Day 126 – April 26th 2016 – Route Iloca to Boyecura
A fast breakfast (scrambled eggs again) and we headed into the sunshine. A nice warm up on the tarmac before we hit the steep uphill and unpaved road. It was tough climbing and at points a sandy road but it was a beautiful ride and very few cars. We had some awesome views: Andes to the right and the Pacific to the left, with lakes and plenty of forest too. The day deteriorated when we got back on the tarmac as the tire made funny noises and had to be replaced by the spare we had been carrying for months. Unfortunately we also got a puncture – 2 bits of bad luck. We cycled back to the nearby sleepy coastal village of Boyecura, watched the sunset and after asking around and waiting eventually found a place to sleep right by the sea. We deserved a sleep after our 50km and 900m of climbing 🙂
Day 127 – April 27th 2016 – Route Boyecura to Pichilemu
We had an early start and cycled into a grey and chilly day. The ride was peaceful with some hills and views of crashing waves, the Andes and countryside. We crossed a Chilean cyclist called Gorge on his way south. We stopped to see the famous surfing breaks at Punto Los Loba and then scouted out a hostal in town. We enjoyed a shower and WiFi and popped into a local bar for dinner and a few cocktails followed by some Netflix. It became apparent that day that our hostal was popular with more mature travelers, confirmed by the bingo games and daily medic visits!
Day 128 -April 28th 2016 Pichilemu
A rest day in lovely Pichilemu planning the next few days, walking on the beach, surfer watching and listening to our audio book. We felt like we were in Point Break and expected to see Patrick Swayze at any minute.
Day 129 – April 29th 2016 – Route Pichilemu to Santa Cruz
As we have spent a lot of time on our tour sampling pie de limon (lemon meringue pie) we decided to take this to a new level and strapped a pie to the back of the bike. We packed up from our mature people’s hostel and started the steady climb out of Pichilemu. We had a great sunny day and smashed 90km through deserted dirt road, cactus fields, olive groves, lots of vineyards etc. The last bit of busy road wasn’t too fun and was a little dangerous so we followed the lead of the local cyclists and rode on the pavement. We found a lovely friendly hospedaje and a Mexican restaurant round the corner.
Day 130 – April 30th 2016 – Route Cycling and horseriding in the vineyards
We had an early start in order to get to the Montgras vineyard and meet our horses, vanilla and amador. It was a clear autumn day and we rode around in the vineyard for a few hours enjoying the views and learning about the wine (plus a naughty horse in the group eating the grapes at every opportunity). This was followed by a delicious tasting which resulted in being a bit tipsy and buying a bottle to strap to the bike. We then pedaled a bit around the local roads and even spotted a tarantula. We had an evening of Sushi, wine drinking and Netflix. A little side note, along the roadside in Chile and Argentina there are many shrines to loved ones who have died, mostly in road accidents, which can be quite sobering. As well as this you also see water shrines which have an interesting story behind them (see link for more info).
Day 131 – May 1st 2016 – Route Santa Cruz to Rancagua
Public holiday in Chile for labour day so no work allowed for Chileans. We have made a team tandem decision to get to Santiago fast and cross the Andes into Argentine as the small passes have already closed due to snow. We started the day with the best breakfast we have had on our trip thanks to our lovely hospedaje! Slowly packed up and headed out about 1pm. It was a pretty uneventful day on the bike but we did pass through more vineyards, corn fields, fruit tree plantations and lots of factories. The 120km day ended cycling in the dark with rain and a headwind so not much fun. We stopped at a few towns to find accommodation but no joy so pushed on to the big city, Rencague. Finally found a hotel with no staff except a fireman who was a night guard.
Day 132 – May 2nd 2016 – Route Rancagua to Lampa near Santiago
We had an early start for our big ride to Santiago. despite avoiding route 5 we still ended up on some busy roads and passed through lots of urban areas. We made good progress and got to our favourite bike shop in Santiago (la cleta cycle) at about 4:30 (92km). We bought lots of treats for the bike including: new chains, bottom bracket, inner tubes and more. The kind owner, German, who had built our new wheel a few weeks ago then offered us a lift to our friends place about 60km away. I wanted to take the lift but James was not keen. We took the lift 🙂 and spent a lovely evening with our Chilean friend Anita and stayed over at her condo.
Day 133 – May 3rd 2016 Rest day at Anita’s
We had a chilled day after camping in Anita’s place. We did some eating, chatting, using her washing machine (first time we have used a washing machine in 4 months – definitely beats hand washing) and James even fixed her bike 🙂
Day 134 – May 4th 2016 Route Lampa to Los Andes
Anita gave us a great send off and even took a video of our departure which she posted on Facebook. We embarked on our journey which ended up being 70km and 1000m of climbing. The ride started on busy roads some of which specifically said no bikes but we cycled on them anyway! We ended on a deserted new road that climbed a pass to avoid a tunnel. It was peaceful albeit a bit hard. We made it to Los Andes at sunset which is a lovely town nested in the mountains. We did some prep for our upcoming mountain pass and had a yummy pizza.
Day 135 – May 5th 2016 – Route Los Andes to Los Libaderadores pass SOS Refugio
Alarm event off at 6am – ugh! We had a big early breakfast and hit the road for our climb up the main mountain pass between Chile and Argentina. The day started with no visibility and we went on to experience rain, strong winds and then snow! It was a long hard ride uphill for 70km and climbing over 2000m – wow! We passed through a few mountain tunnels, got honked at by lots of trucks and cars, completed 29 switchbacks and listened to a lot of music for motivation. An old rail track was next to us the whole way – it used to go up and over into Argentina but now is only operating up to a copper mine. We also passed lots of hydro plants. James worked hard to keep my morale up as I got tired and worried when the weather closed in. Just 2km from our end point we got picked up by the pass SOS crew who had been asked by the police to rescue us. As the snow was falling hard and they were going to close the border they told us we had to spend the night in their base and try and continue tomorrow. We curled up in our bunk beds and went to sleep – at 3200m above sea level!
Day 136 – May 6th 2016 – Route Los Libaderadores pass SOS Refugio to Uspallata
We woke from a surprisingly good sleep in our shared bunk bed and went to hop in the truck with our SOS friends. Unlike yesterday it was a beautiful clear day and we could see the full glory of the snow covered Andes. They took us through the tunnel ( no bikes allowed) and dropped us the other side with instructions to go 18km downhill in the chilly day to customs. We were glad of our winter clothes! Customs was painless and we pushed on down the hill on our tired legs. It was stunning with the Andes in shades of purple and pink and descending below the snowline into desert. We got glimpses of the old railway again and old roads along the way too. 88km later we finally made it to civilisation thirsty and hungry. Found a hotel and settled in for a night of doing nothing! The claim to fame of this town is that 7 Years in Tibet was filmed in the beautiful surroundings so we watched Brad Pitt with his terrible Austrian accent in honour of this.
Day 137 – May 7th 2016 Route Uspallata to Villavicencio
We made it out by about 12 and had one of our craziest days riding yet. It started with an amazing ride in the desert flanked by the Andes on a totally deserted dirt road. We took some fab pics and the dirt road continued to climb in the blazing sun. We slowly pedaled up to 2800m to some mining ruins (visited by Darwin in the 1800s,) when the clouds came over and it began to hail! We lost all the beautiful views and when we stopped to put on our rain gear we got our first front wheel puncture of the trip – poor James! We slowly cycled down the valley with no visibility on the dirt road with hundreds of switchbacks through the nature reserve of Villa Vincencia. This place is stunning but we saw almost nothing. Made it to the spa town at the bottom and were told there was no accommodation and we should ask the park guards for help. Wet and cold we got help from the park guards who let us camp in their community space and opened up the toilets for us too.
Day 138 -May 8th 2016 – Route Villavicencio to Mendoza
We packed up camp early and hit the road and even got to see the beautiful place as some cloud had lifted. We then did a quick but uneventful ride downhill 50km to Mendoza, bring on the wine. Stopped for coffee and snacks and found a place to stay and chill for a few nights. We wandered into the city centre, ate at a typical Argentinian parilla(where you eat your body weight in grilled meat), booked a wine excursion and bought treats in the supermarket.
Day 139 – May 9th 2016 Mendoza
Lie in, breakfast and relaxation. Spent the afternoon on a wine and olive oil tasting excursion. We visited a big modern vineyard called Vistandes and a small one called Florio that specialises in sparkling and naturally sweet wines. This was followed by a tour of an olive oil factory and some taste testing. We had an evening of drinking local wine and watching Netflix.
Day 140 – May 10th 2016 Mendoza
We had a great day out in the Lujan Valley where we visited 4 vineyards and had a delicious meal course lunch with wine pairing. It was an educational and tasty day and we were pretty tipsy after tasting 16 lovely wines. Got to try some very fancy high priced wines!
Day 141 – May 11th 2016 Mendoza
A rainy day in the city (in the desert!) Rest and bike maintenance in preparation for our journey North.
Day 142 – May 12th 2016 – Route Mendoza to San Juan
A big ride today. Rode through the desert on a nice flat tarmac road. There was lots of water about after the rain so there was no dust. Flat and straight and we managed over 100 miles (an imperial century). We had three police checkpoints,one of which we were sprayed with disinfectant, and saw over 10 dead dogs – some flat as pancakes and some in Monty Python dead parrot legs in the air style – not a good road for dogs. Visited 4 different hotels before we found a good one… A quick meal out and then we went straight to bed.