August 23, 2011 GMT
Episode I: First days in Santiago

Well here we are...
First blog of our trip.

It´s taken a lot of planning (Thank you Alex), whilst I was frantically finishing off work and things, and suddenly it was time to get ourselves to the airport. Christos helped to weigh the bikes...
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(didn´t work...), and then off we went.

We spent two hours in Heathrow just packing the bikes,

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with my parents´ help...into two big plastic bags...Great way to transport luggage, plastic bags...

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80 pounds (Sterling) later, off the bikes go to Santiago

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Arrival in Santiago was fairly uneventful. The Chilean airport workers were quite interested in our bikes (especially when it took us another two hours to put the bikes back together and the panniers on),

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and then off we cycled through busy Santiago

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to our first host - Pedro - of warmshowers.org (a cycle touring network) who took us in with a big smile and open arms.

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Pedro owns an amazing bike shop which is about 5 times bigger than the shop that we´d bought our bikes from, with everything a biker could possibly need under the sun...if we´d known, we´d have just gotten everything here!

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We stayed in a rather posh area, about 500m from a "sports mall" where we browsed yachts (though didn´t find anything which fitted our criteria...)

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kayaks, bikes, outdoors equipment, a climbing wall, a wave machine for surfers/wakeboarders to practise on...not quite what I was expecting of our first days in Chile anyway!

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We did also walk around town, and saw some evidence of student protests, regarding education reforms in Chile, here's a huge banner that they put up in front of the university, for example. But we saw no trouble at all.

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Day 2 in Santiago - a huge dump of snow...the city became white, people were throwing snowballs and trying to sledge down a slope with cardboard boxes...we hibernated in Pedro´s flat and kept warm!! It apparently never snows in Santiago...so I would have said that we brought it with us from London - except that it was lovely and warm when we left....

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Day 3 - why not go skiing with all this fresh powder about? Valle Nevado, with fantastic powder, blue sky, warm sunshine...again, not quite what I was expecting of a cycle-tour, but hey, who´s complaining?? On the windy road up to the mountains, we saw some funny looking snow-hats for the cacti...

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And here we are ready to go up the Andes...well, ok, the chair lift :-)

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Alex nonchalantly going down an "expert slope"...

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And the beautiful view from the top.

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Finally we thought we should make a move...goodbye Pedro - we managed to leave the flat and cycle 62km (yes, I´m VERY proud of it...). This is at the beginning of the uphill part, saying goodbye to Santiago (you can tell it's the beginning as I was still smiling)

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It would have been a shorter day, but when we reached Colina, our initial destination, and tried to find somewhere to stay, we were brought in front of the "policia" - and through sign language (sadly we don´t speak much Spanish) we established that there was no campsite OR hotels in this town (how is it possible!?!) Eventually our friendly policeman phoned a friend 25km away (!) and asked if we can camp in her backyard - behind the convenience store...´cos it was "safer" - well, if the police thinks so, who are we to argue?!

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As it wasn't entirely planned, we arrived much later than we'd expected, in the dark. The Taiwanese instant noodles came to the rescue and we had a pretty good meal in the backyard!

Even though we had no common language with our impromptu hostess, Pilar, she opened her house to us, accepted no money and invited us to stay with her again on our way back from the North.

I ask you...is that not a crazy start to our adventures??


The very next day - Alex decided that he was far too cold in his sleeping bag

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despite looking fairly cosy in this picture, and that we had to cycle back to Santiago (don't forget, 62km!!) to find him a down sleeping bag to match mine...It was 10km of uphill, and a heck of a lot of pain. Poor Pedro received a "help" text to host us again, to which a cool "no problem" reply was gratefully welcomed.

We found the Chilean prices far too expensive, however, over twice what I had paid in London, and so two pairs of warm socks and a pair of thermal trousers later (£40 rather than £400!!), off we went again, determined to REALLY LEAVE Santiago, and start exploring Chile.

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By the way, if anyone would like to follow our twitter updates (get me! techno-tastic!), this is the link:
http://twitter.com/cyclingchile
- as we can do it through the Kindle, it will be frequently updated!!

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Posted by Ping-Yi at August 23, 2011 12:16 AM GMT
 
 

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