The final two weeks have been planned and executed. We took a bus from Antofagasta to Santiago, which was harder than expected. Only the fifth buscompany we asked was willing to take the bikes, thanks to a kind cashier. The drivers themselves were shocked when they saw them, but with a little pocket money all went fine.
Our arrival in Santiago started out nicely with me getting my backpack stolen, resulting in a bike ride all through the city to get in touch with the police and to get a new migration card. Luckily my passport was on me, losing that would probably have cost us a few more days. Already tired of the bustling citylife, we checked in a hotel and found a few nice lines to cycle in the surrounding mountains. The next day we left some heavy luggage in the hotel and were off again!
The smog covering the city (at about 400m alt.) might hide the surrounding mountains from view, but they are surprisingly close. After only some 15km struggling with cars, we could start on a solid uphill towards the city’s most popular ski resort, a downhillbiking heaven in summer. It took us two days and a lot of complaining about endless fences to reach 2400m, there we had a resting day with a beautiful view and a bottle of wine. Most of the asfalt roads leaving Santiago are fenced of, or surrounded by private property signs. This makes camping hard but is all i all rather understandable, as every not fenced spot is piled with rubbish and shit.
After having a rest we cycled the last switchbacks up to 2800m and started a downhill roll on ski- and hiking trails. It quickly turned out that the “good for everything” schwalbe mondial tyres were not up for the job, our weels sliding sideways all the time. Still, it was solid fun. Back down at 1100m we wanted to camp in the same spot as some nights before. However, an angry hunter with a bad ass gun explained that he wanted to hunt and trap rabbits in the night, meaning that we had to get out, now. (even if this was clearly not his private property.) After some annoyed discussing, we left the site, better not to pick a fight with a gun-guy. At least we could be satisfied that we already picked all the blackberries the area had to offer (we got stuffed!) A few hundred metres later we were invited to camp in some guys’ garden, as usually in Chile, the bad quickly gets overshadowed by the good.
The next day we decided to up the scales a bit and started on a destroyed 4×4 road going up to 2600. We read that the area is paygated (many roads here are fenced off because they pass half a metre through so called private land, just enough to build a fence and claim some money), but it’s obviously not cyclist proof as we didn’t pay a single cent. It took us again two days to get up, now with rationed amounts of food as some miscalculations left us with a dwindling store. Luckily the only hunters surrounding our camping spots were hooting owls (and a big black tarantula). Having reached the top we rolled down single track, to 1300m, in seach for food. Along the downhill we passed several rotting rabbits with strings around their necks. They didn’t look so tasty anymore and were probably trapped for money, not for food. We heard Chile has a rabbit problem since the spanish imported them, the way they battle it is to pay hunters per rabbit head. I wonder if improving life conditions for the foxes wouldn’t be more eficient…
Closer to the asfalt road, our trail was again fenced off (twice). The first time we could easily go around it, the second time we went throug a friendly guy’s garden. He also had a fence, but no lock and didn’t want money. Back in fenceland we got a bunch of tasty food and 15l of water, planning to take the rest of the day off. Ha.ha.ha. More than thirty km we carried this food and water, until after dark, because of fences! People here seem to love fences. Every square metre has one. Close to sunset we found a campsite (and disturbed the cashier from having sex in her booth), she could quickly go back to her business though as the price she asked was just ridiculous and we turned around. In the end we ended up starting on the last challenge of the trip without rest. We had found a ridiculously steep trail on the gps going from 1000 to 2200 before falling almost vertically down into Santiago. Also this one was fenced off, but after explaining to the landowner that we really wanted to hike-a-bike, he let us through. A hundred metres higher up we finally found a camling spot, free of charge, not noisy and with a beautiful view. The milk, honey, cheese and melon tasted all the sweeter after carrying them around for a day.
The trail, we found out, was created for building a gaspipe over the mountain. This meant that it had little consideration for regular vehicles and went straight up the hill. The first day we were a but worried as we got only to 1500m, slowed down by endless upps and downs. After a full pot of pasta and fire baked potatoes for dinner we slept deeply that night and the next day went surprisingly smooth. The road stopped going over bumps and went straight for the top, tough, but definitely the shortest line possible. Once by the top we saw why the way was so little travelled, on the other side it was even steeper, no more car trails, only a faint line of a bike passing before us. After another night camping in the wild, we rolled down to the city. Again, the trail was fenced off, this time worse than ever, luckily some other cyclists helped us lift the bikes and gear over. Seriously, such a beautiful mountainside locked off from the public because some idiot wanted a fence. Luckily, just as common as fences are here, it is to jump over them.
Shortly after, we arrived back in the hotel, the only task remaining to find bike boxes. The cycling is over for this time, but we are more inspired than ever for more adventure!