(October 23 – written by Dave)
Today we reached Pacific Ocean. The last time we saw the Pacific was on April 8th of this year, up in Panama City. It is hard to imagine that we’ve ridden nearly all the way down South America and this is our first trip to either coast – but it is what it is. Funny, riding over to the coast today reminded us of the Washington and Oregon coasts. That is, foggy, cool and too much truck traffic at times – and some steep hills.
We had our first Chilean brekkie today. It was pretty good, certainly exceeding the standard set in Argentina. The night man at the hotel had things up and ready before 7AM, which was also a nice surprise. In Argentina it took some hard negotiations to get brekkie before 8AM. The night man was quite kind and spoke pretty good English. When he called the avocado an aguacate, not a palta, I sort of guessed that he might have been from Venezuela. And he was. He was a former college professor who was now working nights at a low-end hotel in Chile – sometimes life just doesn’t seem fair and we get a reminder of how lucky we are.
For other cyclists coming this was, we rode Ruta 62, not Ruta 60 for the first 20k. It was pretty narrow and there was lots of traffic but we thought that 60 might have one of those ‘No bicycle’ signs and we didn’t want to take the chance. When we arrived today at our AirB&B, the owner told us that the route out of Valparaiso, Ruta 68, has ‘No bicycle’ signs as well, but that whether you can ride them or not depends on the whim of who happens to be patrolling the highway at the time. All these “hey, it’s Latin America, rules are really just guidelines”, catch us out sometimes. You just never know when you might bend a rule that you shouldn’t bend.
At the end of Ruta 62, we joined up with Ruta 64. We feared more ‘No bicycle’ signs but it none were to be found. And the shoulder was pretty good the entire way. We stopped for morning tea as a Copec servo and got a couple really nice cortados – good to know for future reference. From there it was only 30k to Valparaiso and it was still before 10AM so we decided to take the longer, hillier route into town (suggested by Komoot, the mapping app we are using). There were three climbs on the route and the first one was “1st gear” steep. But we managed to ride the whole thing and it was nice to get off the busier roads.
As we neared the coast, towns and condos seemed to pop up everywhere. Valparaiso and its surrounding suburbs sort of all morph into one giant city, with lots of busy roads and traffic. We made our way out to the ocean and more or less followed a bike path for the last 11k. There were a number of places where it was not official and we had narrow dirt trails but there were clearly track from other bikes so we knew we could get through.
Nancy mapped a route to a cafe right near our apartment called Melbourne Cafe. We were a little early for check-in so we stopped for lunch and had a really nice meal. The pumpkin soup reminded us of Australia and the flat whites were spot on. While eating an Aussie-sounding bloke came up and asked us about his trip. And so we met Simon from Perth. He arrived in Santiago two days ago and is also headed for Ushuaia. He is leaving town tomorrow but I’m sure that we’ll see him down the road. It was great hearing his proper Aussie accent and also nice to know that we may have another cyclist to share the road ahead with. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture so I’ll have to get one the next time we meet.
We only had 1.3k to ride to reach our AirB&B and it mostly looked like it would be flat. And the first 1k was flat. The last .3k however were a near vertical wall on a narrow street that had traffic light so that traffic could go both directions – one at a time of course. I rode about ½ way up before I had to stop for cars coming down. Nancy just pushed. From the halfway point I was pretty shattered and could never really get the traffic flow right so I pushed as well. Both of us had issues with our cleats slipping steep cobblestone street as well but we made it, eventually. Wow, I can’t imagine living here and riding regularly.
Our AirB&B is nice and the hosts are super friendly. We had a nice dinner out at a Japanese restaurant and got a bit of a feel for the neighbourhood. It is pretty clear that Chile is nowhere near as “late night” focused as we found in Argentina as most things were closing when we walked home around 10PM. To get up the hills around Valparaiso there are vertical trains (funicular) that take you up the hills but the one to our neighbourhood is not working so we had to climb some very steep steps to get home. Luckily, we stopped at the grocery store on the way home and have enough food for a couple days – meaning that we don’t have to go back down (off the mountain) unless we choose to. Graffiti overdose follows…
We may be here for a couple days, we’re still not decided. So far we like the feel of Valparaiso. It is a little gritty, with lots of graffiti but it doesn’t feel unsafe, as we’ve heard it could be. We’ll come up with a plan and report back on more Valparaiso in tomorrow’s post.