We met Nancho in Malargüe. He invited us to his house in Romeral. It is on our route, and so stopping is a no brainer. He shares his house and his family and his stories and his food and his company with us. I learn a little bit more about Chile, how to choose a good bottle of wine and that Chilean women are given six months of maternity leave, the men none.
We leave Romeral, aiming for the coast across the Central Valley, through orchards and vineyards. We need to ride just a few kilometers down Ruta 5, to cross Rio Teno. A no bikes sign gives us pause, but we go on, not intending to be on the highway long. But then we see our bridge. There’s no shoulder and two lanes of traffic hurtling down the road at 120kph. Even if I could convince myself that crossing here would be a good idea, I know I can’t convince Tyndall. His fear of traffic is healthier than mine.
We look at an old dam just up river, but it won’t go. Tyndall looks at the map and picks out a different bridge. One melon and 35 kilometers later we’re back on track.
We stop in Santa Cruz to visit the Colchagua Museum. It has fossils and pre Incan artifacts and jewels and even a few things from not so far away.
The Central Valley is hot and a bit crowded. We stop for another roadside melon and then get serious. It’s time to get out of here. We head for the coast, hoping for cool sea breezes. Past Lolol we take off down a sandy side road. It rollercoasters through vast pine plantations.
In Llico we watch fisherman bring in the days catch, and then find empanadas to eat.
It’s a laid back little seaside town. Late in the day we return to the hills. Here they don’t mess about. The roads go straight up, or straight down.
Past Vichuquen we watch a small wildfire burn on the hillside. We ask about it, and are told it’s fine. It’s controlled. Skeptical, we go on, finding camp by a creek. I figure we can jump in the water if the fire turns.
Sitting on the ground, Tyndall turns to see this guy.
I see a flock of geese coming up the creek. People are scarce, but the wild life is not. It’s a good thing we fixed the tent zipper.
Late in the night, I wake to see the geese sneaking past the tent, single file in stealth mode. In the morning they are hanging out in the road, making a commotion. I suspect they are not actually wild.
The climbs here are steep, the descents the same, but in between, we roll along ridegtops.
From the forest we aim for the beach. I look at Constitucion from afar and am wary of entering. It looks big, but the beach beckons.
At the end of the road we find a dune to camp in. I put my feet in the Pacific and watch the sunset over the water. Lines of cars go up and down the road, doing the same thing. This particular place is crowded and trashy. Tomorrow we’ll move on.
I wake up feeling wet. In an effort to prolong the life of our tent fly zipper, we haven’t been using it. Clear skis mean it’s generally safe to sleep without, but here on the coast, the fog has rolled in and the air is damp. We’ll dry the quilt out later. For now, it still insulates.
People are curious, wanting to know where we’re going and how we’re getting there. Advice and opinions are offered whether requested or not.
Here aguacates are paltas, frijoles are porotoes and fresas are frutillas. No matter, they still taste the same. Fresh food is plentiful.
Each section of the Central Valley seems to have a specialty. Here’s it’s strawberries, and they happen to be in season. It’s easy to buy a box and stash it away for later.
We eat strawberries for dinner, breakfast and lunch. They don’t last any longer as we roll through the mountains, taking advantage of long summer days. We intend to drop out at Buchupureo but miss a turn and end up 5km north, in Pullay. For our error, we are gifted a bonus hill.
From Buchupureo we go to Cobquecura, finding a place worth staying for a bit. We listen to sea lions roar and drink wine on the beach as the sun slowly sets. Locals play ball with a portable speaker blasting American rap music. What’s not to like?
Past town the pavement on the coast road runs out. Wheat fields abound. Oxen, too.
We turn inland, having lunch in Trehuaco. On TV I see Michelle Obama and Sunny and Bo take one last walk through the White House. I see protests against Trump that look more like large dance parties. I wonder what Chileans see.
Cool sea breezes gone, we pass the afternoon in the shade of the town park. I buy a chocolate bar for later, hoping it won’t melt. It does, a sure sign it’s too hot.
From here, we work our way back across the industrial Central Valley, towards the mountains.
Where we rode: Romeral – Santa Cruz – Llico – Vichuquén – Constitución – Curanipe – Cobquecura – Trehuaco – Ñipas
We found a vast network of well kept dirt roads in the Coast Mountains, between the Central Valley and the sea. The camping in the mountains was easy but dry, and the fresh fruit and seafood in the coastal towns plentiful. Not all the roads were on our maps, and there’s more to be explored.