From the beginning I just planned to rewrite the diary, but now that I've arrived at La Serena and about a week has past the diary is already half full and I'd have to write until morning if I should write it all.
So I've tried choosing parts that hopefully doesn't seem too incoherent.
Hotel Turispas, Santiago 02.07.02 18,30
It's been a wonderful day. I'm dead beat but happy. Everything turns out like I want it even it's all so difficult. This day I only had 4 tasks. It took all day.
One was to buy a gas heater. The girl in the tourist info in the airport had shown me two spots on a map, but both were far away. Had the idea to ask the beautiful girl in the reception, who had appeared since yesterday. She speaks a bit of english. She confirmed that my: "Quiero comprar una cocinilla por camping" could be understood. There was a shop nearby, which I didn't find, but I found another. Bought an extra can of gas. Next was to mail you at home. I had located an internet café not too far away. They had no USB port. NIce that I brought my Flash-Path card reader. I succeded sending ONE picture, but not to all on my mailing list. My dear son hadn't cleared up his hotmail account for long, so there was no free space I guess and nothing worked. And I couldn't delete him from the list. After almost an hour I had sent the first mails at home. Imagine it works here at the other side of the Earth.
Had a desire to look at the city from above. In one end there is a small mountain: San Cristobal, where a giant statue of the holy virgin stands viewing the city. And a "funicular" takes you there. Up there I met this guy Larry. He was from California. Just flew in this morning from Atlanta. Nice guy. Was going to stay for about a month. It was nice being able to talk to someone. To discuss digital cameras, football, you name it. We parted at the metro...
Went back to the hotel and asked my new friend where to find a supermarket. She showed me one in the map and I learned to say: Puede usted mostrarme en el mapa? Can you show me in the map? Maybe it was another one I found - the maps are scaled so that not all roads are shown. They didn't have canned instant meals. But there was tea bags, toilet paper, powder for mashed potatoes, tomatoes salsa, canned tuna, cookies etc. In another shop I found a big block of chocolate and the nice man knew about Denmark. Thought we mostly eat fish. And were extremely rich - no poor people. I had to tell him that both was not exactly true.
Back in the hotel.
I've just had a cup of coffee and some of my new cookies. The coffee is on the house - maybe. It's my friend in the reception, we're on the same wavelength. I've also met her mother. Where will it end - ha ha. Want to go for dinner. And not the same place as yesterday.
Hotel Turispas 03.07.02 8.30
Another shower. This time the hot water did not disappear and it was real hot. But now I'm in the dining room freezing. It's only 12 degr. Today I ordered coffee. The lady just came with the breakfast: tostada (toast), a bit of butter, a rather big pot of hot water and ONE bag of instant coffee. Used it all for one cup of water. Passable. If one should use all that water with that bag it would indeed be weak. When I wondering say: "mermelada" she makes a giving up gesture. No marmelade today. I apparently had the last yesterday.
Now I'm sitting ina road along the highway and eat cookies and drink lemonade and it's still 57 km to Los Andes, where a french vet lives and houses cyclists. We'll see?
Los Andes 03.07.02 19.30
What seemed promising at a moment showed up to be a nightmare. First of all the road I was riding, which had just had a sign for Los Andes, turned into a gravel road. And a bad one with lots of loose gravel. But it kept the direction - for some time. Then it suddenly turned a couple of times and I was in a road with chicken running all around and houses on both sides that were either shacks or surrounded by fences, gates and locks. Someone could easily have robbed me here - but that's not the chilean way. It didn't last long then the road turned again and soon crossed the highway.
Actually I only had 20 km to Los Andes when something I had considered earlier, but unfortunately forgotten about, showed up. Signs told that this road was not for cyclists and the word "tunel" appeared. That was what I had earlier noticed in the map. Something looking like a tunnel. And I thought if I would be able to cycle through it?
I asked a boy I met if one could cycle through? Impossible, he said. Then I asked if it was possible to take this other road? It was, he said. Maybe he also told me other enlightning things I didn't understand, but I noticed it was possible, and expected the road to go up and down tossing and turning. He actually also said that if the bike was going to pass the tunnel it had to be by a car and how was I, considering my spanish, to stop a car and make them take me through?
So I took the smaller road. It started climbing. And it went on like that. Steep climb. I was sweating like a pig. My two liters of lemonade which was poured into the bottles in the morning dwindled. And it kept on and on... and on. The only comforting fact was that it couldn't go like this forever, but I could collapse by a heatstroke dehydrated long before? Twice I thought to see the top - but no - new turns and summits showed.
At last... after 14 km's of climbing I saw a cross - I had succeeded. Then followed a terrible downhill, where I couldn't go much faster than I had on the way up. And I had one crash anyway. Do I have to tell you it was deserted? Totally deserted. Not one single house. The number of cars I saw could be counted in one hand. But I was looking forward to reenter the highway. A cold downhill but at last, last, LAST: Highway! There was no shoulder here but only one way to go: forward. I was going down and was at one moment doing 60 km/h even I breaked once in a while. I actually overtook a truck with iron bars which was creeping down. Shortly after I had done several kilometers and came to a minor town where I could buy lemonade. I was exhausted.
Had to fight the rest to Los Andes where I was lucky. I was growing darker and I found my notes on the frenchman. Was there any address? Yes, Sir. He had a clinic at O'Higgins 148 and I remembered just having seen this name (which is seen all over: The Liberator Bernard O'Higgins who ever he was).
Los Andes - Las Poerta 89.67 km
Las Poerta 04.07.02
Yesterday I slept in "Casa de Ciclistas" or as it is also called: House of Cyclists. And it certainly was. In my imagination a cyclist would pass now and then and now during the winter it was probably right, but some stayed. For the moment there was three. Carter (US) had been there for 4 years. Daisuke (Japan) was there for the second time, I don't know for how long this time, but he had travel around the Earth for 3 years and hadn't stopped yet. I was disappointed he hadn't been to Denmark. But he'd been to the Faroe Islands. The case something like it for Jeff (Germany) who, when I asked admitted his real name was Jürgen, but all called him Jeff. He was for the moment trying to get to New Zealand, but the financial situation was bad so he was searching for a job in a ship.
Eric (the vet) had suggested that I took a minor road which I myself had been considering in advance, but which I wouldn't have dared to take after the experience yesterday. It was a fine gravel road, he said. Only 10 km's of "subida" (climb) and on the other hand 17 km's of "bajada" (downhill). I asked a little worried if there hadn't been much rain recently, but that wouldn't be a problem, he said.
So I reached the top encouraged and started to go down. All was well: the road was a bit bad from time to time but nothing serious. Now I just had to roll 17 km then I'd soon reach the town of Cabildo. Once more my luck changed. The road kept on and it turned worse and worse. I had already done the 17 km but it was still going down. Then suddenly a minor river appeared and I thought: Oh, the road will then be turning - but no, it didn't. The road just continued on the other side. I took a closer look. It wasn't THAT deep. But the buttom was sand and very fine gravel so the tyres were likely to go in deep if I would speed up to try to get pass. And if I was stuck and turned over? So I took off boots and socks. Pulled up the trousers over the knees and waded in. Do I have to tell you how cold it was? Now the bike loaded weighs more than 50 kg, so it cut down in the sand smoothly, but apart from one trousers leg that dipped in the water I made it across.
After this intermezzo the road got worse and worse, but I kept hoping to reach Cabildo. It would soon be 18 o'clock, so it would be dark in a moment. At last - around a corner and a valley was to be seen and something could clearly be seen that must be a town, Cabildo? My speed had increased to beyond the resonable considering the road condition. Then a sign to the left with some name on it and one to the right saying: Cabildo. When I'd been riding for some time I realized that the houses I'd seen was NOT Cabildo. The darkness was developing there were some poor houses facing the road and some people were seen at one. "Quanto kilometros a Cabildo?" I shouted. A man came forward and said it was 14. Impossible.
If I had "una carpa", a tent? Si,si. Well, then I could put the tent at their house. All this with gestures and a few words. Fine. I pushed in the bike and unloaded the tent. I'm not that uses to put up this tent. I've only done it once the last couple of years. I think my daughter usually lead in this situation. But I was saved by the gong. The neighbour arrived telling they had a spare room where I could sleep. Thank you very much!
So, here I am having had a "conversation" in spanish for a couple of hours. That is exhausting. I could take a picture of the family and show it to them on the screen, nice. And I've promised to send a picture when I arrive at home. The name of the village was:Las Poerta.
Las Poerta - Los Molles 88.16 km
I'm sitting in my own apartment viewing the Pacific Ocean while it gets darker. The days are so full of new experiences that I can't sleep at night. It takes time to digest it. It's specially the changes between accidents and problems and surprising ends that seems overwhelming. But let me turn back to yesterday.
When I came into the livingroom I noticed a big round plate misplaced on the floor, I think. That's not the case it shows. A moment later two of the men arrive with the stove: a big iron pot full of live coal, which they put on the plate in the middle of the floor. There is no other heating. The house is made of wood and painted unlike many of the other houses I see around. The inside compares to an old swedish farm, where the inhabitants have changed nothing for the last 50-80 years. The kitchen shows the next morning to be a more primitive wooden building next to the house and the space between and a larger area next to the kitchen is roofed with something which is likely corrugated iron. Here is no floor, just plain earth. A watertap appears in the middle. Hens, dogs and cats are all over the place and a little aside stands three horses.
At a moment I pull up my diary to write down the address so I can send them the picture I told about. Their surprise and enthusiasm over being able to see the picture on the screen was touching and I might as well have been a magician or from outer space.
Around nine o'clock I want to go to bed and that's perfectly all right. The son shows me the jerry under the bed and I feel grateful. I had just given it a thought what to do if I had to pee during the night, which I've started now I'm getting older. Must be because of less elasticity of the blatter, or what? Irritating, like piss, ha, ha. Try to find my way outside and wake up all the dogs in the village?
I quickly fall asleep but wakes up later and uses the jerry. That has been a while! Then I lie awake trying to digest the daily experiences - for a long time. From time to time a team of dogs starts barking, and immidiately another one answers and it goes on like that for some time until they settle down again.
In the morning we sit in the kitchen. Toast with butter and tea. In the kitchen there is also a big iron pot, but this is with legs and stands in the concrete floor with its live coal. When I look around I see to my surprise a fairly new gas cooker in a corner and a refrigerator, which looks like expected: from back in the 50'es. If the gas cooker is ever used I don't know. At least not for boiling water or making toasts.
I go on full of experiences and hope. After 4 km the surface turns into asphalt, I am apparently closing in to Cabildo at last and in this wonderful moment I can't imagine what's to come. I'm moving at a fair speed for some km's. Then there is a loud bang and the back tyre is flat. Damn. I have done some 8000 km's on my 2 new bikes without a puncture. Well, there has to be a first time. I must have run over a spike judged by the way it happend. I pull off the luggage and the backwheel and get to the tube. I try to pump the tube to find the leak. The tube is one large leak it seems. The air disappears as soon as it enters the tube. I feel my way inside the tyre, look at it from the outside. There's apparently no spike there. I decide to use the spare tube and wait for better surroundings before I fix it. I put on the tyre again and pump. Then suddenly I see it. By coincidence actually. I'm just going to pump a bit more - the tyres have to have hard pressure and I'm always accused of neglecting this: The tyre has cracked for 2-3 cm's, I can see the tube and if I pump more... The tyre has this crack just above the wiring. Now when I have thrown it away I'm sitting thinking if....
My new Continental Top Touring 2000 has cracked, is spoiled, kaput. The
spare tyre has to get to work how will that end? It has already done
almost 6000 km's....
I get to the "Ruta 5", Panamericana. It's a 4 lane road, 2 in each direction with shoulders. Being a cyclist you just use the shoulder, where much gravel and occassionally broken glass can be found, but it's all right. Until now the middle gear wheel has done the job when asphalt roads climbed but that's not sufficient now. There are no hairpin bends, the road just advances straight up and I crawl for 2-3-4 km's with 5-6 km/h. Then it goes fast when I'm descending!
When I approach I realize worrying that Los Molles is a holiday town. Where people go for their summer vacation. So it's like coming to Løkken or Blokhus (danish holiday town at the North Sea) in winter: All is closed down. A girl on a racing bike I ask, tells me that there IS a hotel, but if it's open she don't know. When I find it I can see it's a complex of apartments, that looks real expensive. The prize, and there's only one flat available due to school classes, is 30.000 pesos, that's more than 300 d.kr. But what the hell... This might be the only chance to live with a view over the Pacific Ocean and the apartment.consists of kitchen, dining table, bathroom with both tub and shower and hot water. That's too convinient to refuse and I've stayed for free the last two nights. A girl who speaks a little english is a giant step forward compared to yesterday. Here I can cook by myself I think, when the woman that later show up to be the owwner of the place by the help of the girl explains that I can eat in the restaurant, 3 dishes and coffee for 5.000 pesos - 60 d.kr. I can't turn such an offer down.
The dinner expands later with drinks on the house, a chilean speciality: Pisco. Now the breakfast which I originally asked for and which wasn't possible has become a reality. I turns into an unforgettable evening, where we speak english, french, spanish higgedly piggedly and it's past midnight
before I lay down in my giant dobble bed.
Los Molles - Huentalauquen 06.07.02 86.15 km
Only problem was the front gear shift with which I had to fight several times.... This time I sleep at a "alojamiento", which merely means lodging, the most primitive way of staying the night you can imagine. I'm too tired to write any more now. Have been sitting here for ages. So I shorten the story a bit.
Huentalauquen - Oruroalto 07.07.02 129.72 km
I forgot something. At the end of the day my eye suddenly cathed a glimpse of something familiar. Unbelieving I stare at an upcoming truck: Johan Arvidsen, bookbinding, Skien (in Norway) What the hell? Explanation requested!!....
At 20.05 the electricity is gone. Luckily I remember where the flashlight is, but I have some trouble with my contact lenses under these circumstances. I wonder if it's a genral cut of power or if it's a way of getting the customers to bed? But the power doesn't come back - not even in the morning. But I have planned to have the shower I've been promised. At the back of the house there is a toilet building. Christobal shows me and explains, even I don't understand the word, that unfortunately you have to hold the shower head in your hand. There is just one tap so is the water cold? No. There is no water at all. There is probably an electrical pump somewhere, so also the water supply is not working. I return to my room to pack and arrive again in the hope of getting some breakfast, but now the emergency plan is working. A big plastic container has been filled with water heated by the big kettle in the kitchen and with a metal jug to pour the water I am put off to shower.
Christobal shows me and explains, even I don't understand the word,
that unfortunately you have to hold the shower head in your hand.
There is just one tap so is the water cold? No. There
is no water at all. There is probably an electrical pump somewhere, so
also the water supply is not working. I return to my room to pack and
arrive again in the hope of getting some breakfast, but now the
emergency plan is working. A big plastic container has been filled
with water heated by the big kettle in the kitchen and with a metal
jug to pour the water I am put off to shower.
Oruroalto - La Serena 08.07.02 96.37 km
This day I exclude - I am tired - sorry.
La Serena 09.07.02 0 km
I'm going to the Observatorio de Mamalluca at 17.00