Archive | December 2012

A Change in the Weather

Date: 28th November – 10th December 2012

Where: Valdivia – Paillaco – Ruta 5 camp – Puerto Varas – Ancud – Castro – Puerto Montt – Pucon

Distance: 6334 to 6483 miles

To be honest we’ve had it lucky so far. Days of rain up till now could be counted on a pair of hands without much problem, and we’ve been on the road for over ten months! It had to change sometime, so why not encourage matters by going to the wettest place in Chile: Valdivia. When we arrived it was blazing hot sun and the eccentric hostal owner spoke of a drought…then the Brits turned up…all that changed over the following days as first cloud, then drizzle, then rain swept through. The weather couldn’t stop us enjoying our time in Valdivia though, especially the interesting Tsunami museum there.

Sea-lions and cormorants stand-by in anticipation of scraps from the fish market, Valdivia

Sea-lions and cormorants stand-by in anticipation of scraps from the fish market, Valdivia

Rowers can get an even closer view at the sea-lions

Rowers can get an even closer view at the sea-lions

Submariner Stavros reporting for duty!

Submariner Stavros reporting for duty!

The fort at Niebla which guards the sea entrance to Valdivia

The fort at Niebla which guards the sea entrance to Valdivia

'Hmmm, one of these wires is broken now which one?'

‘Hmmm, one of these wires is broken now which one?’

With the change in the weather (for the worse) and the change of month (December), we felt it was high time we changed our method of transport and got on our bikes again. The three days to Puerto Varas were pretty pointless, with little to see except a distant Coypu (kind of like a beaver) in one of the rivers we crossed. However the new Brooks saddle which Sarah gave Geoff for his birthday (via Nico and Stavros) performed perfectly, and our legs didn’t feel too weak. Wet and bedraggled we arrived at Puerto Varas before Stavros arrived from Bariloche (he went on a little sub-holiday within his holiday). Puerto Varas has one of the best views of the trip with the conical Volcan Osorno towering over Lago Llanquihue…we saw only clouds! Stavros arrived and we consoled ourselves by going out for pizza.

The Hannis-family home-made advent calendar which arrived from England with Stavros

The Hannis-family home-made advent calendar which arrived from England with Stavros

We regularly take shelter from the rain in bus stops to avoid getting the blues

We regularly take shelter from the rain in bus stops to avoid getting the blues

The road is long and pretty uninspiring, but it is good to be on the move again

The road is long and pretty uninspiring, but it is good to be on the move again

The new tent is simply palacial inside! A place to live if needs be!

The new tent is simply palacial inside! A place to live if needs be!

In our time around Osorno, we bought some fishing tackle and visited the waterfall near Petrohue. We tried our hand at fishing nearby, with Stavros teaching us the art of casting without plucking our eyes out. The closest to a bite was something nibbling one of the floats that looked like a piece of bread. Maybe we’ll put a fine loaf on the hooks next time!

Volcan Osorno makes an attempt to shrug off the clouds

Volcan Osorno makes an attempt to shrug off the clouds

Stavros at home in the kitchen of our Puerto Varas hostal

Stavros at home in the kitchen of our Puerto Varas hostal

Cascadas de Petrohué and Volcan Osorno

Cascadas de Petrohué and Volcan Osorno

We gave up on a clear view of Volcan Osorno and instead continued South to Puerto Montt by bike. Ever since Salta in the North of Argentina Geoff had been having problems with his low gears often being unable to use them when the hill got too steep and having to push or stand up in the saddle. This resulted in an explosion in the size of Geoffs’ thighs, but they will actually explode if he has to cycle without low gears for the Carreta Austral which is coming up. A tweak of the ‘b’ screw on the rear derailleur made things better, but not completely, and so in Puerto Montt we changed the whole derailleur as on closer inspection it was worn (wobbly). Geoff tested it on a street equal if not above the ‘steepest street in the world’ in Dunedin, New Zealand. It performed admirably, and fingers crossed our most ‘tricky to diagnose problem’ so far is fixed.

We took the bus to Ancud on the island of Chiloe, as the island is usually blessed with a continual drizzle that wouldn’t have been fun to cycle in. As it was, we managed to jinx the weather, and had three days of mostly glorious sun! The sun corresponded to the mood and we had a lovely three days on the island with everything going right. Just out of Ancud was a penguin colony, and a recommended taxi driver took us there and back via some spectacular viewpoints of the Pacific coast. On the way back he dropped us at a restaurant in town where (on his recommendation) we ordered two ‘Curantos’ for the three of us. Huge steaming plates of seafood, meat and potatoes, with the most delicious fishy stock came out, and we had one of our best experiences of local food of the whole trip.

The sun makes its first appearance on the ferry to Chiloe

The sun makes its first appearance on the ferry to Chiloe

Spot the penguin!

Spot the penguin!

Magellanic penguins off the coast of Chiloe

Magellanic penguins off the coast of Chiloe

About to tuck into a platter of Curanto, the traditional dish of Chiloe

About to tuck into a platter of Curanto, the traditional dish of Chiloe

In a packed day we hoisted our full stomachs onto another bus to Castro, the capital of Chiloe. Here we saw the stilt-houses of Chiloe called ‘Palafitos’, and some of the completely wooden churches for which the area is famous for. The final part of our Chilean culture extravaganza was a visit to a ‘Carreras a la Chilena’, which was traditional horse-racing, Chilean style: 1 on 1, side by side, zero H&S, cheap alcohol. We only stayed for one race, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience and will never forget a horse thundering past inches from our faces as it completes the 200m dash!

Colourful Chiloe potatoes in the market of Castro

Colourful Chiloe potatoes in the market of Castro

A row of palafitos (stilt-houses) in Castro

A row of palafitos (stilt-houses) in Castro

Visting the sea-side at Achao on Chiloe

Visting the sea-side at Achao on Chiloe

Achao church and Castro cathedral: completely made of wood!

Achao church and Castro cathedral: completely made of wood!

Wooden wall-tiles in Castro

Wooden wall-tiles in Castro

Grub at the races: empanada factory and LAMB!

Grub at the races: empanada factory and LAMB!

Making friends with the locals

Making friends with the locals

Close to the action! L: the winner of the 200m dash. R: second-place still pushing hard

Close to the action! L: the winner of the 200m dash. R: second-place still pushing hard

We returned to Puerto Montt to our bikes in the bus terminal left luggage. All was fine with them, and the next day we loaded them onto a bus for what we hope is the last time, to Pucon up North again. This region is famed for the huge Araucania tree forests in the shadow of volcanoes such as Villarica. We’ll spend about a week here with Stavros before parting ways and heading off to Argentina again.

On the ferry back to the mainland we get a glimpse of some of the snowiness we could see when we return South with our bikes.

On the ferry back to the mainland we get a glimpse of some of the snowiness we could see when we return South with our bikes.

The day after we arrive in Pucon, Volcan Villarica co-operates and revels itself from behind the clouds

The day after we arrive in Pucon, Volcan Villarica co-operates and reveals itself from behind the clouds

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Being a Tourist for a While

Date: 13th November – 28th November 2012

Where: Santiago – Mendoza – Valparaiso – Santiago – Valdivia

Distance: 6322 to 6334 miles

We spent a very restful two days with Ricardo and his family in Santiago, before moving to a more central hostal…in fact very central. The Plaza de Armas hostal looks down from the 6th floor onto the very centre of Santiago (there was a lift for the bikes thank goodness).

Negotiating escalators in Santiago bus station. Helmet compulsory

Negotiating escalators in Santiago bus station. Helmet compulsory

Eating ‘Meatballs in the oven’ with Ricardo and his family

Eating ‘Meatballs in the oven’ with Ricardo and his family

Nearly home…signposts for Coventry have started appearing!

Nearly home…signposts for Coventry have started appearing!

The view from the hostal over the Plaza de Armas in Santiago de Chile

The view from the hostal over the Plaza de Armas in Santiago de Chile

That night Stavros left Miami and the next morning swooped over the Andes into the airport. We were waiting for him, and swiftly boarded the bus back into town. It was a memorable moment as it was the first person from life as we knew it who we’d seen since meeting Nico in Nicaragua all those months ago (although an ex-work colleague of Geoff’s saw us on the Salar…she thought of us, but didn’t stop the jeep to see if it was us, because the coincidence would be too great!). The hostal was being cleansed of bed bugs, so we dumped bags and went out for food, a favourite Stavrakakis past-time.

The remainder of our time in Santiago is summed up in the photos below, plus a lot of shopping. Geoff in particular completely refreshed his wardrobe!

The two Stavrakaki go in search of dinner at the fish market in Santiago

The two Stavrakaki go in search of dinner at the fish market in Santiago

The changing of the guard…they have a lot of guards!

The changing of the guard…they have a lot of guards!

Meeting friends in Santiago. Top: Gonzalo from SOAS. Bottom: Rodrigo and Lilian from 'Motoruteroes de Colombia'

Meeting friends in Santiago. Top: Gonzalo from SOAS. Bottom: Rodrigo and Lilian from ‘Motoruteroes de Colombia’

Outside one of Pablo Neruda's house, a famous Chilean poet

Outside one of Pablo Neruda’s houses, a famous Chilean poet

Walking round the streets of Santiago, Father and Daughter.

Walking round the streets of Santiago, Father and Daughter.

The view from Cerro San Cristóbal in Santiago, a City in the shadow of the Andes (much like all of Chile!)

The view from Cerro San Cristóbal in Santiago, a City in the shadow of the Andes (much like all of Chile!)

From Santiago we retraced our steps back over the Paso de Los Libertadores to Mendoza. This time with a tailwind, a bus and a Stavros. We all got to see first-hand what we would cycle in an average day, and all of us were mightily impressed. It doesn’t seem that far when you’re on a bike, but in a bus it looked like miles and miles of uphill though a hot desert-like valley!

The weather in Mendoza was as hot as it was before and we spent much of the time wandering the streets under the cool shade of the trees. Trips to nearby thermal springs and vineyards combined with two parrilladas (mixed grills) and a Tango demonstration gave us all a feel for Argentinean life, and we were soon ready to return to Chile, this time to Valparaiso.

Relaxing with coffee in the shade of the Mendozan street-forest

Relaxing with coffee in the shade of the Mendozan street-forest

A Greek in Argentina. Left: With the irrigation channels that keep Mendoza so green. Right: Amidst the colours of Plaza España

A Greek in Argentina. Left: With the irrigation channels that keep Mendoza so green. Right: Amidst the colours of Plaza España

On the roof of the town hall in Mendoza…we could see so many trees!

On the roof of the town hall in Mendoza…we could see so many trees!

The protein shakes appear to be working at last!

The protein shakes appear to be working at last!

Stavrakakis = Food :-)

Stavrakakis = Food 🙂

Different flavours of wine growing for our delectation

Different flavours of wine growing for our delectation

A lifetime’s wine supply

A lifetime’s wine supply

Relaxing at the thermal springs complex at Cacheuta

Relaxing at the thermal springs complex at Cacheuta

The tourists show off their Tango skills with the over-dressed locals

The tourists show off their Tango skills with the over-dressed locals

Valparaiso…the coast..the Pacific…sea level! The first time since Trujillo in Peru, over 3 months ago! We really enjoyed our stay in this town, from the working port, past all the graffiti-covered, colourful houses on its steep slopes, to the views at the top. The naval museum was fascinating particularly the one non-naval exhibit: the torpedo-cage which rescued the miners a couple of years ago. We found it impossible to not take photos, the ones below are just some of them showing life in the Port:

Valpariso is a port where boats seem to stick their noses into every part of life

Valparaiso is a port where boats seem to stick their noses into every part of life

An impromptu classic car show allows Sarah to pose next to her all-time favourite car

An impromptu classic car show allows Sarah to pose next to her all-time favourite car

Ready to go visit the harbour

Ready to go visit the harbour

Unexpected guests watch over the bay

Unexpected guests watch over the bay

Containers mimic the houses on the steep slopes of the town

‘Ricky Boy’ – Containers mimic the houses on the steep slopes of the town

Scrumptious sea food

Scrumptious sea food

Sarah lost in a sea of graffiti

Sarah lost in a sea of graffiti

The streets of Valpariso

The streets of Valparaiso

The trolley-buses of Valparaiso

The trolley-buses of Valparaiso

Lord Cochrane’s (who was not drowned on the Arab as reported) advert for a crew to sail to South America with him

Lord Cochrane’s (who was not drowned in the Arab as reported) advert for a crew to sail to South America with him

These two men are clearly not built to be miners!

These two men are clearly not built to be miners!

Some of the jumbled masses of buildings that make up the town resemble slums

Some of the jumbled masses of buildings that make up the town resemble slums

Sea mist envelops the giraffe cranes in Valparaiso port

Sea mist envelops the giraffe cranes in Valparaiso port

Sarah and Stavros talk future careers with a view

Sarah and Stavros talk future careers with a view

Brightly coloured funiculars adorn the slopes round the town

Brightly coloured funiculars adorn the slopes round the town

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Valparaiso

Valpo, the locals name for their port

Valpo, the locals’ name for their port

Our road trip returned us to Santiago after 3 days in Valparaiso and we set about preparatory tasks to start cycling again. Washing was done, Geoff’s camera was cleaned (at last!), bikes were oiled, punctures fixed and bags packed. Our bus to Valdivia left early the next morning, but it wasn’t till 11 o’clock that we got to bed. From Valdivia we will cycle South while Stavros goes wandering by bus, meeting up every few days for coffee and cake!

Washing clothes in Santiago

Washing clothes in Santiago