Cycling above the Clouds

Riding the Andes by Bicycle

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A bumpy ride!

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. Continue reading

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A most beautiful road

Valle de los Artistas

After all that eating and drinking it was about time to get back on the bike and burn some calories as I made my way back out west to return to the coast. I stopped in the quaint and sleepy town of Lolol at a lovely little shop for a cup of tea and one of my first ice creams of the trip. I relaxed in the sun on one of the two seats outside and enjoyed the good morning greetings from people walking by. The town had some beautiful old wooden colonial houses – some lovingly restored and others in a very tumbledown state. The terracotta roof tiles gave it a slightly Italian feel too.

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Santa Cruz and the Colchagua Valley: back on the wine trail

As I rode down the Ruta de la Fruta and then turned off towards Santa Cruz, I started to see the vineyards appearing beside the road. Pedalling onwards, and just as I was reaching the outskirts of Santa Cruz, I came upon a sign to a rather fancy boutique hotel that offered tastings of local Carmenère wine – for which Chile is famous. It was a cool place – they’d converted some enormous wine casks into small hotel rooms and had seats sitting round a very nice little pool. It was way out of my budget as a place to stay, but I stuck my head round the door and they told me they had an open bottle of wine and I could have a glass to taste.

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La Ruta de la Fruta, amongst other things

I reluctantly left Ana and Jose’s warm and cosy house in the morning and made my way back to the main road. Heading south east, I bore inwards from the coast along Chile’s ‘Ruta de la Fruta’ – the Fruit Road. I loved the name of the road – it sounds so much better in Spanish than in English. This area is the verdant fruit and vegetable basket of Chile and the road is lined with farms. There are many shacks selling freshly picked strawberries and bags bulging with perfectly ripe avocados.

There were many stores selling fresh locally grown fruit and vegetables along the route

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A special kind of hospitality

Firstly, an apology that I haven’t written for so long. I’ve been busy working on my Australian visa application (for which I had to write four, yes four, reports, ugh!), and have finally got them submitted. So I’ve actually now made it all the way down to Patagonia. I’m currently sitting in a cafe beneath the amazing snow-capped turrets of the Cerro Castillo mountain as the sun sets, casting my mind back to my early days in Chile, back in Valparaiso. Continue reading

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Valparaíso’s Street Art

Valparaíso has a grungy feel as you walk around it. It’s full of students sporting slashed jeans, piercings and tattoos, generally  deep in conversation and often carrying some kind of musical instrument in a case slung over a shoulder. Then there’s all the nooks and crannies of the twisting streets as they wind their way upwards away from the sea, interspersed with the vibrant colours of the old sailors’ houses. On top of that, mix in the latest uber-trendy architecture, bars and boutique hotels, and you’ve got yourself something that feels very much like a cross between Berlin, Brighton and Shoreditch.

It’s the street art that tops this all off and really makes me feel at home. I thought this deserved a separate post all for itself, to share with you some extra pictures from the streets of Valparaíso.  Continue reading

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Vibrant Valparaíso

“Valparaíso, what an absurdity you are, how crazy: a crazy port. What a head of dishevelled hills, that you never finished combing. Never did you have time to dress yourself, and always you were surprised by life.” – Pablo Neruda

The amazing view from my hostal over the hills of Valparaíso:

The wooden ‘Blue House’ on the hill: my wonderful hostal (for less than a tenner per night):

Valparaíso is a wonderful, sprawling, chaotic city. Built upon 42 (VERY steep) hills, it is also a nightmare for cyclists! Despite that, so many people had recommended a visit, that I diverted my planned route away from Santiago to see what all the fuss was about. I wasn’t to be disappointed. Continue reading