as I past places where we had camped on the way up or stopped for food or celebrate a mile stone. I was going to stop next to an abandoned house that we had slept in but with no water for dinner I rode on feeling sorry for myself. About a mile further on I crossed a river which I stopped to cook. I felt really emotional getting biscuits out we used to share and Sharon always giving me one extra. I was just pleased to have sunglasses on to hide behind as the cars and trucks waved as they passed.
The wind pushed me on towards Uspallata making me think I would have to fight this all the way back to the border but made the most of it as I made great progress. Remembering it was tough last time I wasn’t looking forward to the ride back up the many long climbs when I do return. Having to stop at a police check point they checked my passport and rode on towards town.
One of the many tunnels I would pass through
The wind was so strong near the town it created dust storms
As I got within 10 miles of Uspallata the wind changed into a fierce headwind. It seemed to take ages to reach the town but once I was there I followed the Mendoza road for a few km’s to where Matious had said I could camp for free. It took a while to find but soon came across the army camp where I would find the garage just after. Putting on my most tired face to ask if I could camp which wasn’t hard as I was shattered anyway I pitched my tent around the back of the workshops, washed myself and my clothes and cooked tea. It was 6pm by the time I had finished and felt great to be laying down. I looked through my passport and noticed I hadn’t been stamped into Argentina and had been let through a police checkpoint. I wanted to have a full day off but now I was officially an illegal immigrant with no Argentine pesos and a headwind as it was I might see if I could ride the return leg tomorrow.
Tuesday 3rd March
After another restless night probably because of the trucks driving in and out of the garage only a few metres away were making a lot of noise it took a while to nod off. I woke around 8am to the sun on the tent and turned over to see what sort of day it was. As I did I felt my stomach churn and thought to myself that doesn’t seem good. With in minutes I had to rush to the bathroom which luckily wasn’t to far away. How could I have got sick so fast. All I could think it could be was the altitude or the salami. Not wanting to prove that it was the salami I threw away the rest and started to clock up the miles running back and forth to the gents. What should I do? I had enough food for the rest of the week, I didn’t have any Argentine pesos, I was a British Illegal immigrant in Argentina next to an army camp and I had a dodgy stomach in a town called Uspallata. It was probably a good time to leave but I was sick. I could have got some pasos easily but this was a test on working out how much food I needed and weather it was the right food but It wasn’t a test to see if I could out smart the police with bowl problems. Knowing how fast I could get ill and how long it can take to recover I decided whist making trips to the bathroom that I would cross back in to Chile. I was due a rest day and if I could climb the pass now with the energy I had left I could take it easy on the other side. I was banking on a headwind making the return to the pass a couple days but being ill could make the return to the pass take up to 3. I packed my things and headed out on to the road into the centre of town.
I picked up water enough to get me the 28 miles to the river I’d had lunch at the day before.
I had a strong wind to my left to start with and any moment expected it to turn but instead of a head wind it was a gentle tail wind. This was amazing and made the going much easier. My symptoms stopped other then feeling groggy and I continued to steadily climb and descend along the deep valley amongst colourful giant mountains that towered above the valley.
I thought about stopping to have dinner but after chatting to a cyclist the day before saying the wind changed in a second from a tail to a head I wanted to make the most of it. I reached the river and washed my face and arms to cool in the heat and ate some biscuits and sweets. It wasn’t dinner but I didn’t want anything else and so with my short lunch over with I rode on taking it easy slowly climbing and ticking off the miles. What had been a great tailwind pushing me up the valley was now a head wind and was getting worse but did ease for a while after passing a huge deep valley heading off in another direction.
Although I had covered half the distance to the border I hadn’t climbed half the height I wanted to so I rode on battling the wind stopping only to treat my water and have a couple sweets. I did stop twice to rest as I was finding it tough going but wanting to get to the Argentine border post to get water I climbed the last steep hill into the wrong entrance. I pleaded ignorance and checked if I needed a stamp then asked for water. The guard didn’t even check my passport as the exit and entry on the return was on the Chilean side and pointed to the bathroom. By the time I left through the wrong exit the sun was now setting behind the mountains and I needed to camp fast. I rode on into the chilly wind for about 400 metres and saw a exit off to the right. Apart from the thorn shrubs that I would have to be careful with on my tires and tent it was a great place to camp with the stars already lighting up the valley.
My camp for the night just above the Immigration building
With it being cold the tent was the first job and then load it and wash. I was going to skip tea as I wasn’t Hungary hoping the 3/4 pack of biscuits was enough. It was an incredible view from where I was camped looking right down the valley but I just couldn’t quite see Aconcagua which was up the valley to the right. I lay my head on the pillow and my mind started to work overtime. I was alone on a road I had been on with my wife and yet she was gone. why was I here putting myself through this and why was she gone. It wasn’t fare and I didn’t want to be alone and I didn’t want to be ill.
Wednesday 4th March
After several long days of what felt like constant climbing I felt tired enough to sleep well. I was surprised how well I was considering I wasn’t well yesterday morning then a day of climbing and fighting a head wind. I still didn’t have an appetite so I just made a coffee and ate the last half packet of biscuits. I knew this wouldn’t get me over the high pass but should get me to the tunnel. It was an amazing camp spot but like all the ones ahead they would be lonely. I loaded the bike and pushed her down to the road. I felt tired but ok and turned the peddles passing the grand Aconcagua which rose high to my left. It never loses its beauty but passing it in the same direction as we had I felt sad. As I approached the summit I had to pass through a tunnel that was about 400metres long and on a climb. It was also at 3,100 metres so had to wait until I could see no cars or trucks coming as the extra effort needed at altitude would take its toll. I timed how long it took for a car to reach me and worked out I had about 35 seconds plus the time it takes them to cover the distance I had covered in the tunnel. With the coast clear I went for It, I had my orange vest on and helmet with lights flashing but still didn’t stop the panic running through my veins. I got about 3/4 of the way through when I heard the first car enter, I pushed as hard as I could and reached the exit just in time and breathing as hard as I could. I pulled over and hung over my bars until I got my breath back. I rode on and reached the main tunnel around 11.45am and asked at a restaurant if I could have some water. He showed me some amazing food that looked amazing but not having any Argentine pesos and a big climb to do I declined. Kicking myself at not sitting down to enjoy a good feed I put my energy in to the climb. I turned off the highway and emptied half the water out of the bag as I didn’t need 10 litres and started to slowly plod up the climb.
Making good progress on my way back
It felt better then it had descending it as I could pick a better line missing much of the stony sections. I would wave at the buses and cars as they passed giving me a lot of encouragement back. The views were incredible and as I climbed the scale of the mountains became more impressive. I climbed around 350 metres and as it was 1pm I stopped to have lunch. Still not feeling great I made a coffee and ate a tin of mashed beef in a tomato sauce. I didn’t know what it would be like but it tasted great and was just what I needed. I lay in the sun waving at passers by and rested drinking my coffee ready for the next big push.
I set off again and slowly climbed having to put my foot down from time to time as my wheels slid underneath me in the lose earth. I had been trying to count the bends but in the end I decided breathing was more important then counting. With only a hundred metres to climb to the summit a small bus passed and I waved. They all cheered me on which really hit a nerve. Everything came back to me, the reason why I was here and how great it was to have Sharon with me and reaching the top together with people cheering us on and being amazed at Sharon’s strength. I cried under my sun glasses almost uncontrollably and looked away if I saw people looking at me. The top meant nothing with out her and yet I was being cheered on for what, I had lost my wife what was there to cheer about. When I reached the top I found a quiet place to sit and calm down away from the crowds. A nice German couple asked what I was doing but just said I was doing a bit of touring. I asked them about their trip and wished them luck before swiftly leaving before I was asked any more questions. I left the summit and started the long descent down to the highway below.
I watched as this car negotiated its way around this rock fall
I reached the highway in good time and started the nice descent on tarmac down through the tunnel to the immigration. I spotted a cyclist as I descended through one of the long tunnels and stopped to chat. He was from Bradworthy in Devon near to where I live which was incredible. It was really nice chatting to him for a while but he needed to climb and reach the top before dark and I needed to descend and stamp in to Chile.
I reached the immigration building and was told I had to go around the side, only to then be taking in to where I was when I was told to go around. It did make me chuckle, how I love formalities. I went to one room and received a piece of paper with a stamp and then I went to stamp out of Argentina. The lady looked at me and said there was not entry stamp. I shrugged my shoulders knowing they hadn’t stamped me I just explained I was training and had only been in Argentina for 2 days. She went off and came back with the relevant stamps out and in to Chile and headed down the road towards the famous series of hairpin bends that I had ridden up only a few days before.
The wall from above
Apart from the fierce headwind I soon reached the bottom and meandered on down the valley. I spotted another cyclist and stopped to chat. This guy was also from Devon and was cycling to Columbia from Ushuaia. He Talked for a while said there were more coming up so I went on to speak to them. It turned out they were all from Devon and had their bikes sponsored by Martin at Tavy cycles whom I know. It was such a small world and really great to chat. They were loving the tail winds and were just about to camp before the bends. I told them about a disused building and wished them luck. They were on a tight time line so might end up seeing them further north. I continued down the valley stopping at a small shop to buy a coke, chocolate and ice cream as a treat for the past few days. Being 3 of the 5 a day I sat in the chair enjoying the sugar rush whilst a small boy kept jumping over my legs. He was got quite good to the point I had to raise them to make it harder which he seemed to get quite excited about. I sat eating my ice-cream and watched possibly 100 Toyota Hiluxs pulling out of a junction heading home from a copper mine along with bus loads of workers I couldn’t believe how many there were. Pleased I had missed rush hour I continued on the short distance to where Rafael, Matious and I had camped a few days before. I was surprised I had got back so quick and taken on the high pass twice. Know at a lower altitude and feeling much better I thought I might extend my ride and head to the coast but before I made a decision I would see how I felt in the morning and would for now relax for the evening, wash and try and eat something that would fill me up. What ever I did I was at least in Chile and can take it easier,eat good food and squash the 2 mozzies that have just bitten me on both my big toes. Little buggers.
Thursday 5th March
It had been a hard night to get to sleep and the thought of not having Sharon with me. I finally drifted off around 3 or 4am which was probably about the time the 3/4 of a litre of coke and sugar wore off that I had drunk the evening before. I did sleep but woke around 8am with the trains shunting the copper ore wagons around on the other side of the river. I got up and packed away my things and sat and had coffee and my 3 day old bread and jam which probably due to the cold was ok. I sat and watched the train pull off and head down the valley and so was my cue to go as well. I soon caught the train up and took some pictures for my step dad who likes the out of the ordinary train before riding on.
One of the mining trains heading down the mountain
Although the sun was out so was the head wind to slow my descent. I didn’t have far to drop and with a few climbs I approached Los Andes. I spotted some copper sellers so brought a small copper saucepan to give to Andrea to cook her morning eggs and rode the rest of the way into town. I picked up some petrol for my stove, picked up essentials well biscuits and found the restaurant we had eaten at a few days before. Knowing how good the fish was I sat and ate my first proper meal since I left the same place about 5 days before. It was around 12.30 by the time I had eaten and now that I was back in Los Andes 3 days early, due to not having a day off in Uspallata from being ill, and managing to climb the high pass and get down a few miles from Los Andes in 2 days instead of 4 I decided to ride to the coast. Seeing as Rafael was going to ride back to Santiago with me it would be nice if he did a different route and so with Vina del Mar 140 km away I would try and get there in 2 days and have a little time in Valparaiso before riding back to Santiago.
Looking back towards the snow capped mountains of the Andes
As Los Andes is at 800 metres I should have a good descent at some point and looking at the shape of the valley with the river coming down from the mountains it should be a steady descent to the coast and a nice ride. I set off and I felt great, with little head wind to start I was flying. After around 30 miles the road turned in to a motorway and with no other option I kept going staying on the hard shoulder which seemed to keep everyone happy. I pushed on counting down the miles and thought I would buy a road map of Chile to check I was going the shortest route. I checked the map and saw there was a tunnel. I didn’t know there was a tunnel and didn’t know how I was going to get through it or how long it was. There was only one way to find out and already wearing my orange vest and having lights at hand to turn on if needed I pushed on. The traffic would vary in how busy it was and I was moving at around 16-18mph, I felt great and I was making good progress, then I saw the tunnel. It had two lanes, no hard shoulder and I was approaching it fast. I checked behind me to see a couple cars and a couple huge trucks a little way back. I looked at the tunnel again and could see the end and went for it. I gave it everything I had but once I was half way through the tunnel I heard the trucks enter with a loud roar. They sounded like monsters coming to get me and were approaching fast. I pushed harder and harder on the peddles until I could hardly breath and pretty much came out the end of the tunnel screaming as I swerved over to the hard shoulder just as the trucks passed a second later probably laughing their heads off at the very red faced, distressed looking flashing orange cyclist. After a big sigh and getting my breath back I rode pleased I had made it through and on towards the coast. The sun was on me the whole time and spotting a digger slowly working its way along the hard shoulder at 12 mph it gave me chance to sit behind it and enjoy the break from the wind and apply sun cream. I checked my Chile road map to see if I had to get off or kept going and which was the best route trying to avoid the main highway. Looking at the map the highway would have taken me right into the centre of the city but the long level way round. With the sun slowly setting it wouldn’t have given me time to get there in the light that I had left and so I finally found the exit for Con Con and turned off. I stopped to buy a small coke to keep the legs turning and chatted to the owners who were lovely and told me about the road ahead.
I love fruit when its hot
With the sun getting low which wasn’t great cycling into the setting sun as I wasn’t sure how much the cars behind could see. Keeping a close eye in my mirrors I climbed and descended the many small slopes until I could see the sea. It seemed pointless to get right to the coast before dark but I still needed somewhere to camp. As I got with in about 3 miles of the sea I passed a Copec garage which looked perfect. I asked one of the attendants who pointed me to a nice piece of grass which was just what I needed. Once I’d washed in the bathroom I treated myself to 2 hotdogs, a drink and ice cream for only £5 and pleased with my day. I couldn’t believe I had covered 82 miles and would now give me a longer day off tomorrow with a possible swim in the Pacific
Friday 6th March
Even with my tent lit up like a beacon from the street light I fell into a deep sleep from my long ride to the ocean. I woke to the thought of fresh orange juice out of a bottle. Fresh bread from the restaurant the day before freshly toasted with packet marmalade and butter biscuits oh and a hot cup of coffee. I asked one of the workers how far it was to Vina del Mar and went into some description that was like hearing every direction if I needed to get home. I stood for what felt like an hour nodding politely and said thanks and finished off my coffee safely stored in a thermal cup. The garage worker who had said I could stay came over to check I was ok and was very pleased he could help. He was amazing and so kind. I packed the remainder of my things and waved as I headed out on to the highway. As I headed the last few miles to the ocean I was greeted to a large cloud bank that made me think it would rain. It didn’t but with red flags flying everywhere there was no way I would be allowed in the sea. As I reached the sea front I meandered along the coast following it in and out of the bays and stopped to watch the cormorants dive bombing schools of fish.
I was so lovely to see such amazing colours
Feeling the vitamins replenish my body I rode on towards Valparaiso. The cycle track disappeared and put me back on the high way. It wasn’t great but nothing new and soon arrived in the centre.
My GPS was starting to play up already resetting the odometer twice and now playing up to where we had stayed before as I rode up and town thee town trying to find the hostel. Every night we camped before I would always mark it so I would have a record in the future and so after a while I was slowly lead back to the hostel. It was weird to be back and so strange to be here without Sharon. Needing a shower I cleaned me and my clothes and set out once again to try and cycle up the hill behind the city.
well here we go!!
It was so steep I could have stood my bike up resting my peddle on the road. I have never ridden up a hill so steep even though I didn’t have my panniers on. After sweeting profusely I made it to the top having had to push the last hundred metres.
The only way I could keep dolly there was to face her down hill with the front brake on
It was amazing to be on such a steep street looking down over the city in its many colours. I headed back to the hostel grabbed a few things and went out for dinner. The food was ok but the waiter was shocking and having to wait so long on my own was even worse.
There was colour and paintings everywhere
I wondered the city taking pictures of the art and after a while feeling tired I headed back to the hostel for a well needed rest for my ride back to Santiago.
Saturday 7th March
Even with the streets alive with the sound of party’s, skaters, singers and people generally having a good I was so tired I feel in to a deep sleep. I woke around 8 with all but one room mate fast asleep. I went down to have breakfast and managed to FaceTime Natalie. It was so good to speak and see the kids and gave me energy to get going. With the bike loaded I had to blow up the rear tyre which I was suspicious about as it had lost a lot of air but yet stayed up while riding. I headed out of the city being harassed by buses which isn’t very nice especially as their job is carrying people. I soon reached the junction in town where I would turn off and head up the steep hill out of the city. It wasn’t a great climb lasting 7 and a half miles of narrow dual carriageway and lots of debris. The traffic was light which helped but didn’t make it anymore fun. It was annoying not to have proper maps on the GPS which I’d had before and there shouldn’t have been any reason why it shouldn’t have but with it resetting itself several times there was something wrong and I now couldn’t rely on it. After reaching the top the road undulated through woodland with low mountains each side. The distraction was the traffic and I had to stay focused. I headed for a marked GPS point we had camped before and started to remember a few names on the road signs. I soon left the busy highway and back on smaller roads. This felt much better and helped me relax and start to enjoy it. Knowing I had a climb to do I reached a small town double checked my route with a shop keeper and brought some fruit. It was just what I needed and so started to tackle the climb.
This amazing bush took my eye as I left town
I was finding hard to recognise the route we had been on but soon as I started up the first climb it all came back. It was so hot in the sun and although I had a slight tail wind with the speed I was moving forward it was like riding in still air. I was however covering the distance and needed to. Heading south east was not the most direct route and would add a lot of miles on. I stopped for an ice cream and an empanada as I hadn’t stopped for lunch and got my head down again. It had been a hard day and my knees were starting to hurt. I was however pleased that as the day went on I had a nice cycle path next to the road I could use.
Trying to find the back road to one of the camp spots we had stayed at when we had first left Santiago was proving impossible. I ended up taking the wrong road a couple of times to find they were dead ends after a couple hundred metres then having to lift my bike of an Armco barrier and cross the duel carriageway next to the toll gates just to get on the road in the right direction. It was now getting late but had put in a good day and had covered 66 miles. I started to look for a camp spot while picking up water and spotted a gateway. As I went in to camp I saw parachutes above me. I wanted to see what they were doing so headed off in the direction of where they landed.
I was soon next to a grass airstrip asking about weather I could jump on a 10 year old licence. Due to it being ten years ago since i last jumped they said it was to long and would only be allowed as a tandem, they invited me to camp, watch the last jump and join them for a BBQ later.
The sunset jump was always the best
I felt a bit out of it being on my own and not really being able to speak Spanish. With everyone else having jumped I felt a little shy. I did try but have never been good at this mixing in lark. I would how ever give it a go and make the most if it. After all I’m gonna have to get used to it.
As the meat was being cooked and a few drinks went round everyone started to relax and joining in was much easier. I got chatting to the owner who was very keen on me coming back to redo my course and to be honest so was I. the party went on to after midnight and with a days ride tomorrow I headed back to my tent. As I was cleaning my teeth I heard my name being called and it was Rafael who had found my location on my tracker and come to pick me up. He was going to take me to their holiday house in the mountains for the rest of the weekend. It was such a nice surprise and so I thanked the owner and told him I would see him in the future for a few jumps. So off we went after a little over 8 riding I was off to relax.
I had been planning the route for ages and didn’t know how I would get on. I found it hard at first with the weight but soon found my legs. once I had been at altitude I was off. Being ill showed me how fast it can happen and was later told that the altitude will give the same symptoms. I felt strong and fit but it was my head I was worried about. every night I was on my own I cried and I had to get stronger. There would be times when I wouldn’t have people around me for support. I would be very lonely, tired and hungry. It was up to me now to toughen up and realise what was ahead. I was now surrounded by people I cared about and managed to climb 2 passes over 3,850metres, one at 1,250m, managed to climb 8,000 metres in total and ridden 410 miles at felt fit.
It was now time to tweak the bits that didn’t work well. try and fit the rest of my stuff on my bike and get to Bolivia and I had 2 weeks to do it in.
Thanks for reading xx