Thursday, 5 November 2015

Santiago and south, Chile.

It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day as I left Valparaiso for the short hop to Santiago. A bit short of the capital, the road went through a tunnel, as it emerged at the other side, the snow capped Andes re-appeared. A great sight. As it was a Sunday, traffic was light and I found my way to the city centre hotel I had booked easily enough. Bike securely parked behind a locked gate; it was time to explore. First impressions were good, but then the sun makes everything look better. Santiago is big, modern and more cosmopolitan than most of the places I have passed through so far. It also has an efficient and cheap metro/underground system (always the mark of a "proper" city!). The wide selection of interesting bars was a bonus.

The next morning dawned cold and gray and that was how it stayed all day, but it was time for work. The bike needed an oil change and after eventually sourcing some quality motorbike oil, I set about the task. I had the right tools (including a proper funnel, instead of a coke bottle), so the job was soon done. I rewarded myself with some Thai food for lunch; from a Chinese restaurant which, get this, was actually run by Chinese people! More half-hearted sightseeing in the afternoon (just killing time before I could get back on the bike) and some wrestling with the "where next??" decision. I needed some beer to lubricate the thought process....... Flannery's Irish Bar, that'll do nicely!
More bike maintenance the following day (rear brake pads). More sightseeing; more good food (Japanese today), a couple more beers and a decision was made. I was thinking of heading straight over to Mendoza in Argentina; but the weather was looking a bit dodgy and I'd heard good things about the Lakes District further south in Chile and stretching into Argentina. Also the weather looked better in that direction; so South it is.

A late-ish start the next morning and I hit Ruta 5 out of Santiago, through the central wine region of Chile. Again, a lot of long straight dual carriageway for much of the time, but the sight of vineyards, hills and increasingly lush vegetation under clearing skies made for a decent days ride to Chillan. This was an OK town, but no reason to stop there, other than to break the journey south to the Lakes. So, to Pucon on Lake Villarrica in the shadow of a perfectly symmetrical, snow covered volcano. Finally off the motorway and into increasingly dramatic scenery. Too much of Chile is head down, heading someplace more interesting. But maybe, hopefully, the Lakes region is it. I'm pretty sick of straight motorway riding. From here on in; it's small roads. Chile is the proverbial curates egg.......good in parts. But oddly "bland" in comparison to the South America I've travelled through so far. Roll on Argentina!

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