After meeting up with my much anticipated visitors Andy and Stevie, the three gringos from old Colorado glory days were reunited.
With my bike now back in fully working condition, we said goodbye to Puerto Montt (not a second too soon) and pedaled into the Chilean Lake District.
It was great to be back with old friends, the opportunity to catch up and tell old stories is always priceless. In addition it seems that bike touring with them put our friendships into a new realm since it threw some new dynamics that normal everyday circumstances never provided before.
Instead of deciding where to ski or go out on a Friday night, we were faced with decisions of a more serious nature – a healthy challenge for a bunch of clowns.
In our first days of peddling we needed to quickly decide on our best route to take, how hard to physically push ourselves and the best way to handle the bad weather – all while we were in the middle of nowhere. All of these decisions needed to be made for the best of the group as a whole, not just for an individual.
Luckily for everyone´s health and safety, it didn’t take too long before we shifted into more responsible decision making versus the old circus-like atmosphere we loved of the past.
Without disappointment, everyone´s personalities added their own elements to the trip.
Andy with his outdoor guide experience drove sensible decisions and offered good advice. He also donated his helmet to me at the end of his trip, since mine was likewise donated to certain National Park of Chile roadside a few weeks before (one day I`ll say that Andy Burns saved my life or at least mental health I`m sure).
Saving my mental health in a different way, Stevie always laughed at my dumb jokes and along with his other worthy contributions provided me a 1st-hand taste on how annoying I can be with a camera (due to being a photo junkie just like me).
Adding to the complex logistics of bike-touring in a foreign country with a foreign language, my bike still needed to get through some recovery pains from the cracked wheel.
This time around there were some broken rack bolts, a worn back tire (that resulted in more flats that I care to mention right now) and a few broken spokes to balance out the mix. However it was a team effort, with all hands available helping out.
These mechanical issues didn’t really cause much stress and the bike knowledge of Andy and Stevie really helped the process. It´s also amazing what a lot of rubber cement and zip ties can do.
Although I do love zip ties, we figured I should eventually get some new rack bolts for a more permanent fix. But after a few days with no luck at every hardware store we passed, we realized that metric sizes do not exist in South America and this mission was becoming a lost cause.
That was until we met a man named Claus – happily driving around the world in his Land Cruiser. The very prepared German, as Germans tend to be, had a toolbox with just about every bolt size made in this world and was more than happy to donate to the cause.
Thanks for the bolts again Claus! I just need to stop being lazy and put them on now – but I`m saving that for a rainy day because I`m a bit emotionally attached to the zip ties…
With all these technicalities behind us, the gringo tour got into full swing and I can only hope Andy and Stevie enjoyed it as much as I did. Everyday had a different story and it was great to enjoy the Chilean Lake District with them.
Overall, we decided on a moderate pace with occasional short days to give us a real opportunity to enjoy the area (or to fix my bike).
The days provided a mix of mountain biking trails and smooth paved roads while the nights consistently provided great wild camping with dinners cooked for kings -which also resulted in my pot being stolen by wild pigs one night, but lets not complicate the story here.
Aside from the riding and camping, the thermal baths we stopped at were also a highlight to say the least. In addition to us being the only people there, the hot springs were some of the nicest I have been to with a huge waterfall alongside.
But eventually everything comes to an end and after a nice two weeks of gringo group touring, it was time for Andy & Stevie to head back to Colorado and for myself to continue riding north.
For the 1st time in more than six weeks, I was riding on my own. To be honest, it took a little while to get used to being solo again. However this did provide the chance to do some thinking and come to some conclusions about the trip. This was a nice opportunity because it seems that sometimes I can be a bit slow to realize things.
At this point, two full months into my trip, I think I just fully realized that I´m actually on a long-distance bike trip in South America that needs to be taken seriously. I´m just a little slow I know.
I`m just waking up to the fact that although there will be more fun and games ahead – maybe I need to be a bit smart and careful or else I might not make it on my bike.
The logical thing any mature person would do at this point would be to take their time, stay safe and cycle easily with the long term picture in mind.
I decided to do the exact opposite. I proceeded to head straight up the coastline with the rough plan to cycle as hard as possible until my legs self-destructed. Awesome.
Luckily on the 1st day of believing my name is Lance Armstrong, I came across an old horseshoe on a beautiful mountain dirt road overlooking the ocean. Instantly being secured to my front rack -where it will stay for as long as possible during this trip – I´m hoping the horseshoe will provide good luck against my own stupidity.
It looks like this horseshoe has seen its years in the weather and judging by the size, it wasn’t wore by a large racing stallion but rather a small work donkey (some people like to say ass). Fits me perfectly.
Even though I was now equipped with this new good luck, the clock would still tick down to my leg meltdown. Any metal trinket I could find wouldn`t stop this one.
So after six long days on the saddle, my legs declared bloody mutiny and demanded a serious break. I was averaging about 125km a day on some pretty tough roads, so I gave in fair enough.
But, perhaps due to the horseshoe, the timing of the meltdown was ideal. It left me in prime position to stop in the surfing town of Pichilemu for the needed rest.
In high summer season, being a well-known South American surf spot, I imagine this town could be called Crazyville. However being well into the Autumn season, to my eyes it looks like a sleepy town that the tourists forgot.
Staying at a great hostel with a handful of passionate surfers, I have had the opportunity to give surfing a try – balancing the rest of my time with a sampling of some glasses of Chilean red wine.
As you can imagine, since I´m crap at surfing, my physical health concerns have quickly turned from my tired legs to my Merlot-stained internal organs.
It would be nice to write more about my experience in town or the people I met at the surfers hostel, but the view of the Pacific from the front porch only encourages laziness- so that will need to wait until another time. But if you´re ever in the town, stop by the Casa Verde Surf Hostel – you will be glad you did.
After one more day of relaxation, I´ll be ready to get back on the saddle as I`m starting to get the itch to get back on it. My general plan is to head up the Pacific coastline, camping on the beach on the way. Maybe I´ll remember to pace myself too, who knows.
But before I go back to playing Beach Blanket Bingo, there is one more subject I need to address…..
I have received a lot of both positive and negative banter, per email and general comments, about my overgrown monster of a beard.
It seems that my beard has grown more popular than the bike trip itself. Originally I planned that I would not shave my face for the entire South American trip, however even my stubborn mind began to change in the past few weeks.
Perhaps due to jealously or due to the fact that I was getting more food in my mustache than my mouth – I finally pulled the trigger and trimmed my beard down a few days ago. With a pair of children´s pink school scissors and a stylish bright red comb, it stood no chance at all.
In order to immortalize the beard and give it one last day in the sun (at least until it grows back in a month or so) I`m going to leave you with the following short photographic tribute I put together to celebrate its short but colorful life: