Saturday, August 16, 2008

...And They're Off!

Its only been a few days since the last update, but we're off into the big unknown tomorrow so thought I'd throw in a quickie in case I forget anything.
The morning after the 80's revival night, we followed some friends out to the small fishing village of Quintay, about 30km south of Valpo. One of our friends has an uncle who owns a seafood restaurant on the beach front (photos will be forthcoming), so we went there and got shouted lunch. It was a beautiful spot, virtually unspoiled by tourists (we tried to leave it that way) and used almost solely by locals or near-locals. Rich had a length of deed fried conger eel and chips, and I had swordfish and chips, or maybe it was swordwhale, given the size of the slice! It was a crazy place, and Rich managed to narrowly avoid a social faux pas in the bathroom, by identifying the rubbish bin for what it was almost as soon as he'd mistaken it for the toilet bowl. Still, seeing as the bin is for used paper (primitive plumbing rules here), I don't think anyone will mind too much. And, as far as I know, there were no witnesses...
Later that evening we went to some other friends for dinner (homemade pizza and pissco sour - a marguerhita style drink that's very tart) followed by a party in a bar hosted, if that's the right word, by a Londoner with a Clash-esque band which none of the locals could understand. No fault of theirs though, we both struggled, it has to be said, but it was loud and had a good beat, and when he'd finished he spun the wheels of steel with the obligatory 80's mix, which, no doubt, was what the locals were waiting for!
And then, almost in the blink of an eye, we were off. The day we left we detoured to Laguna Verde to collect a key for a flat in Santiago where we to stay that night. Unfortunately LV is off the main road a bit...quite a fact, so far that I got my first taste of rutted mud tracks and steep hills, so a nice little starter for 10 there! I passed with flying colours though, didn't fall off or drop the bike at all, but we failed to find the house we were looking for, so resorted to phoning up from the mian road and waiting for them to bring it to us.
Off to Santiago, then. easy motorway riding to get there, then chaotic rush hour traffic to find the appartment building, including a ridiculously long traffic jam in a ridiculously long tunnel full of absurdley smokey vehicles, so it wasn't long before we were (carefully) weaving our way through the traffic to escape. That evening we met up with a friend of mine from the UK, Tatiana Storie, who visites her family in Santiago every year. We had a great eveing with her, getting more Pissco and another free feed, before back to the flat and an impromtu wine evening with our host and some of her friends. Luckily the wine ran out about 3am, so an early night for once...
Next day was to be our first crossing of the Andes. I expect there to be many more, and having completed ne, I am sure there will be. It was every bit as spectacular as I expect you can imagine, and more so. At one point, I looked ahead at the side of the sheed hill and saw, amongst the massive snow drifts, what appeared to be terraces, like you'd see in a the side of a deep open cast mine. the terraces were in fact the road, switching back on itself with startling regularity, barely seeming to make any progress up the hill for each turn back. Despite the enormous amounts of snow, the roads were incredibly clear and dry, however and the riding superb. The temperature dropped to a minimum of -0.4C at one point, but gear was up to the challenge and we didn't freeze. At the top was the San Pedro Tunnel - 3km long through to the otherside of the mountain - which delivered us to the border and Argentina.
We made it through customs with minimum of effort. On the Chilean side, we had our bike importation documents taken, but were assured we'd be given new ones in Argentina. So we got our gear on, wrapped up warm, got on the bikes ready for the trip through no-man's land to the Argentinian border, set off, and were flagged down 5m on at the next booth. We'd made it to Argentina! Once again, Lady Luck smiled on us and passing businessman took pity on us and filled in all our complicated foreign forms, so we were through there in no time. Easy.
On the way out of the covered customs area, the Argy side was less clear on the roads, and I slid off my bike just out of sight of the customs boys, which saved me a little face from them, but not Rich, who manfully helped pick my bike up. On down the mountain to Uspallata for the night, a tiny developing ski town (give it 5 years and it'll be a Mecca for snow bunnies I reckon), and the next day it was off to Mendoza for a bit of well-earned R&R. Which is where I am now, and where I have run out of time on the computer. We're going vaguely north tomorrow, heading roughly to Paraguay, so I will keep you all posted soon. Until then, perhaps you could tell me: ¿Cuanto es el Perro en la ventuna?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's about an inch on my large wall map of South America. Make sure you've got the petrol money.