After waving goodbye to my mother at the airport of Santiago de Chile, my father and I were suddenly all by ourselves. Our bicycle journeys were really upcoming now. We could prepare ourselves at ease at Oliver’s appartment, the German-Norwegian man where I could stay before my parents arrived.
Oliver lives in Norway but has a second place to stay in Santiago de Chile for about 15 years already. He has his own import and export company. I had met him in Mendoza (Argentina), we met again at the Argentinian-Chilean border, and eventually he even invited me over to his apartment. His hospitality even went that far that my father and I could stay there as well after my mother returned to the Netherlands, so that we could prepare ourselves at ease.
And that’s what we did. We bought the last essentials, I finally did some much needed bicycle maintenance and we could combine that with going out with Oliver and having a good time together in general.
This is the first night after my mother left, it almost looks like we are celebrating is…
Oliver also took us to a beautiful amphitheater, which is located in a quiet place up in the mountains, with a stunning view on Santiago’s skyscrapers in the far distance. The sun set during the performance, making the entire setting extremely beautiful and surreal.
Monica, Oliver and my father and I
After an eventful year and months of preparations, the 4th of December was the date on which my father and I would finally depart, this turned my father a bit emotional. We said goodbye to Oliver (he might visit us again in Patagonia!), and off we went. The first day was not the most pleasant one, since we had to find a way through Santiago’s metropolitan region of about 7 million people.
There is a huge gap between the rich and the poor in Chile and this gap becomes painfully visible when cycling through the city. We started off in the better neighborhood of Santiago, and could see the transition that ended in the poor suburbs of the city. We needed the entire afternoon to make it through the city. I was navigating with my headphones and could guide us through the chaotic centre via many shitty bike lanes. We managed to make it through and were happy to be out of the city at the end of the day. We were staying at an Airbnb place that I booked for the first day, I think it’s a good idea to slowly shift from the comfort that we’re used to by now, to diehard surviving in the wild.
Day one, with South-America's highest building in the background
We had decided to descend a little bit along the Chilean coast, so the idea was to get there as soon as possible. Via (generally speaking) quiet domestic roads through the country side, it took us a couple of days to get to the coast. In contrast to the busy provincial roads, these secondary roads had some insidiously steep climbs, some of which were actually dirt roads.
Actually, some were so steep that I needed all my strength to keep cycling, which was, of course, impossible for my untrained father. In several sections along the way, he had to get off the bike and push it to the top of some hills. This is even more exhausting then cycling it.
At the end of one of our days towards the coast, we were looking for a place to camp. The entire region was agricultural land, and everything was fenced with barbed wire. There might have been a couple of secret entrances to camp out without begin spotted, but we are still well behaved and asked for permission. We asked a man, who was watering his garden, if we could camp out in his yard. He looked extremely distrustful at first, and asked for our identity cards. He said that he could only offer us some space for our tents and some water, and that he wanted to keep our ID cards for the night. That was fine with us (we were happy to have a place!) and we could understand his caution. Imagine that two strangers with loaded bicycles show up at your house and ask you to camp in your yard. Would you say yes?
While we were pitching up our tents, we chatted a little bit more with this man, Juan was his name. We could see that his trust in us slowly increased and he became more and more talkative and friendly. He even gave us a Christmas tablecloth and brought us some coffee and cookies on a cute tray. Oh and he gave us eggs from his own chickens for the next morning. Extremely nice.
Juan, writing in my book on the Christmas tablecloth
Two days later, we reached the coast at the village Pichilemu. Pichilemu is the surf paradise of Chile. We took a rest day here and obviously did not surf. With the help of an employee of the tourist agency, we managed to find an affordable place at an hotel where they converted containers into hotel rooms.
Artesanal production of salt
In my dreams
About half a year ago, by chance in Peru’s surf paradise (Máncora), I met Pim and Nienke. These Dutch people are hiking and biking a way towards the South. I did the Santa Cruz hike in the Peruvian mountains with them. We agreed with each other to cycle together for a little bit in Chile. My parents brought a package with contact lenses from the Netherlands, since Nienke’s supply was running out. It’s a bit expensive (and risky) to send it from the Netherlands to Chile, so it was perfect that my parents could bring it. We would initially meet in Santiago, but due to several reasons, this changed.
It took my father and me three more days to reach the beach camping where we agreed to meet up with Pim and Nienke. As a compensation, we received a warm welcome with a cold beer and a luxurious meal. It was nice to see each other again after 6 months, I couldn’t believe it was that long ago.
Sunset on our trip along the coast to Pim and Nienke
We cycled together for about a week, and broke multiple records (distance, time and altitude) of my father. The trip was beautiful with a nice and varying scenery, although we always had an annoying headwind along the coast. This was one of the reasons why we decided to go inland again. The wooded area of the coast quickly changed again in a more arid environment, and this arid environment quickly changed again into another wooded area.
Ready for take-off, this time with the four of us
It was nice to cycle with the four of us and we have done and seen a lot in the week that we were together. We stayed with the local firemen on a dusty attic (including a private tour through the fire station where they proudly showed us their equipment). Another night, we camped out next to a primary school that was closed for the summer holiday. The schools closed mid-December and will open again in March, I never thought about the school summer breaks being reversed in line with the seasons being reversed as well. We could even use the toilet and shower of the school, and the concierge opened a class room for us to charge our devices during the night. Unbelievably kind.
In the dusty attic of the fire station
Pim and Nienke are predominantly cycling over unpaved mountainous roads, and found a nice route that was still a bit too ambitious for my father. He clearly got stronger in a short period of time, but it would be stupid to force things, so we are slowly increasing the distances and difficulty. After a week of cycling together with Pim and Nienke, it was time to separate. We will probably see each other again further south.
The moment of goodbye
My father and I have arrived in Los Angeles (in Chile!), where we will have a rest day and plan our upcoming route. It’s going to be tough to reach Ushuaia in time by the beginning of March, but we will definitely give it a try.
My father will write a blog as well, by the way. I think it’s nice to share his perspective, too.