During our last meal in Valparaiso, we discussed culinary excellence throughout the world. I related how during our travels as a family we would eat almost exclusively in Chinese restaurants. El Profesor, Emanuele, told us a story of disastrous pasta experiences on top of a mountain in Peru "because water does not boil at 100 degrees at high altitude and anything less is clearly sacrilege." Alex agreed with him that In both Greece and Italy, foreign restaurants do badly, because the locals will only go once in a blue moon, just to verify that their own food was still the best in the world. With much laughter, we agreed that it was almost impossible for El Profesor to become vegetarian in Chile, and that it was time for all of us to start discovering the delights of palta- avocado - which by the way I've seen sold 4kg for £1.30!!
With a tear in our eye we left behind El Profesor in Valparaiso and continued further up the coast, towards our next destination - La Ballena (the Whale).
Wildlife is a-plenty in Chile, we were not quite two minutes out of Valparaiso before we saw these sea lions lazing on an offshore platform - and a few more trying to squeeze in!!
We meandered slowly around the point, on the coastal road,
stopping in various beautiful places to have lunch with pelicans and such like...
and camped wherever they would have us (or not notice us, or not throw us off the land...)
This fantastic view from our tent we had to give up, when the owner of that bit of the beach decided that it was too much responsibility for us to camp on his land :-(
The first night after we left Valparaiso, we cycled arduously up a (steep) hill toward what we thought was a campsite, to find that it wasn´t...and that the guy who lived the house on the corner of the road was NOT open to campers, despite having what looked like "free-for-all" land next to his property. So we thought about leaving - for a brief moment, but then decided that as the sun was going down and no one could see us, we would just pitch our tent behind a bush - and fill up our water bag with a tap from the half-finished property next door!! Resourceful - one might say...
The next day, we rose early (for a change), and scarpered fast!! (Well, 9am...but hey, that´s early for us!)
Further along the coast, we came to Zapallar - where the elite of Santiago have their summer houses...it was muchos posh indeed. We spied a bush full of hummingbirds, which made me very excited...they really look very cute with their little wings flapping away.
There were more builders than houseowners in the area whilst we were there - obviously all the houseowners were having work done during the winter whilst they were away. And a LOT of dogs very interested in our comings and goings -which I was unsure about! At least I had my rabies vaccine before I left!!
As the beach clearly stated "No picnic" - we figured that camping was also out of the question - so we "stealth-camped" in a little park area next to the beach - there was an amphitheatre-like bit with seating around a platform - not quite the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park, but I could imagine plays being performed there in the trees.
Again in the morning, we actually set an alarm, got up early, packed all our stuff away before having a leisurely breakfast by the sea. An old German guy came by whilst we did so and lamented over the youth of today...relying on family money, and travelling on Daddy´s wallet...
This was the first day that we travelled on the Panamericana Ruta 5. A road we would come to love and hate! Alex was "loving it" at this point...the bit sticking out from his shades is a rear-view mirror. Very handy!!
Lunch spots on Ruta 5 are not easy to come by, but this one was beautiful...sadly I managed to lose a contact lens whilst munching...and now I´m cycling with one eye shut...
We stopped at Pichicuy that night, only 8km down the road from our next hosts, and camped on the beach - our first attempt at it. I learned that cycling on sand was not possible...at least for me!
It was a lovely evening, and of course a beautiful setting...
Doing the washing up with sand and good ol' sea water was actually fun!
We loved our first beach camping experience...
the only minor detail is that we weren´t sure how high the tides would get. Alex drew two battle lines in the sand with the sea...and dared the tides to cross it... No match against Mother Nature, we lost both by the morning.
Here´s Alex doing the obligatory "tent dance" (i.e. cleaning the inside of the tent) as we´re packing up to go.
The next day, we arrived at Lorraine and Bob´s place in La Ballena - they kindly offered an open invitation for travellers on the HorizonsUnlimited forum, and we took them at their word! The access was not particularly easy for me to negotiate -although Alex seemed to have few problems...
Lorraine´s house is a beautiful wooden hut perched over the Pacific. The sunsets were unbeatable.
When we arrived there was some uncertainty over the amount of water available - That area is not connected to the water network so people use water tanks.And the delivery had not arrived that day! Just another reminder of a luxury we city folk take for granted! One way to get around this is to dig a well on your own property - not cheap, and there is an amazing tale of how to find water under the ground...my scientific brain does not wholly believe it, but I am assured that it does not fail - in the right hands!!
Lorraine and Bob had five dogs around to keep them company,
dogs are a-plenty in this country...We learned to love them - even whilst they begged pitifully for food at the table!!
Dinner the first night was stir-fry, with broccoli - hooray!! Those who have lived with me know that I can´t live without my broccoli...two weeks was too long...
We stocked up on supplies in the nearby town of La Ligua on our first day - the first town that we´ve been to which is not huge, but manageable on foot, and enjoyed a couple of empanadas (just the same as cornish pasties, in my book!). I was highly amused by the fact that every sauce-type thing in this country appears to be sold in packets - including mayonnaise, ketchup, jams etc...
Well. I thought it was funny!
My keen doctor´s eyes also spied this magic mix which appears to make people with diabetes into this lovely lady with a funny picture on her tummy...beware!!
A tough day´s shopping later, what better way to relax than with a pisco sour with the lady of the house on her veranda?
On our second, even lazier day, after eating our hosts out of house and home (we ate at least a half kilo of toast that morning)...
Alex flexed his muscles by doing the first bit of bike maintenance of the trip...WD40 - what a fabulous invention!!
Then we went searching for sea lions in Los Molles...and broke down in Bob´s Peruvian truck (long story)...and needed rescuing by kind neighbour Wayne (who had already had us round to his fabulous house for dinner the night before)
Thus endeth our adventures with Bob and Lorraine.
Onwards, adventurers!!! To the North!
(Our lasting memory of La Ballena - the seven ferocious furballs who chased us down the lane as we pedalled madly away...)
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