We arrived in Santiago, Chile, with our bikes, about a week ago and after a bit of a rest to get over the jetlag and the “ground hog day” moment of having two Fridays after crossing the date line coming from Australia, we plunged straight into a brain crushing, intensive, spanish course.
I had been a bit nervous about cycling into the centre of the city from the airport, especially after 24 hours without sleep, but as it turned out traffic on Friday afternoons is very light as so many people head for the coast at weekends to get away from the air pollution.
On our first Sunday we set out for a bit of an exploration of Providencia, the area where we were staying. Its quite near the historic centre but it’s full of large trees and looks strangely like Putney or Hampstead in London.
We found that one side of the dual carriageway along the river was shut to cars as they organise what they call a “Ciclorecrovia” along about 15 km of central city roads every Sunday. We went back to get our bikes and had a pleasant morning along with about 40,000 other men, women and children who were enjoying the centre of their city in peace.
We have booked into four weeks of a Spanish class and at our age going back to school is quite a shock. Having to sit down, inside all day while complex grammar is explained in rapid spanish is very hard. We also get hours of homework. I am embarrassed to admit that I never did my homework when I was at school so this is also a novelty for me.
So we needed a break. Most of Santiago is pancake flat, but there are some high and very steep hills here and there. It is also surrounded, closely, by mountains. One evening after school we set of up the nearest steep hill, La Cena de San Crystobal, along with a multitude of road cyclists and runners. It was about 30 degrees C at the bottom but as we climbed it got a little fresher.
We got to the summit just as the sun was setting and had an amazing view over Santiago.
As the city warmed up, it was getting hotter daily, the very dry air got dirtier, so on Friday we set off for the mountains to camp at a National Park called Yerba Loca. This was only a cycle of 48 km but was a climb of 1350 m and most of the climb was in the last 10 km so it was steep. We have also got a bit unfit during the last month and it was very hot. Excuses, excuses I know, but I was on my last legs by the time we got to the Park and we still had a 4 km climb, off road, from there up to the camp site. Digging deep has nothing on this.
We arrived at the campsite just as it was getting dark and had to push our loaded bikes through tiny, steep paths in a dark wood to find a spot to camp, which was next to a deafening, fast flowing river.