Published: March 24th 2013March 6th 2013
Saturday 23/2/13 – This morning we woke up and did some quick shopping before leaving the northern Chilean city of Calama. Kenz’s blow-up mattress has been leaking recently through the valve and it no longer stayed inflated for the whole night. We went to the local hardware store and bought a $10 replacement which looks the business (it has been encouragingly nicknamed ‘Cloud 9’). As we left Calama we rode through the largely abandoned town of Chuquicamata which has recently been displaced by the encroachment of the biggest open pit copper mine in the world. We tried to organise a tour of the mine, however we would have had to wait 4 days before we could get access. We left Chuquicamata and rode to the coastal city of Antofagasta. Just north of the city we crossed an extremely windy desert plateau which is where the Tropic of Capricorn crosses Chile. Unfortunately we didn’t see a monument (or there wasn’t any?), however I later found out that the Tropic of Capricorn is currently moving north at a rate of about 15m per year (as the Earth’s axial tilt is not fixed) so any monument would have been inaccurate anyhow. For some reason
this trivial fact made me feel better about missing the monument. Riding down from the high plateau we then followed along the beaches just south of Antofagasta where the sea breeze was absolutely howling, blowing sand and even tents around everywhere. There was a campsite with some protective walls erected near the southern edge of the beach and we decided to pay the considerable fee to pitch the tent behind the dubious looking break-wall. Shortly after erecting our tent, 4 separate car loads of stooges turned up to set up camp all around us. Before they even had their camps set up, all 4 groups had ear splitting music playing at such incredible volumes you could feel the bass vibrating through the ground. It was total chaos as they were all playing different kinds of music. The young guys next to us were playing the least offensive music (generic Chilean pop music) which was brainless but at least had some interesting Latin American percussion. The worst offenders were some mid 50yo idiots playing death metal at outrageous volumes, they were also drinking 1 litre bottles of beer. It was a chaotic cacophony at an insane volume - I can imagine
no sound being as awful since Orpheus’ scream as he was murdered by the followers of Dionysus in ancient Greece. It was going to be a long night…
The only good thing about camping here was the amazing sunset over the Pacific Ocean. To truly appreciate it we walked along the beach, up wind from the chaos of the campsite and away from the other campers; however we had to be careful where we stepped as the beach was covered with the ubiquitous north Chilean smashed bottles and rubbish. Once we had returned to our camp we got to appreciate the less finer aspects of the Chilean (at least northern Chilean) camping culture. The people here have almost no respect for anyone else, themselves or their environment – it’s unfortunate as their country is beautiful and would be otherwise great to camp in. To explain: they throw rubbish everywhere, even old ladies and well-dressed/educated businessmen will toss Coke cans, cigarette butts or plastic bags out car windows or just straight on the beach. They have no respect for other people – they play their music at ear-splitting volumes all night no matter where they are, and they have little
respect for themselves often being dirty, loud and overweight wearing clothes that 16yo Australian girls would be embarrassed to wear. Of course we have also met some really nice Chileans, but overall our experience of the campers has been disappointing. Despite this we are keen to get south of Santiago as the southerners are apparently much friendlier and live more traditionally, being more considerate with each other and the world around them.
In the evening Kenz tried to sleep with earplugs and an eyemask (the light bulb hanging above our tent would surge and almost blow every 5 minutes), but she was mostly unsuccessful. By 2:30am, I was starting to get sick of the 4 different stereos simultaneous assaulting our tent (the bass actually making the tent quiver!), however a sly smile came over my face when the light above us surged and then exploded which shut the power off to the whole campsite. I have never seen South Americans move as fast as when this bedraggled and coarse bolt of the Chilean camping cloth descended on the camp site attendant’s hut, banging on his door and accusing him of shutting off the campsite’s power. He tried to tell
them that he didn’t know what had happened and that they should return to their camps and go to sleep, but they didn’t believe him and a fight almost broke out between this poor reedy looking guy and all the huge mulleted, red-necked, drunk Chilean party-men. After some mucho pushing and shoving, an electrician came out and checked all the power outlets at every campsite looking for the problem, and was followed by a drunken entourage of middle-aged man-children. When they came to our site, some drunken guy tripped on our tent peg, whilst his friend leaned against my bike and his scandalously dressed wife kept shaking my tent asking me in Spanish did I blow up the power (it was 3am by this time). I knew without a doubt that it was the light bulb above our tent which was continuously shorting out the power, but I didn’t say anything because I knew if they fixed the problem the music would literally go until sunrise. It all got a bit strange when they spied that we had hidden one of our bags on top of a permanently erected beach umbrella, and next to a power outlet. It was our
food bag kept high out of reach from the numerous wild beach dogs, but I think they thought it was hidden because we had stashed drugs there – they all talked and pointed at it and wanted to check the socket but no one wanted to touch the bag or even go near it. Eventually the electrician said he couldn’t find the problem in the dark and all these losers wanted to fight him for not fixing the problem. Eventually they went back to their sites and some started up their music using their car stereos which were thankfully only able to play the music at about half the volume as before. I thought I could finally get some light sleep, however two feral cats kept slipping under our tent flap and sleeping against the wall in the vestibule and rubbing up against my feet waking me up. And then I caught another dog pissing on the door of our tent and on both our bikes. The problem is once one dog pisses on our tent or bikes, every dog in the neighbourhood then wants to do the same. As dawn broke I was so tired and wretched, I felt
like walking down to the beach to salute the rising sun screaming for the Thracian Maenards to put me out of my misery.
Sunday 24/2/13 – We rose early after a few short hours of sleep and surveyed the aftermath of last night’s booze-fuelled destruction of the campsite. Of course there was bottles and rubbish lying everywhere. I think we were the only ones awake, and I did get some small satisfaction when we started up the bikes early in the morning. But it’s likely that most of the campers were still drunk and didn’t even hear the bikes. I understand how listening to deafening death-metal and drinking multiple 1-litre bottles of beer each night causes retardation of mental capacity, but why can’t it have the same effect on their ability to procreate? Surely the world would be a better (and more peaceful) place if we could eradicate these usurpers of civility? We left town and rode south along the beautiful but windy Chilean coastline. A few hours south of Antofagasta, I noticed my empty 5 litre jerry can must have come loose and blown off the bike somewhere in the desert. Unfortunately I don’t suppose it
will even be noticed amongst the ever-present piles of roadside trash.
In the late afternoon we arrived at the seaside city of Caldera which immediately struck us as a mini Surfers Paradise. This also meant we couldn’t afford to stay at any hotel along the coast so we rode to the main beach (Bahia Inglesa) and enquired at the basic campsite just behind the beach. I almost fell over when the lady wanted $60 for a campsite with no electricity. After politely refusing the lady’s offer, we decided to camp for free on the beach which was packed with cars, tents, swimmers and partiers. We tried to ride further along the beach away from most of the people. The sand began getting quite soft so I went on ahead by myself (no point getting two bikes stuck). Of course being on heavy bikes mine got stuck in the soft sand, so Kenz had to come and push it whilst I rode it out. For her troubles, she got a face full of sand but we managed to get my bike free with no problems. So we went back up the beach and camped on the firmer sand near the
edge of the festivities. There were many partiers here riding up and down the beach at insane speeds in utes, 4WDs, quad bikes and motorcycles, so we hung up our high-visibility reflective vests and jackets all over our bikes in an effort to prevent getting run over by a drunken night rider.
The people here partied all afternoon and evening with some local guys playing some amazing music on drums and bongo drums whilst occasionally singing. It was a party atmosphere and their girlfriends did some amazing (chemically enhanced?) dancing with many small steps and much bootie and boobie shaking. The guys on the drums were really talented and it was a pleasure to listen to them after enduring the music from the talentless losers the previous night. After the sun set many of the people left the beach but there were a few tents and cars scattered along the beach where people continued more modest and discreet partying.
Monday 25/2/13 – I unzipped the tent this morning and was immediately confronted by a teenage girl not far away wearing the tiniest mini-skirt squatting in the sand going to the toilet. I immediately zipped the tent
back up and tried to erase that image which was now burned into my memory – it was not an ideal way to start the day, at least not for me.
This morning our tent and bikes were damp from the overnight dew meaning that sand got everywhere and stuck to everything. We tried to pack everything without getting covered in sand and left the beach preparing to head south. We followed the coast for most of the day which was blanketed in thick cold fog. We haven’t encountered coastal fog like this since California, and it was a quick reminder of how cold and wet fog can be to ride through, after 6 hours we were drenched and freezing!
We rode south and as we approached the city of La Serena we noticed some strange looking green material covering much of the ground. Cautiously we pulled over to check it out, it felt soft and spongy under our feet. Just seeing it bought on a feeling of calm and a sense of welcoming – like beings such as us belonged on such material. We suddenly realised that it was grass! Sweet, soft, beautiful, green grass! We had
almost forgotten not only what grass was like, but that it even existed at all. It had been over 2 weeks since we had seen any, but it felt like over 2 months! Sand and dust can be beautiful (in the right context) but it just doesn’t feel like grass does beneath your feet. Before the discovery of chlorophyll, the church preached that grass and trees were green because God wanted them to be pleasing to the human eye. And I can almost understand their thinking – seeing green grass for the first time in two weeks certainly soothed the eye and energized the body. When travelling, it is often the small things that bring the most pleasure – today it was grass.
We followed the grass along the river and headed inland to the small town of Vicuna. Here we found a nice little vineyard which had a small campground and even a swimming pool. We set up camp on a particularly appealing and spongy grass area before enjoying a quick swim. We then replenished our dwindling camping supplies of packet pasta and soups at the local supermarket. Whilst here I was inspired by our campsite amongst the
vineyard and bought some awful red wine which I couldn’t finish and ended up leaving in the charity box. It was no problem though as wine over here costs from just $1.50 per litre.
In the evening we walked to the central plaza for a tour up to the observatory on nearby Mount Mamalluca. There are many observatories here, as Chile (and particularly this region) is the best place for star and planet observations due to its altitude, atmosphere, global position and climate. We were picked up in an old beat-up ute and taken to the observatory which had two very powerful telescopes and numerous smaller ones. Despite tonight being cloudless, there was a full moon meaning there was quite a deal of unwanted light making it more difficult to see distant stars. However it also meant we got some amazing photos of the moon through one of the smaller telescopes. We did study a few star clusters including one of the brighter stars on Orion’s belt that when looked at through the telescope turned in to a cluster of over 10 individual stars! I thought the highlight of the evening was being able to focus on the planet
Jupiter. We could see the planet in such detail that we could observe the planet’s reddish bands (called belts) and its 4 moons – amazing!
Tuesday 26/2/13 – It was a long day’s ride for us to reach Santiago today. We travelled over 550km through coastal fog before the sun broke through in the afternoon just as we rode into Santiago. Our first impressions of the city were about how clean it was – there was almost no rubbish lying around! The city was fairly easy to navigate and ride around and we visited a number of hotels and hostels in Central Santiago before settling on the cheapest we could find that was tidy and secure. The city is home to around 6 million people, so we were surprised at how clean and yobbo-less the city was after our experiences in the north of the country. We walked to the nearby supermarket which had salami and real cheese, so we made a great salad roll for dinner.
Wednesday 27/2/13 – This morning we enjoyed a nice complimentary hotel breakfast and then tried to use the hotel’s laundry service. The hotel receptionist was a strange
dude who didn’t want to take our laundry for some reason and it wasn’t until I really pressed him that he told us there was a laundry just 2 blocks away – I’m still not sure what his problem was. After dropping off our laundry we removed the motorcycle panniers and rode them to the local Kawasaki dealer for a service and some much needed maintenance. To save us some money he suggested we ride in and try to buy some parts he needed from the local motorcycle market (a new Kawasaki chain costs $400 from the dealer here!). So we visited many of the shops on motorcycle alley over the next two hours before finding a new chain, mirror, inner tubes and tyre irons; however we had no luck finding the new rear tyre that I wanted or a new rear sprocket for Kenz. The moto-market stretches for about 3 blocks where everyone parks their bikes on the footpath and then walk around the different stores. As we parked the police pulled up and about 60 guys ran out and jumped on their bikes to get them off the footpath – it was hilarious! We found a really good
store here, but it was also really busy. There were 13 counters which were all busy so we took a ticket and were amazed that we had to wait for 21 other motorcyclists to be served before our ticket number came up – now that is alot of motorcyclists!
So with less loot in hands than we wanted, we dropped the bikes off at the Kawasaki dealer and spent some time checking out Patricio Cabrera’s KLX450 that was ridden in the 2013 Dakar Rally. I had a few nerdy moments as I noticed all the modifications made to the bike for its 8500km journey through the deserts of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. The dealer assured us that he would be able to get all the required parts for the bikes and we would be back on the road in just a few days.
As we walked back through the city towards our hotel we visited a few insurance agents to check out prices for motorcycle insurance in Chile, Argentina and Brazil; but were disappointed by all the responses we received. We visited a small café where I ordered a Chocolate Fria sin Café and received a Café Fria
sin Chocolate and then got into an argument with the barista who was a really aggressive guy. I tasted the drink and then gave it back with my straw still in it whilst he made a new one – he then gave the one I had already tasted to another customer who wasn’t happy that I had already drunk from it. Eventually we got what we wanted, quickly drank them and exited before any more trouble started. We caught a taxi home and spent the evening at the hotel which was having a raucous party around the back. For dinner we had part II of our salami and camembert rolls.
Thursday 28/2/13 – This morning at breakfast we met a nice guy from Montana who decided to ride his BMW from the US to Panama and then made a split decision to continue on to Ushuaia. He spent just 6 weeks riding from Colombia to Ushuaia and back to Santiago! He gave us some good tips and ideas about our route along with the grave warning about the infamous Patagonian wind. We then walked into the main plaza (Plaza de Armas) where we met our tour guide
Antonio for the free city walking tour (based on tips). When we arrived he told us about a political demonstration on Santiago’s main street just yesterday (not far from where we are staying) that the riot police ended with tear gas and water cannons. I would have liked to check that out – from a safe distance of course.
We then spent the next 4 hours walking all over Santiago seeing many cathedrals, palaces, museums, government buildings, shops, statues, fountains and parks with Antonio giving us very detailed histories about each area. A brief history of Santiago: Once the Spanish had settled in Peru they attempted to move south into Chile but encountered the Atacama Desert which they decided was uncrossable, and so they didn’t bother trying to move south for many more years. Eventually the Spanish sent a group of 1000 explorers, settlers and soldiers to cross the desert in search of fertile lands; over 300 died during the crossing before they found the fertile valley which is now Santiago. The region was already populated with some indigenous people (called the Mapuche) who resisted the Spanish and remained at war with them for many years. The city of Santiago was constantly raided by the Mapuche, and was even destroyed a few times before the Spanish managed to properly construct adequate defences. The Plaza de Armas (plaza of weapons) was thus named due to the underground cache of weapons stored here for the defence of the city. The original access tunnel is still open so I went down to check it out after the tour – disappointingly I found no old cannons, cutlasses or rifles - instead it’s now being used to store street cleaning and construction equipment. Both the early and modern history of Santiago is full of violence, revolutions, murders, bombings, suicides and social struggles. The Chileans achieved their independence from Spain in the early 1800s and since then Santiago has undergone many social and political upheavals. Despite its dynamic history, the modern-day city of Santiago is quite beautiful with some amazing parks, great neo-classic architecture, a thriving artistic community and an extensive selection of world-class restaurants. One of the more interesting Chilean traditions can be seen in their cafés called ‘Café con Piernas’ (or Coffee with Legs) where women with scandalously short skirts serve coffee to businessmen. For just 1-5 minutes at lunch time they pull all the window shutters down and the women jump on the tables and dance in their underwear. It’s been a custom for a long time and isn’t looked upon disapprovingly by most, but more as a cultural concept that they are proud of. There are now the more ‘seedy’ versions where the women wear bikinis all day, but we didn’t poke our heads inside these ones.
During the tour we were followed by one of the biggest dogs I have ever seen. He attached himself to our group in the central plaza and followed us (or led us) on the entire tour. The guide says he often leads the group and knows the typical route that the group follows every day. He was very protective and would often chase other dogs away or bark and chase dodgy looking guys, skateboarders or bicyclists that were unlucky enough to pass us by. You had to be careful because sometimes he would be seated in the middle of the group and then instantly be bolting towards another dog oblivious to anyone standing in his way. On the tour we also met a young Kiwi guy who is over here maintaining blueberry sorting machinery. He travels all over the world to do maintenance and repairs on these very complex machines. The blueberries are tested for firmness by being bounced on conveyer belts and are automatically sorted depending on how high they bounce. Then they pass through a photo-sensitive sensor where the reflection of light off the berries surface determines if they are of a desirable colour. If so then a small squirt of air shoots them onto a separate belt. I had no idea that the process of sorting blueberries was so complex and for some reason I thought it was worth writing about.
After the tour we walked back through the city and stopped at a boutique ice-cream store where I got an amazing dark chocolate and orange ice-cream and Kenz got her usual (but also amazing) cookies and cream version. We also swung by the market and searched for thongs and sunnies. Kenz got a nice pair of ‘Ray-Bens’ for just $2.
For dinner we decided to try the Chilean’s favourite street food - the hotdog! For some reason they are obsessed with hotdogs in Santiago, on every street there are hotdog vendors often with people crowding around trying to get their hands on one of these delicacies. With nothing to do tomorrow we thought tonight would be a good opportunity to test out a hotdog from a less-dodgy (but still dodgy) looking hotdog vendor. We each got an Italiano Dog which was named due to its colourful condiments: red salsa, white mayonnaise and green puree avocado. To be honest it wasn’t much chop and tasted of nothing, so we still aren’t sure why Chileans like them – except maybe that they are cheap, they go down smooth and come out fast.
Friday 1/3/13 – We had breakfast with the Montana adventure rider before spending the day relaxing around the hotel doing boring things. We spent a great deal of time trying to contact the mechanic at the Kawasaki dealer who seems to have gone underground. He has had the bikes for 3 days and we are nervous that we still haven’t heard anything yet. We are hoping to ride 1000km south to Puerto Montt by next Thursday.
Saturday 2/3/13 – With no news regarding the motos, we decided to catch a bus out to the scenic port city of Valparaiso. We walked to the subway and caught a train to the bus station, and then enjoyed a 2 hour journey via a comfy bus to Valparaiso. The port and city centre is located on a flat plain against the coast, but the suburbs are high atop some very steep hills which are accessible by riding an ascensor (similar to a tram that runs up very steep inclines). We rode an ascensor to the top of a hill just south of the city centre and looked out over the city. The actual city is quite pretty; however the industrial port is probably the same size as the city but full of rusty shipping containers and huge ships. For a while we watched the cranes loading and moving the shipping containers around before we returned back to the city centre. In the distance only about 10 blocks away we could see the steeples of a great looking cathedral so we started walking in that direction. We had only walked for a few blocks when a local elderly couple stopped us and started rapidly talking to us in Spanish. When we shook our heads she pointed in the direction of the church, shook her head and then ran her finger across her throat. Understanding that it was a dangerous part of the city, we thanked them, turned around and walked back to the city centre and decided to visit the nearby free museum situated on another hill overlooking the city centre. Unfortunately the ascensor here wasn’t functioning so we had to climb up the 164 steps the old fashion way – it was pretty tough but luckily I have super-human buff calves (Kenz did struggle a little). The museum was interesting but we spent more time standing on the cliff top looking down on the city.
As we left the museum I noticed a well-dressed young tourist walk in and then turn around and leave. I remember thinking, “well that guy wasn’t too impressed by the museum” and thought nothing more of it. A few minutes later we were standing at the top of the stairs and Kenz told me to walk down a few steps for a photo. I walked down about 6 or 8 steps and then heard Kenz scream; I turned around and saw the well-dressed man wrestling with her trying to get her handbag. I turned around and bounded up the steps yelling, and with a final big yank that tore the stitching along her bag’s shoulder strap and sent her camera flying; he turned around empty handed and took off like the 6 million dollar man. Kenz was hunched over and I was worried that she was seriously hurt, but despite having a sore neck, being a little shocked, and receiving a few scratches and bruises, she was fine. The guy sprinted past a taxi that was parked about 20m away and disappeared down the street. There was another tourist walking up the steps about 15 from the top and he realised what had happened and immediately turned around and walked straight back down. A little shaken and thankful that Kenz was strong enough to fight the guy off (probably due to all the years she has been slapping me around!); we returned down the steps and went to the main city plaza to calm down a little.
With our Valparaiso (and Chile) experience rapidly turning sour, we decided to catch the early bus back to Santiago. We arrived home and Kenz got into bed to give her aching neck a rest. Whilst in bed she was checking our banking statements and immediately saw that someone a few days ago had charged 200 euros on our backup credit card. It was a totally unrelated situation to the attempted mugging, but it really topped off a shit day. We made a quick phone call to Australia and the bank told us they had immediately frozen the account which was lucky as the offenders had then tried to charge 600 more euros on our credit card. The bank reimbursed us the 200 euros but the card is now cancelled meaning we just have one credit card account now. Come-on Chile – we were really looking forward to visiting you but you are rapidly turning into a big disappointment!
Sunday 3/3/13 – Today we walked across town to the free ‘Museum of Memory and Human Rights’. It was all about the military dictatorship that ruled Chile from 1973 – 1990 and how they abused the rights of the populace to remain in power. A common thread with dictatorships that I have noticed is their unrelenting control of the press; persecution of the educated, the homosexuals and the artists; and a diminishing of the rights of the people. Historically this has been done through military force, however I sometimes wonder if the rise of corporations and their ubiquitous influence over national governments aren’t leading us to a similar situation by keeping a large proportion of the population poor, desperate and uneducated; attempting to limit the information we can access on the internet and through other media; and the recent discussions in US politics about the rights of homosexuals and the attempted reduction in women’s rights is really worrying (dang, I’m starting to sound like a conspiracy nut!). During the Chilean dictatorship many people disappeared or were tortured, and it wasn’t until just 1990 that social pressure forced a democratic vote. The museum was fascinating but sobering, and we spent about 5 hours here walking around listening to the audio tour.
Monday 4/3/13 – Today we finally received an email from the Kawasaki dealership stating that they couldn’t get a sprocket for us. So we caught a cab around to pick up the bikes. I immediately ran my eye over the bikes and noticed that they hadn’t done most of the things we asked – no new rear sprocket, no new rear tyre, no new brake light, Kenz’s handgrip warmers not fixed, my trip meter not fixed, my horn not fixed... And to top it off they had left the rear wheel adjustment nut half undone – it makes you wonder when they can’t even tighten an obvious and important nut like that what else have they forgotten to tighten?! So we visited the ATM and paid these stooges far more than they deserved (even with the 20% discount they gave us) in cash as their Visa machine wasn’t working and we now only had one functioning credit card. On the way home Kenz received a call from our bank’s fraud department questioning the 3 quick transactions we had just made. Thankfully we received the call in time and explained the situation so they didn’t cancel the card – then we really would have been stuffed.
As the Kawasaki dealer didn’t have a sprocket, the new chain we had previously brought was now not required. We returned to moto-alley and attempted to get a refund for the chain. Eventually they agreed to return our money, however the shop only does banking on Fridays so we could return then for a written cheque which we could then cash at a bank. However we hope to be over 2000kms south of Santiago by then, so we are now carrying around a spare chain.
We rode back to the hotel as night fell and set the bikes up for a hasty Santiago-escape tomorrow morning.
Tuesday 5/3/13 – With a spring in our step we packed the bikes this morning knowing we would finally be leaving Santiago. We adjusted Kenz rear wheel to tighten up the chain and tried not to stare at the hideously worn sprocket that we won’t be able to replace for at least another 3000km. Luckily we have kept the half-worn rear sprocket that we replaced in Colorado which we can use if required. It’s fairly worn but if her current sprocket dies at least we have a spare which still has a little life left in it. A little after 9am, we rode out the hotel car park and headed south for 850km – by far our biggest day yet. The route we took passed many green forests, cornfields and other crop plantations. It was a long day but we wanted to cover most of the distance to Puerto Montt today as the ferry we want to catch leaves on Friday. The last 150km was particularly gruelling as our communication system battery ran flat, and then the rain started pouring down – and when it rains in Southern Chile, it absolutely pours! For some reason we passed an amazing number of ambulances and people towing vehicles today. I’m not sure if there was a conference on ambulance driving nearby, or a convoy of towing enthusiasts in the area. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if I had seen an ambulance towing another vehicle today. Our ride south was interrupted at one stage as somehow a truck had flipped on a straight and was facing the other way in our lane. The reason we could travel such a long way today was because it was a really good quality road, but unfortunately it was a toll road. We had to pay $1.20 at a toll booth every 80 kms along the road, so this coupled with buying fuel (the same price as in Australia) and buying accommodation - it was another very expensive day spent in a country we don’t really want to be in anymore!
We arrived in the pretty town of Valdivia which was settled by German immigrants in the 1500s. The town looked quite pretty as we rode in; however it was currently blanketed in a thick rain cloud so we were more interested in finding somewhere to stay than looking around. After visiting 3 different places we eventually found a small hospedaje which had a hot shower for us to warm up in.
Wednesday 6/3/13 – This morning we walked along the pretty lakes edge towards the town square of Valdivia. We passed a floating jetty where many huge and ugly looking sea lions were baking in the morning sun. They were easily the ugliest sea lions I have ever seen - and I’ve seen quite a few. There was also lots of bird life around the lake; it’s a relief to see some bird life other than the vultures in the sky. We then spent about 45 mins walking to 5 different cafes and restaurants around the town centre trying to hunt down some breakfast. No one was serving breaky except for a fast-food hotdog joint, and McDonalds who didn’t even have Hotcakes or Sausage and Egg McMuffins on the menu. As we were walking along the lake this morning we were beginning to think that Valdivia was the beautiful jewel of Chile, it’s clean, small, quaint, beautiful, peaceful, green, and there were birds flying in the sky. Walking around trying to find a café that served breakfast was an abrupt reminder that we were indeed still in Chile where even the most simple things in life are hard. Eventually we found a small place that agreed to make us some sandwiches which we ate along with an amazing mint hot chocolate.
We returned and adjusted Kenz’s rear wheel and chain again whilst trying to avoid looking at her rear sprocket and my rear tyre. When we walked around to return the room key to the hospedaje owner we left the bike warming up outside our room, and when we returned I immediately saw thick electric-smelling smoke pouring out the front of my bike. I sprinted over and switched the bike off worrying that the wiring beneath the dash would be all melted together into a thick multi-coloured cord. Luckily it was just the wire from my handgrip warmers that had melted apart and welded itself to the side of the bike, and as I reached in to check it, it disintegrated in my fingers. I taped up the melted ends of the wires and we took off, keen to get to Puerto Montt before Kenz’s chain fell off, my rear tyre blew, or my bike burnt to the ground.
The trip to Puerto Montt was a wet but otherwise uneventful $3.60 journey (230km), and we arrived wet and shivering. We went straight around to the ferry terminal where we booked the ferry tickets for Friday and managed to get a 10% student discount. We then rode to a few different hotels trying to get a good deal for the 2 nights we would be spending here. The place we stayed at originally wanted $86 per night, however after a few questions she did admit that she had cheaper rooms available for $50, and after some more haggling I managed to get it for $40 with no breakfast. The best thing about our room was it had very fast Wi-Fi (meaning we could Skype home), and it had a bath! Well, calling it a bath is probably a little extravagant; it was more like a baby-bath. Not being deterred by its modest size, I jumped in and realised that I either had to sit sideways with my legs crossed, or lie on my back with my arms and legs pointing straight up towards the ceiling like a dead cartoon cat. I went with the second option and thoroughly enjoyed a steaming-hot baby-bath. Bathing like a cat is actually a good analogy as the small amount of water meant I had to bath in sections just like cats do, spending a minute or two cleaning each arm separately and then each leg…
After Kenz had a baby-bath and managed to warm up, we walked along the water front to get some dinner. There was a giant statue of a cuddling couple on the waterfront here which was a strange but good photo opportunity. We were looking forward to catching the ferry on Friday which would take us through the fjords of Southern Chile to the Patagonian city of Puerto Natales.