Here they are again!

5/12/2019

I did not really update my blog over the last couple of weeks, so I created a big backlog. I ended my previous blog in the Argentinian city of Mendoza, two weeks before my parents would arrive in Santiago de Chile. I wanted to receive them well, so I wanted to arrive on time in Chile’s capital. From Mendoza, it took me about 5 days to reach the city, via a small detour. This was quite a journey, since I had to climb over the Andes mountains. The route was beautiful, the headwind not so much.

 

Just before the Chilean customs, there is a big tunnel that is not possible to cross by bike. They did not construct a separate one for cyclists, unfortunately. The road police could bring you through the tunnel for free, but there was a more interesting alternative. There is an old road that takes you 700 meters higher, up to an altitude of about 3700 meters. There is a big statue of Jezus on top of this pass, to symbolize the solved border dispute between Chile and Argentina.

 

Going to the top

 

This old road was still closed for cars, since the pass would be impassible. This meant I had the road entirely for myself, except for a couple of motorbikes that passed me. A little while after they passed me, I saw them again. They were coming down this time, so I started to worry whether it was really impossible to reach the top. I had been climbing for too long already to return, so I decided to continue and see what would be ahead of me. Just before the top, I understood why the road was still closed. There was a thick layer of ice, steeply going down into a ravine, completely blocking the road. It was really impossible to cycle past it.

 

Game over. Right?

 

I decided to walk around this layer of ice by climbing up a steep part of the mountain. I took me 10 minutes to reach the other side of the ice, this would take way too long. I saw some people at the old border facilities. I walked towards them and they turned out to be Chilean soldiers, they hiked up to the top from the Chilean part of the mountain. I asked if they wanted to help me out bringing my stuff across the ice. They didn’t mind and three soldiers and me brought everything at once to the other side of the ice. We took a quick picture and then I started descending. I had agreed with Oliver to meet him at the border facilities of Chile. Oliver is a German/Norwegian man that I met a week before in Mendoza. He lives in Santiago de Chile and was in Mendoza for work. I lost a lot of time because of this ice blockade, so I descended as quickly as possible. I actually descended too quickly, since I crashed on the bike. This meant another nice scar that will remind me forever that more haste is less speed.

 

Gracias guys! And women!

 

 

I arrived to the border facilities before Oliver did, so that was perfect. He brought sandwiches and freshly brewed coffee from Mendoza. Chile is really stricted when it comes to importing fresh products, so we ate it before we crossed the border. We crossed the border together and drove to Portillo, a ski resort very close to the border. We said goodbye to each other there and we agreed upon meeting each other in Santiago, where Oliver lives. He invited me over to his apartment, where I arrived two days later.

 

Los caracoles. What a nice decent

 

Oliver lives in a nice apartment on the eastside of Santiago, he has a stunning view on the mountains. We had a nice time together and I was amazed by the fact that he entrusted me with the key to his beautiful apartment. He went to his work several times and I could just hang out in his apartment on my own. I stayed here for almost a week before my parents arrived.

 

On the 8th of November, the day was finally there, my parents arrived in Santiago de Chile. This is already their second visit on this journey. Their first visit, one year ago in Mexico, was abruptly interrupted by the sudden death of my grandfather so this left us with a very bitter taste in our mouthes. When we are thinking back at this visit in Mexico, we can only think about how it ended.

 

An eventful year followed where new accommodation had to be arranged for my grandmother, the old house had to be emptied and a bunch of other things had to be arranged and concluded. This was pretty challenging, since my father was only child, so all these tasks had to be executed by my parents.

 

At the beginning of this year, my father decided to retire. The idea was in the back of his mind for a longer period of time, but made the final decision in January. He would retire in August and when he told me he would do so, I immediately invited him over to come and join me on my cycling journey. He thougth it was very nice of me to invite him, but wasn’t really considering it at first. He could imagine that I wanted to finish my trip alone, since I have come such a long way on my own as well. I didn’t think about it that way, I actually think that it would be a very valuable addition to this trip. Actually, I think it would complete it. My mother and I quickly took away his doubts and he decided to join me.

 

Between many other activities, he prepared himself well to join me and he has bought a bicycle in February already.  In the months that followed, he bought the whole setup with bicycle bags, clothing, tools, maps, spare parts etc. The only thing that is missing is a good physical preparation, he did some small daytrips in North-Holland, the province where we live. This is flatter than flat, so not really comparable with the hilly and mountainous environment that is awaiting him right now.

 

Back to the airport. On Friday the 8th of November, both my parents arrived on the airport of Santiago de Chile. I was waiting at the wrong arrival door, so my mother called me to ask me where I was, since they were waiting for me already. Just like last year, it felt surreal to see each other again after such a long time. It didn’t feel like we hadn’t seen each other for a year. We were really happy to see each other again and there is not a whatsapp video call that can compete with a real life reunion.

 

 

We collected the rental car that we were about to use for the next three weeks, and drove to the simple Airbnb place in Santiago. My parents could acclimatize here for two days before we moved on to the next place. The bicycle and all the stuff of my father fitted perfectly in the car, so we had to squeeze ourselves in the front of the car. The chance of receiving a fine for this was negligible, Chile has more important things to do then to enforce the law of allowing up to two people in the front of the car.

 

We were about to use the rental car for three weeks and we could store our stuff in the mean time in the apartment of Oliver, which was really nice and convenient. Oh and by the way, my complains about the bad quality of the camera on my phone is finally over since my father brought good camera’s.

 

We first drove to the Chilean coastal places of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. There were a lot of protest against to government throughout Chile, and the coast was on exception. The center of all the bigger cities in Chile are completely vandalized. There is graffiti everywhere, many public spaces, shops or ATM machines are destroyed. It looks very sad. Banks and international (American) chains seem to have been targeted especially.

 

In Viña del Mar, we visited Thomas and Erica, the German couple that is traveling on a motorbike and happened to be at the same place as us. Their apartment bordered the avenue where groups of locals would gather every day to protest. These protests always turned violent when it became evening. To be on the safe side, we took an uber to their apartment. When we got out of the car, our eyes and throats started to irritate pretty badly. Apparently, the police cleared the streets ten minutes before we arrived and there was still a lot of teargas in the air. Despite the unrest, we have had a very nice evening together with Thomas and Erica. It was very nice to see them one more time before they would continue their trip in New-Zealand.

 

 

Whatever happens, keep on smiling

 

So that's what we did

 

The next day, on the day we visited Valparaíso, there was a national and nationwide strike. This meant that there were many burning barricades blocking the streets. We found a quiet touristic neighborhood on top of a hill, above the city and away from the protests.

 

We were pretty lucky when we took an uber back home. Our driver was zigzagging around multiple road blockades and many of them were still smoking. I am pretty sure that it would have been impassible if we would have been there half an hour earlier. We were watching the local television from our apartment and were happy to be in a safe place, since there was a lot of shit going on that day.

 

After these coastal places, we drove straight to Argentina (Mendoza). We passed multiple smoldering road blocks again, so we were pretty lucky again. In hindsight, it was a good choice of us to go to Argentina to escape the unrest. We drove over the Andes mountain and I could show my parents some places that I had passed earlier on the bicycle.

 

The inca lake

 

 

We were in a nice house in the mountains for a week with a beautiful terrace that provided us with a splendid view on the valley of Mendoza. We went to the city multiple times, visited multiple bodegas, a beautiful artificial lake that my parents had seen earlier from the plane, tasted many wines, had a lot of fun and enjoyed the sunny weather.

 

Rest can save you

 

Acting like Argentinians with our daily grill

 

Wines

 

Cowboys

 

 

Our next and second-last destination was a beautiful cabin in Chile, in a quiet area in the mountains, away from all the unrest and in the middle of tranquility and nature. We have had an amazing last week here. We were close to a national bioreserve that we visited a couple of times, visited another vineyard, drank more wine, played more games and have had a lot of fun again.

 

Also not bad, right?

 

We spotted this little friend several times

 

This big one, too

 

And then it was time to go back to Santiago already, since it was time for my mother to go back to the Netherlands. Unlike my father being the pensionado, my mother still has her work that awaited her. We have had three unforgettable weeks, without any bitter taste in our mouths afterwards. When we got back to Santiago, we had a beautiful apartment to conclude our weeks together.

 

 

Two days later, we drove to the airport early in the morning to arrive on time. We couldn’t assume that the road to the airport would be completely unblocked. It was hard to say goodbye and it felt strange that my father stayed with me while my mother returned to the Netherlands on her own. They will be separated longer then ever before so that was quite hard for the both of them.

 

All things must pass, see you next year mum!

 

When my mother disappeared behind the immigration control, we quickly returned our rental car. The comfort of having our own transportation (motorized) is over. We will stay for a couple more days in Oliver’s apartment to prepare ourselves to leave and will start our big cycling journey afterwards.

 

 

Expected day of departure: 4th of December

 

Ready for take-off 

 

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©2019 by Jelle.