Up the Chilean coast: Valdivia – San Antonio

Leaving Valdivia meant leaving some people who had become very dear to me. It’s very rare to meet someone who you feel so connected to and who truly understands you. But yet, when the road is calling, you just have to answer it. Doesn’t matter how sad you feel, deep inside of you, you know you have to go. You know that you have to continue your own way, because there’s still so much unknown about yourself and the path has yet plenty of surprises, life-changing encounters and otherworldly places to discover.

Only five km out of the city I was already climbing over some mountain on a dirt road. I was back on track!

Then I had to follow the main road for 60 km and just before getting off, something quite terrible was about to happen. When I passed a farm, the dog, a big Rottweiler, clearly didn’t like the look of me and the bike. From the other side of the road, she came barking at me, crossing the road without thinking.

There was a lot of fast traffic. When I heard a big slam just next to me, I knew very well what had happened. A car had hit her with his front left corner, catapulting her away. She would eventually land at 30 meters from the gate…

Surprisingly, she was still alive, so I searched the owner to send her to a veterinarian. By the time we put her in the car, she had passed away though. The people hitting her, hadn’t bothered looking at the dog. They were just sad over some broken plastic.

 

In the week that it would take to cycle from Valdivia to Concepcion, I wouldn’t be lonely though! Chilean hospitality was about to show itself at its best. Following the coast, the scenery wasn’t too bad either! I almost wouldn’t even have any rain! Just splendid.

This lovely family was going to let me sleep outside under a roof, but after spending the evening together next to the warm fireplace, they showed me my room 😉 In the morning, I fixed the son’s bicycle as an exchange for the food and bed I was offered.

Next day, someone I had met in the village of Toltén, invited me to come stay with them. The French girlfriend of his cousin happened to know Bertille! But they had no idea they were in the same country. What are the odds…

Exactly when entering the coastal village of Puerto Saavedra, “mi negrita” refused to continue on. The body, the part where the sprocket is mounted on, didn’t hook in the hub anymore. In other words, the rear wheel wasn’t moving when I pedalled. It being a Sunday, the only bicycle shop was closed. I asked around, and found where the mechanic was living. I explained the situation and Guillermo was so kind to let me sleep in the workshop and brought me a mattress and food. In the night, I took apart the hub.

I really thought I had to hitchhike to Concepcion, 300 km away, to find a spare. But Guillermo somehow managed to make a custom part! Therefore I was quite surprised to be on the road again with just half a day of delay!

I was having such a good time! People were taking such good care of me!

Beautiful family taking me inside.

Karen, Pipa, Joaquin and Maxi showing me how it’s done.

By now, I know how to handle these situations, how to gain confidence from people. I knock on the door of a house where I’m sure there’s someone home and where they have the fireplace going. Then I present myself and ask for a small place to pitch my tent. It being rainy and a little chilly at night, people aren’t happy to let you sleep outside. But it’s also not that convenient to invite a stranger into your house in this fear-filled society.

Being aware of this, I just talk about whatever comes up in my mind (their beautiful house, the quiet region, my trip, the road ahead, etc…) until they trust me and invite me in. Then it are the usual cups of tea, the dinner, the funny conversations in which we exchange about our countries and the warm bed they offer me in the end.

These two men were selling seaweed in ‘Los Alamos’

 

Next evening I passed two men who were cutting up trees with a pretty cool saw bench. So I went over to see how it’s done… only to get invited by one of them to stay with his family.

Next morning, eager to learn to use the machine, I joined them to help out a bit.

I now entered the pine and eucalyptus tree plantations. It was a very different sight, and the people were different too. No more car honks, no more enthusiast greetings.

With a storm coming, I didn’t fancy pitching my tent among trees that might fall. So I knocked on the door of one of the only houses around.

First, the same distant approach. Then after some time, the friendly invitation to come inside. Two brothers were living there with their two sisters. There were no neighbours, only some animals to take care off. The sisters took care of the household, while the brothers went out to work. There was no television or radio. They just had some Evangelic magazines, of which they believed every word. So what to talk about? I ended up playing a movie on my laptop, they really enjoyed it!

Next day was a tough day. Headwind and rain made it difficult to make progress. I had to get to Coronel, where I had a Warmshowers address. Finally, after many detours on dirt roads, I was forced to pick up the main-road for 60 very dangerous km’s. The thousands of hectares of tree plantations meant lots of trucks on the road. The moment I could, I stopped to buy a reflective jacket…

It was so good to get to Gabriel’s house! The 95 km at 13 km/h had turned it into a long day. The warm shower sure was nice!

At Coronel, Gabriel showing me around

I ended up staying three days. I rested a bit, planned the next leg of my trip, Gabriel showed me around and on Sunday we went to Concepcion where his students had a music competition (3rd place!).

So I left Coronel with renewed forces. Quickly, I got to Concepcion where I passed every single bike shop to look for a new middle chain ring. After changing the chain and sprocket in Valdivia, I had noticed that the chain was skipping over the middle chain ring, meaning that it was worn out. I wasn’t able to find a replacement in Valdivia and as it turned out, neither in Concepcion…

It didn’t bother me too much and was hoping to find something in Valparaiso.

I kept on pushing and asked the firefighters in Menque, a village with just 500 people, for a place to stay. They let me sleep in the community hall.

Then I had a big day to Cobquecura, where I ended up camping close to the beach. It was already dark when I asked around if I could pitch my tent in the garden, but people were scared and didn’t let me. Timing is essential!

At 10pm though, while studying Spanish in my tent, I heard a group arriving close to my tent. Not wanting to create an awkward situation, I went over to them and we ended up having a pretty funny night.

I was hoping to get to Constitucion the next day, so I didn’t join them too long in their drinking.

But when I woke up with a crazy headwind, I knew I would never get there!

I put on some stand-up comedy making me forget about the time and fight the hills and headwind with a big grin on my face. I ended up doing 65 km in 6 hours. Nice and slow!

Rocks with seals

In Chanco, I passed the firefighters and asked them if they didn’t knew a place where I could pitch my tent. Mauricio, one of the volunteers promptly invited me to come stay with him and his family!

We were hanging out with the other guys at the station, when an emergency call came. A house was about to flood, so we headed out. I say ‘we’, because the guys gave me a full uniform, including helmet, to join them. I sure was well-equipped to just take some photos!

Mauricio

Later, we went over to one of his friends. It had been an interesting and eventful night, but I was sooo tired and it was 2am by the time we headed home.

Next day, I had just 60 km to Constitucion, where I had another Warmshowers address. Joaquin and his mother invited me to stay three days, until the storm had passed. With the ‘10 km/h against the wind’ day in my mind, it sounded like a good idea!

I really loved their energy! There was so much love between them. Joaquin also took the effort to correct every single mistake I made, so I learned quite a lot of Spanish while staying there.

I really had a nice time there: meeting their friends, going to a birthday party, fixing my bicycle, having the time to write/study/watch documentaries,…

Constitucion was actually the epicentre of the big earthquake in 2010. The stories are horrible, 120 people died here due to two tsunamies.

I now had 300 km till San Antonio, where I could stay in the Casa del Ciclistas.

Hilly, but beautiful weather

Waiting out the storm sure had been a good idea! I was now blessed with beautiful sunny days. The road was very hilly, but I was able to make good progress. So after camping for two nights, I got to San Antonio without problems.

 

Photoalbum here!

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