Surprise, surprise here we are a few days early in the beautiful Patagonia Region of Argentina. Why you may ask are we here early? Well here goes on the last week + activities.
The departure from Santiago was delayed two days as a result of the ongoing saga of the airplanes that are too small to carry the bikes. As a result the organizers decided we would have to ride 12 days straight at a pace and mileage that even the Tour De France riders would be proud.
The ride from Santiago on Feb 2nd to San Fernando was a sight to behold what with a police escort for 150+ kms. A good thing, as we were on highway 5 which is the truck capital of the world. We encountered a flat and had the pleasure of changing the flat to the sound of roaring trucks and the scent of fresh road kill that was some yards from the bike, oh what a treat.
San Fernando was another soccer field (dirt) but the accommodations were more than made up for by the folk festival the locals put on for the group. We would have stayed for the whole thing but after a long day in the saddle we could not keep our eyes open till 11:30PM, hell 8:30PM is a challenge.
The next day saw us on a 122km ride to Telca where we stayed at the local University. This was some of the first grass we have camped on in some time, well organized and all in all not a bad stay.
The next day we headed off for one of our shorter and much welcome rides to a little place where we set up out tents around the local swimming pool. The meal was interesting as we had a stand up meal (chicken) so everyone was getting adept at balancing much needed calories while trying to carve off the meat, a sight to behold. Suffice to say the garbage cans were full of dirty chicken, not mine as my Mother had made a point of ensuring I learnt the value of eating a peck of dirt before one dies. The morning saw the much-feared rain, we learnt two new treats: packing a wet tent and eating while standing up in the pouring rain with no cover. The soggy eggs got soggier, the bread softer and all in all a super experience. Faced with a 148km ride in the rain we opted for a truck ride to our next stop in Conception, a much needed and deserved treat.
Conception had us staying in a hotel as the dirt military soccer field was soggy and wet and the supposed facilities were less than ideal. All in all a nice evening.
Next morning we were off on what turned out to be a super ride to a little place called Angol. The riding was divided into three parts a flat 50km along a beautiful river, 45 kms of killer hills followed by 40KM of killer winds. We had our first experience with the hospitable Chileans as a family of 7 stopped us on the highway to ask what the crazy gringos were doing, this was followed by an offer to join them for lunch which we had to decline as the winds and the need to push on caused us to make what we later felt was a dumb decision.
Angol was a treat to behold, once again a dirt field but now we had showers that necessitated we wallow in 6 inches of other riders effluent, and sanitary facilities that could best be described as a condemned septic system, many very upset people yours included, we think the tour organizers should have to sleep with the troops and use the same facilities as we are forced to endure, but then again they would have to give up their warm hotel beds!!!! Food was once again stand up CHICKEN
The next days ride was a 130+km ride to Temuco which 30km up, then the balance on a poor shoulder on highway5 what a day. Yours truly wanted to stay in a hotel but Mary the ever practical one felt we should save ourselves for another day and enjoy the pleasures afforded by sleeping in the grass of a sports complex, as we had a scheduled meeting with our illustrious leader Tim Kneeland. The meeting was not worth the effort as we got blamed for the problems with the facilities in Angol and read the riot act that we had better clean up our act. This was followed by the beginning of four straight days of rain.
We were troopers and rode for two solid days of pouring rain but gave up our tenting experience in favor of some very small and inexpensive hostelarias. The bus was our chosen transport on the third day when we awoke to rain sheeting in the horizontal, tree limbs down and all in all what one would call a bitch of a day. Decided we would go on to Argentina when the next day was also a rain soaked one, a decision which based on viewing the 35kms of gravel, pot holed, narrow, no shouldered road crossing the Andes was one of our wiser ones so far.
As of this writing the group is supposed to arrive here tomorrow sometime and where they are staying is not known, it was supposed to be a hotel but that was cancelled in an effort to save money (our guess). We are in a humble hotel enjoying warmth, no rain and a hot shower and scenery to die for.
Today we had a super ride, albeit it very cold around the lakes and have run into a large percentage of the group already here. At any given day there have been as many as 100+ not riding and some disappear for as much as a weeks time, they are sanity saving days.
In spite of the many trials and tribulations we are having a great time and have come to grips with the fact we and we alone are going to have to make it work, great riders, great scenery (when you can look at it) and great countries to visit.
If all goes well we are scheduled to leave here sometime on Monday Feb 14th for South Africa, please say a little prayer the plane is big enough and all goes well.
So long for now, and stay tuned for the next installment, perhaps we will share with you the dictionary we are building explaining what Tim actually means by such words as, rolling hills, awesome, orgasmic, etc.
Love to all,
Dave & Mary