(October 27 – written by Dave)
I am happy to report that we only used two of our six beds last night, temping as it was to hop around a little. The hostel was quiet and we slept well. This morning we had brekkie in the hostel dining room and visited more with Daniel and Chia (we may have her name wrong) – the cyclists that we met last night. We’ve been on the same route as Daniel since Washington state – it’s hard to imagine that we didn’t run into him earlier. Chia is from Japan and was not a serious cyclist before joining up in Cartagena, Columbia – very brave but she made it here so good on her. We didn’t get away until after 9AM and would have probably stayed longer had the others not booked a wine tour. It is fun talking to people who’ve been where you have, and by bicycle no less.
We had very easy navigation today, basically riding one very small back road Chilean highway all day (Ruta F74G), once we left Casablanca. No wrong turns were taken and few map checks were required – much better than yesterday. The first 5-6k were through some nice vineyards with no traffic. After that, it got a little interesting. We came across a sign saying the there was road construction for the next 15k. We had several flaggers and a couple sections of dirt road, but it wasn’t too bad. In a few places, all the cars and trucks were routed off brand new pavement onto side dirt paths. We just stuck with the pavement and had a nice private bike lane all to ourselves.
We had two climbs before 30k that looked steep on Nancy’s printed profile but neither was overly taxing. At the top of the second climb we passed into a new province, complete with a province sign going each direction – how novel. Going down the other side we saw several day riders out in their matching kit, clearly drag racing each other up the hill. We haven’t seen recreational cyclists in a long time – I was a bit jealous of their nice light-looking carbon fibre bikes.
We stopped for lunch Chorombo, a small berg on the F74-G. There never did to seem to be any town centre or shops but there were dozens of homes that appeared to contain small tiendas. Almost all of them had a sign for pan (bread). The one we stopped at didn’t have any bread and I suspect that none of the others did as well. Pan is baked in the afternoon here and these little shops are typically all supplied by the same guy who drives around once the bread is ready. But I guess if you don’t put pan on your sign, folks don’t stop. It worked on us…
After lunch we had about 25k to ride to reach Melipilla. Nearly all of the 25k had a bike lane. And for the most part, the bike lane was rideable. We stayed on the road for a while but started to feel guilty for not using something that was built with us in mind so we hopped on the lane. We had to bail off it at a couple points where maintenance, a new bridge or a bus stop were built and the original bike lane ignored. But to be honest, it was probably the best path we’d seen since the path of Southern California – nice work Chile!
We reached Melipilla about 1:30 and hit the shops. Our planned stop for the night was a small campground about 9k out of town. The road from town to the camp was very busy and our nice bike lane was long forgotten. There seemed to be a big increase of traffic as well, perhaps it was just the Saturday afternoon rush. Anyway, we survived.
We found Camping Santa Eugenia pretty easy and got permission to set-up on the back of the lot where there are nice tables with power and cover for the tent (though rain is not likely). When we arrived, we were greeted by hundreds of kids of all ages and told that it was an end-of-year party. We were told that they would be leaving by 7PM and sitting here now at camp at 7:41, it is indeed pretty quiet. All the kids have left. Our only concern now is the other campers, one group of four. They have set-up what looks like a professional karaoke station with a proper mic on a stand. They have started singing at what for now seems like a lowish volume. We’ll see how they go as the wine flows throughout the evening. They have a bonfire going so our hope of the evening cold being an impediment is not high. Anyway…
Tomorrow we head to Lago Rapel – a famous lake in these parts. It’s another short day as that’s just how the towns are spaced. We’ll be up early however as Nancy loves getting early and riding on a quiet Sunday morning is one of my favourite things to do. (Senior editor’s note – we have another short day tomorrow so we don’t need to get up really early, certainly not when it is still dark out!).