Cycling above the Clouds

Riding the Andes by Bicycle

A bumpy ride!

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Please, is there no such thing as ‘flat’??

I headed down along the coast towards Concepción. Wow was it bumpy. While never gaining huge amounts of altitude, I ended up doing thousands of metres of climbing every day, up and down and up and down. It was tiring! For the first time, I also felt a bit scared on the downhills. The roads were steep, and with my left (back-brake) index finger still sore and unable to squeeze the brake as hard as usual, combined with the extra weight of the fully-loaded bike, I ironically sometimes found myself pushing the bike downhill, even though I was now fit enough to manage all the uphills.

With relatively few ‘tourist’ locations to get excited about visiting along this stretch of road, I contemplated taking a bus to kill a few hundred kilometres ahead. In the end, and spurred on by knowing I was inching my way towards Puerto Varas where I’d meet my parents in 1000km time, I decided to just sit it out and keep pedalling. Eventually the landscape would change and the riding would get easier again.On the plus side, I stayed in some lovely places. One of my first stops was an eco-hostel that was open for its first day of the season. It was run by a French/Chilean couple who spent half the year working the summer season in Europe, and the other half of the year running their eco-hostel during Chile’s summer. They had a young son who kept stealing the strawberries I’d bought from a roadside shack earlier in the day, so I had to keep an eye on him! He did offer me a sticky piece of brownie from his equally sticky hands in return.

As their first guest, I had the place to myself. I rode down a dirt track a few kilometres to reach them, and then it was just a short walk downhill from their cabin to a beautiful deserted sandy beach.

Sunkissed views of the beach near Curanipe as the sun began to set

Beautiful flowers on the beach

Uninterrupted ripples in the sand

Feeling tired out in Quirihue

The next day I had another hot and steep climb from Cobquecura on the coast and back inland to Quirihue. It wasn’t an especially long day but the steepness of the hills and the combination of riding more consecutive days at a time the past few weeks was catching up with me. With the increase in heat (and hence sweat!), plus increased pressure in the saddle from the climbs, I was also being very careful with my skin and hygiene to make sure I avoided getting any saddle sores.

When I got to Quirihue and found a nice looking guest house on the square, I was really excited about rewarding myself with some steak and a glass of wine in their restaurant for dinner. I could have cried when I headed down after my shower, only to be told by the lady that she’d decided to close early because there weren’t enough people around, and that there was nowhere else to get food nearby. Luckily I found a pizza takeout place and managed to get my hands on a cold can of beer. I settled down in my room to munch my way through it whilst cheering myself up watching an episode of Blue Planet (thank you David Attenborough and BBC iPlayer!) in my room.

The funky guest house in Quirihue – I never managed to establish why it had a cockerel on the roof!

La Ruta de la Madera (the wood road)

From Quirihue, I powered on down south towards Concepción and then down to the Ruta de la Madera (the Wood Road) which followed the Rio BioBio. Concepción itself was quite a large city though I didn’t really find it had much about it. It was a chance to eat some nice food and get the laundry done, but mostly I just used it to take a day to rest my tired legs, plan the next couple of weeks on my way to meeting up with the folks, and recover a little.

I did at least manage to get some nice fresh ceviche whilst I was there

I saw this sign in Concepción – they are actively building cycle routes in the Biobio region

La Ruta de la Madera runs south east out of Concepción and would direct me back inland and over towards the Andes. This part of Chile is very heavily forested and the road is used by huge heavily-laden trucks transporting logs down to the seaports then back again to collect their next load. I was very glad that I would be riding a large chunk of it over the weekend where the industrial traffic would be significantly less.

Huge forests are planted in very neat lines across every available hillside

I was circled by at least 8 condors, riding this part of the road along the coast, just before the official Ruta de la Madera started

Heavily laden trucks carry two trays full of logs

This truck tried to overtake me dangerously nearing the crest of a hill. I swore at him (not that he could hear). As I went over the top, I saw that he’d got his comeuppance, swinging too fast back into his lane and losing the back of the truck into a ditch. Perhaps he’ll wait the few seconds it takes to overtake more safely next time…

Some of the road was really beautiful, like this bay along the coast and these sections of the Rio BioBio….

…but other parts could be quite bleak, and suffered from landslides where they were now ‘bald’ and hadn’t yet been replanted.

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