It’s now a week since we set off from Santiago. Having read blogs from other cyclists who struggled to get out of the city alongside heavy lorries we decided to take a roundabout route and head for the coast instead of directly south. This paid off as we got out of the city mainly on cycle tracks early on a Sunday morning.
It was interesting seeing some of the older buildings as we cycled through the outskirts even though most of them had military connections.
Although Santiago has been here since the 17th century there aren’t many old buildings still standing due to earthquakes. This part of Chile was particularly badly devastated during the 2010 earthquake, and we saw a lot more evidence of this as we cycled towards the coast. Of course along the coast the earthquake was followed by a tsunami so that now, all along the coast are warning signs and evacuation routes leading to higher ground.
We headed for a campsite on our first night and found it full and lively with large, extended families enjoying a Sunday BBQ. Families are important here and most groups included 3 or 4 generations. Our new Spanish came in useful as many of them wanted to know what we were doing. We were just getting used to all the noise when everyone packed up and headed back to Santiago, leaving piles of rubbish and silence.
We spent a couple of days cycling in the fertile plains between Santiago and the coast hills. This area is famous for its wine and we cycled through acres of vineyards and olive grove as well as fields of maize, onions and artichokes.
We had stopped in a small village for lunch when this Huaso funeral cortege came past. The Chileno Huaso are skilled horseman and farmers like American cowboys. It was very dramatic.
After that the climbing began. We needed to get our climbing fitness back after a month in the classroom and these coastal hills were a good workout. Although here we were only climbing for 2 or 3 hours at a time and in the mountains each climb could last 1 or 2 days.
Later that day we stopped off for some tea and cake. While we were sitting in the cafe the ground began to shake quite violently as we had a very short 5.5 earthquake. It was quite unnerving. We were staying in a new house down the road that was built on the site of the old adobe house that had collapsed in the 2010 quake, along with every adobe house in the village. Our host said it was heart breaking to walk into the village and just see piles of earth where the houses used to be.
We are spending a couple of days in Curico, a fairly large town at the base of the Andes while we stock up with supplies for the next 4 days in the mountains. As we go over into Argentina there are no villages or towns for several hundred kilometres so we are hoping we have calculated the amount of food correctly. On the map it looks like we should be able to access water from the river we will be following.
One interesting thing I have noticed here is that since the earthquake they have managed to rebuild most of their houses and shops, but the large churches remain unrepaired. I am pleased that they have looked after themselves and their families first, as this has not always been the case in days gone by.
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