totalbike.gif Bicycle Productsfrontclass.gifStolen BikesBicyce RepairBicycle GallerySearch BicycleAbout Total Bike
Biking Adventure in Chile
by: Louie Winslow
Don Klassen and I had been planning a trip to Chile for over two years. We finally went in January of 2002. Originally Don, Steve McDonough, a friend of Don's boy Dave, and I were going. However, Don was worried about our safety so he was encouraging other people to join us. Tom Zaczhowski the brother of Don's bother-in-law John Zaczhowski learned about the trip and wanted to join us. When John heard his brother was going he decided to come along. Tom lives in North Pole, Alaska which is just outside of Anchorage and it's rumored that he personally knows Santa Claus. Tom is six feet tall and has a powerful build. He looks like Hans Solo (i.e., a younger Harrison Ford). John is over six feet four and has a leaner build than his brother but is still well built. Steve is five foot ten and is of Irish descent. However, his ancestor's village must have been visited by Norsemen because he has very light skin and white blond hair. He was a wrestler in high school and college and also possesses a powerful build. I'm five feet ten but have a fairly lean build. I'm also bald with some hair above my forehead that lets me pretend that I have a full head of hair. Don is completely bald and is short with a wiry but slight build. He and I have mustaches, Don says that I look like Hitler and I decided during the trip that he looks like Kaiser Wilhelm. Steve is the youngest at thirty five, Tom is forty seven, John is fifty one, and Don and I are sixty. Don is eight days older than I am but since I was a twelve pound baby I'm technically the oldest. Don, John, Steve, and I are from Minnesota. As far as the bikes we rode John, Steve, Tom, and I all rode mountain bikes while Don rode his Rans recumbent. We all had a lot of gear including a tent, sleeping pad, and panniers loaded with warm and cold weather clothes, rain gear, poly under wear, and stocking caps. Our destination in Chile was the resort town of Temuco which is in the south central part of the country. We had read that this is a beautiful area with glaciers, snow capped peaks, lakes, rivers, and volcanoes. I had also read that it is possible to catch salmon and trout there.

We flew out of Minneapolis on January 7th. We were flying to Houston, Texas and then on to Lima, Peru. From there we were flying to Santiago. From Houston to Lima I sat next to two young gals from Lima who had been on a vacation in the USA. The one sitting next to me was an elementary school teacher. They both knew only a limited amount of English and commented that people in the US really talked fast. I had a chance to practice my Spanish but they both spoke too fast for me to really understand them. On the flight from Lima to Santiago I met Tom coming out of the restroom; he recognized me from the shirt I was wearing. We arrived in Chile at 6:00 AM Daylight time having lost three hours in time. It is surprising to me that Chile lays two time zones to the east of us. John would arrive at 9:25 AM on another flight. Steve, Don, and I got our luggage but Tom, who had transferred planes in LA, didn't get his. When we went through customs I had to surrender a Chilean apple that I had in my backpack. After clearing customs we went out into the general airport area pushing two carts heaped up with our gear and bike boxes. We immediately attracted a young guy who said that he would take us to the hotel Vitoria. His name was Andre and he said in his limited English that a double room would be $79 and that a triple room would be $84. We checked on storing our bike boxes at the airport and found out that it would cost $80. Andre told us that the hotel would store them for nothing. We decided to go to an airport restaurant, so Andre and another guy pushed the carts over to one. The four of us ordered drinks and we sat around in a stupor sipping our beveragess and waiting for John to arrive. John's flight was on time and fortunately his bike and gear arrived with him. We loaded his gear between the two carts and followed Andre and five other guys out to a van for the ride to the hotel. The van turned out to be a small KIA. It was a riot watching the six men trying to figure out how to pack up all our gear into this vehicle. After puzzling over this for a while, taking boxes in and out of the van, they finally managed to get all our gear loaded. They had even managed places for all five of us to sit. We left the airport and after a twenty five minute drive arrived at the hotel. The manager told us we could store our bike boxes in a locked room during our trip and gave me the keys. After registering John, Don, and I assembled our bikes and Tom and Steve went to their room to take a nap. After we finished assembling our bikes the three of us took about a two hour nap. Don fell asleep right away and started snoring, I was so excited that I couldn't sleep and fitfully dozed off and on. After our nap we decided to eat. Don looked in his book "The Lonely Planet on Chile" for recommendations. We decided to go to the Chez Henry. We all enjoyed our meal there drinking beer, ordering a bottle of white wine, and eating seafood. After eating we walked around in the central plaza. The streets and plaza were teeming with people. The Santiago women we observed were mostly very pretty with long dark tresses, brown eyes, with salacious, supple bodies which they displayed proudly. There were no bald men and the people were relatively short. Many people stared and pointed at us as we passed by, particularly pointing out Don and John. Most of the strollers were young. We saw many couples holding hands or giving each other loving embraces. After touring the plaza we went to the Santiago Basilica which was located on the west side of the plaza. This is a very large, beautiful church that was built in 1840. After touring the church we returned to the hotel and went to bed.

We ate breakfast in the hotel the next morning. The hotel manager called the airport for us and found out Tom's gear had arrived and would be delivered to the hotel at around 9:00. After hearing this we all felt relieved and happy. We went to the room where our bikes were stored and Steve assembled his and we all loaded our gear. When Tom's bike and gear came the hotel manager personally brought it over. Tom quickly assembled his bike, loaded his gear and we were ready to ride to the railroad station. After saying goodbye we headed to the station. Luckily, we didn't have far to go, we only had to stop three times to ask directions. Of course no one spoke English so getting directions was both interesting and challenging. Earlier we had decided to go to Talca rather than Temuco. From Don's map there appeared to be routes from Talca out to the coast or up into the mountains. After we got to the station Don and I went to see about getting tickets. Fortunately, before leaving home a friend had put me in touch with a Chilean. He had indicated that it was possible to take bikes on the train but that the cargo cars were rented to a shipping company. After asking a number of people about our bikes we managed to find a guy who worked for the Ferro Cargo Company. The cargo building was a couple of blocks away from the station and Don and I followed the man to the shipping office. When we arrived there was a young woman sitting behind a desk in the front of the building. I asked her if she spoke English and she said no. With my limited Spanish I was able to get across to her that we wanted to ship our bikes to Talca. She was very patient with Don and me and told us to bring all our bikes over to the cargo building for loading on the baggage car. When we returned we were told that we would have to remove our tents, pads, and other gear from the bikes but could leave on our panniers. The girl and a couple of workers loaded our excess gear in boxes and plastic bags. Then the girl wrote Talca on all our down tubes. With some apprehension, particularly on Tom's part, we said goodbye to our bikes and walked over to the station to buy our tickets. Across from the station there was a building which looked like the top of a Fez hat. This piqued our interest so we crossed the street and found out it was the University of Santiago's planetarium. After looking at it we returned to the station and ate Chinese in a fast food area. After eating we left the station and strolled down some side streets, killing time since our train didn't leave until 8:00. After walking around awhile we passed a man selling water melons from the back of a wagon. John wanted one so we stopped and bought a large one. We returned to the Planetarium grounds to eat it. There were some tables and chairs on a cement slab in front of it so we sat down at one of the tables and sliced open the watermelon. The watermelon was juicy but full of seeds. We sat eating the melon, spitting out the seeds on the table. When we returned to the station at 7:00 our train was already in the station so we decided to board. The car was almost empty but it slowly began to fill up with people. By the time we left the car was almost full. A little after eight the train pulled out of the station. Immediately the car began to roll and sway but fortunately as we picked up speed the roll subsided. We were supposed to arrive in Talca at 10:30 but the train made many stops and we got there at 1:30 in the morning. We decided to stay in a hotel and picked the Napoli from its description in the "Lonely Planet". When we got off the train a taxi driver asked us if we wanted a ride. I asked him about the hotel and he said it was only five blocks away. We decided to walk and started out down the street behind the station. After walking for five blocks we started looking for the hotel. We spotted the Cordillear on the left hand side of the street. Its lights were on and a guy came to the door as we came up to the entrance. The hotel looked all right so we decided to stay there.

In the morning we had breakfast in a room looking out on a small garden. Breakfast consisted of a ham and cheese sandwich accompanied with either tea or coffee. After breakfast we left for the station to pick up our bikes and gear. When we arrived at the station Don and I went in and asked the lady at the ticket office where the cargo room was. She took us to it. The room was on the side of the station and could be accessed through double doors in both the front and the back. Both back doors were padlocked and there was a sign posted beside the doors which said that the cargo area was open from 3:30PM - 8:30PM daily. Of course Don wanted me to ask her about opening up early. We followed her back to the ticket office and she made a call. She came back out of her office and said that nobody would be coming until 3:30PM and that we would have to wait. Don was insistent that we get it opened now and wanted me to offer her a bribe. I said "Forget it". John had looked in the crack between the doors and had seen one of our bikes and some of our gear. We went around to the front of the station and the double doors there had a crack along their tops which was about eight feet above the ground. John grabbed a brace along one side of the doors and hoisted himself up to peer through the crack. He spotted all our bikes but no panniers. This announcement made everyone except me very apprehensive. We decided to go back into town and walk around. During lunch I bet Tom $5.00 that we would get all our gear. We shook and he said that he would gladly pay me $10.00 if it was all there. At about 3:20 a guy arrived and opened the back doors to the cargo room. We went in and found the bikes and all our gear. The baggage people had removed our panniers and put them in plastic bags. The Chileans were exonerated! I signed the receipt and we loaded up our bikes. We headed out of town to the Pan Am highway. The freeway was very noisy because of the heavy diesel truck and bus traffic. However, it had a wide shoulder so it wasn't dangerous. The Andes could be seen off in the distance to our left. They ran parallel to the highway and some of the high peaks were crowned with snow. About 6:00 a biker passed us just before an exit off the freeway. Since we had to find a place to eat and stay I shouted at him "Espera!" (wait). Fortunately he heard me and when I caught up to him he said there was a restaurant along a river that was good and we could camp in Villa Alegre. He said take the upcoming exit and turn right. He said the restaurant was only about two kilometers and Villa Alegre was only about three kilometers south from an intersection near the restaurant. We exited off the highway and after traveling for five or six kilometers found the restaurant. After eating we rode back to the intersection and turned south toward Villa Alegre. To our surprise there was a bike path along the side of the road. The road was lined with poplar trees and as we rode along the light from the setting sun filtered through the trees and turned the landscape golden. We finally arrived in Villa Alegre and found the tourist colony. The entrance to this place had an archway and the grounds were enclosed with a fence. There was a large expanse of lawn with cabins arranged in a row along the backside with a large main building in the center. A guy came over to us who looked and conducted himself like the boss. I asked him if it was possible to camp here. He answered me in good English and said that it would be 6000 pesos ($9.00)/person/night. I asked him about setting up our tents but he said we could stay in one of the cabins. He directed us to the one painted blue and said that we would have to wait until they brought over a couple of more beds. A couple of staff people quickly arrived carrying a bed complete with sheets and blankets and carried it into the cabin. They left and shortly returned with another bed. Everything in the cabin was spotless. We had our own bathroom complete with a shower. The others went for a swim in the pool but I took a shower. When the guys returned we discovered that mosquitoes had been coming into the cabin. Steve went around killing them by squashing them on the walls. Most had already feasted on one of us so Steve wiped off the blood stains left on the walls with a wet towel.

The next morning we went over to the main building for breakfast. After eating we went back to our cabin and got ready to leave. The manager came over just as we were about to leave. He told me that he had never seen a bike like Don's. After saying goodbye we only rode a short distance from Villa Alegre until we intersected the Pan Am. Around noon John said he was hungry and would like to stop at the next restaurant. He and I were in the lead and after riding a short distance he made a quick turn into a hosteria (roadside restaurant). There was a semi parked in the front parallel to the building obscuring the view of the highway. John and I leaned our bikes against the south side of the building and went in. I asked John where the others were and he said just on the other side of the truck. The woman working behind the counter came over and took our order. She didn't have a menu and said the selection was chicken with rice. John and I ordered the chicken. John, Tom, and Don never came into the restaurant and apparently assumed that we were ahead of them. After the meal John and I climbed on our bikes looking for the others. We rode for a couple of miles and finally spotted Steve standing on the left hand side of the road in front of a restaurant waving his arms. When we came up to them they immediately attacked us asking "Where the hell did we go?" John and I responded "Didn't you see our bikes leaning against the side of the restaurant? They were in plain sight". They chorused "No!" They said "We looked for you and wondered how we could disappear". They were sitting at a table under an umbrella, drinking beer and eating hotdogs. A young woman who was working in the restaurant came out to talk with us. Don asked her if she wanted to come along with us but she demurely declined. You could tell by her body language and looks that she was intrigued with us. We got up to leave and I shook her hand and said "Mucho gusto" (pleased to have met you). When Don said goodbye he grabbed her and gave her a long, tight hug. A short distance down the road there was a tourist booth so we stopped in. I got a recommendation for the hotel Brescia in Parral. In Parral I asked some people directions to the Brescia. We tried to follow the directions but were unable to find the hotel so we stopped at a grocery store. We bought some bottled water and again asked directions. A young man indicated to us to follow him. He went behind the store, jumped on his bike, and we followed him over to the hotel. They allowed us to bring our bikes into the hotel and the staff seemed quite interested in learning about our journey. After registering Tom, John, and Steve went over to the municipal pool and Don and I took showers and napped before going to the hotel restaurant to eat. We were the only customers in the restaurant and received individual attention from our older waitress. We had a juicy steak with a salad followed by a slice of melon for dessert. The melon was very sweet and was one of the best melon slices that I'd ever eaten. After eating Don and I walked downtown and went into an ice cream shop. Don wanted chocolate ice cream but because of my poor Spanish the lady misunderstood and gave him a vanilla ice cream bar covered with an orange candy shell. After taking a bite Don gave me the bar and we stepped out onto the sidewalk. There was a sign there advertising various bars and Don spotted a picture of a chocolate ice cream bar. He pointed to it and said to the woman in the shop "That's want I want". He got his chocolate and I got a free ice cream.

The next morning Tom, John, and Steve said that they had had fun at the pool. They would throw rocks into the deep end and kids would dive for them. They said that the kids probably would have continued diving as long as they threw rocks. John said that the kids were amazed by the size of his feet. After having breakfast we loaded up our bikes preparing to leave. It seemed like the entire staff came to send us off and they all wished us a good trip. We rode through town and got back on the freeway. We decided to ride in a pace line which helped our speed. We rode toward San Carlos which was about thirty miles south of Parral. Because we were riding in a pace line we made good time but everyone was getting tired of the noise, heat, and fumes on the Pan Am. When we got to San Carlos Don wanted me to ask at a service station about hitching a ride to Temuco. I started asking people at the station if we could pay someone for taking us by truck to Temuco. After asking a number of individuals and getting nowhere I said "Lets ride over to the railroad station". Don was persistent about getting a ride so he approached a man sitting in a pickup. Don gestured about with his hands but after a couple of minutes he realized that he wasn't communicating and came over to where we were waiting on our bikes. We left the station and rode over to the railroad depot. It was 11:45 and there wasn't anybody in the ticket office. Tom and I went around to the track side of the building and there was a man sitting in an office who told me that we would be able to take our bikes on the train with us. He said that the next train to Temuco wasn't until 2:00 the next morning. He also said that the ticket office would open at noon. A gal did arrive about noon and opened the office. I bought our economy class tickets and confirmed that we would be able to take our bikes on the same car with us. The tickets only cost 3200 pesos ($4.81). We left the station and rode downtown to eat. We ate in a restaurant which was along one side of the plaza. After eating we left for the station but since I was the last to leave I got separated from the others. Since I have a very poor sense of direction I rode around quite awhile trying to get back to the station. When I arrived Don was all excited and said "Guess what, I got us a ride to Temuco". I said, "How did you do that"? Don said that they had met a girl who had gone to school in Madison, Wisconsin and that she had called someone. Apparently when Tom and John were talking in the station a man overheard them and introduced himself to them in English. He also introduced his daughter and invited them over for lunch. Of course Don wasn't interested in lunch and immediately asked the girl about a ride to Temuco. When I arrived the boys were waiting for the truck to come. We wanted to see if we could return our train tickets so I went back to the station to see if I could get our money back. The gal in the ticket office was hesitant about returning our money but after conferring with the man in the office in back she reluctantly paid me. When I got back to the park where the others were waiting the truck had arrived. Don wanted to offer 60,000 pesos but the girl said that wasn't enough. We finally settled on 120,000 pesos ($180.00). The guys already had the bikes loaded in the back so Tom, John, and Steve hopped up in back, the driver shut the tailgate, and Don and I jumped in front. The driver couldn't speak any English and spoke a Chilean dialect of Spanish. He could understand some of the things I said but looked puzzled over others. As we approached Temuco the land gradually changed becoming more rolling with pine covered hills. The road also changed.There were more billboards advertising various products. A highly advertised product in Chile is women's lingerie, the models always depicted being fair skinned and blond. As we neared Temuco we could see mountains in the background. Clouds were gathering around their tops and you could see curtains of rain coming down. Just before entering Temuco we experienced our first rain, the windshield collected a few drops but our driver didn't even have to turn on his wipers. The air temperature had cooled considerably since we had left San Carlos. Don wanted the driver to drop us off at a camp ground north of town but he seemed determined to take us directly to Temuco. Whenever I asked him about dropping us off he would stare straight ahead and say in a loud voice "TEMUCO, TEMUCO". When we arrived there were people lining the side of the road holding up signs for cabanas. I indicated to the driver and we stopped by the first guy in line. He had a flier describing his place which indicated that his cabanas had TV and private baths. The cost was only 12,000 pesos ($18.00) / night. Don and I decided to take it and we followed cabana guy over to his place. Tom, John, and Steve had practically frozen in the back. John had wrapped up in his sleeping bag and Steve was cloaked in one of our plastic tarps. The guys were really glad to be able to get their jackets from their panniers. Don made the comment that it hadn't been all good up in the front either because the bench seat was pretty hard. We said goodbye to our driver and I wished him a good journey home. Tom and I went over with cabana man to check out our cabin. There were five beds tightly jammed together in a loft above a dining area, none of which had any sheets or blankets. Tom said that he saw cigarette burns all over and the place smelled. I told cabana man that we wouldn't be staying and we rode back over to a Holiday Express that we had passed shortly after entering town. We checked in and put our bikes in a room off one of the main hallways. We asked at the desk if there was a good restaurant near enough to walk to. There were only fast food places close by so we ate at a Pizza Hut.

In the morning we went to the dining area in the motel where they were serving a continental breakfast. Don had checked in his book the night before and said that an attractive National park to visit was Conquillo. After eating we loaded up and headed toward Concu which was close to the park's entrance. The road we traveled had two lanes with a fairly narrow shoulder. There was only a moderate amount of traffic consisting of buses, trucks, cars, bicycles, and occasionally a farm tractor (usually a John Deere). We also saw a rubber tired wagon being pulled by horses and another being pulled by a pair of huge oxen. The land we were traveling through was quite lush. There were rolling hills with copses of various trees. Eucalyptus, a variety of pine trees, and willows seemed to dominate. There were a lot of flowers and the air was redolent with their smell. The road ditches were full of blackberries and in many places bamboo was growing. Steve noted a deciduous tree that had the shape of a spruce and whose leaves opened up turning to follow the sun. We saw many small brown hawks with white wing and rump patches that were hovering over the fields. We were gradually climbing and there were many short, steep hills which made biking arduous. We traveled to the southeast toward Concu and shortly before reaching it turned northeast into a wide valley bordered by mountains. Shortly after leaving Temuco we saw Llaima volcano which was in the park and dominated the landscape. It was an inverted snow covered cone which could be seen for miles. When we got to Concu we ate in a restaurant that was on one side of the central plaza. The woman working there was energetic with lively eyes and greeted us with a wide smile. I asked her if she had anything for lunch and she reached down and came up with some tamales which she set on the bar. Steve went for the tamales but I followed the woman back into the kitchen where she showed me a couple of roasted chickens sitting in an oven drawer. The four of us had savory roast chicken accompanied with a great salad of lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Steve sat eating his tamales eyeing our chicken and salivating. Finally Tom offered him some of his chicken. Of course we drank schop (tap) beer. After eating we went to a grocery store where we bought some fruit, bread, meat, and cheese for supper and breakfast. We had met a woman in the restaurant who spoke excellent British accented English. She told us that the black top continued for another eleven miles and we could camp by a bridge over the river on a side road shortly before the blacktop ended. We set out toward Melipeuco and after about ten miles we reached a bridge across a feeder stream that flowed into the main river. We decided that this wasn't the place that the woman had described and continued on for another mile. We came to a small town and I spotted a group of people walking down a gravel road away from a small church. I turned off the blacktop and rode over to them and asked if we could camp by the church. The man (he was accompanied by three women) said yes and led us over by the church. There was a fence in front of the church running along the road ditch and he unlocked the gate and led us into the church yard. He said that we could camp there and pointed to an out house in back of the church. He led me over to it and to my surprise when he opened its door I was looking at a flush toilet. He said there was a water spigot under the bell tower that we could use for drinking. The bell tower had a sign on its top which said "Christ yesterday, today, and forever". The man's name was Leonardi and he wrote his name on an envelope and also wrote we were camping there with God's permission. Don was so impressed with our good fortune that he gave Leo (we all immediately started calling him Leo) $20.00 for the church. Steve also put in 3,000 pesos. We set up our tents and ate a supper of fruit, bread, and sardines washed down with cognac from a bottle that Steve had bought in Concu. Tom had read that Chilean cognac was some of the best in the world and we wanted verify if this was true. As the sun was setting the face of the volcano turned a burnished gold. We were quite close to it and its peak loomed over the valley we were in. Tendrils of steam could be seen coming from its caldron. After sunset the stars started coming out and we spotted the planet Venus in the eastern sky. We headed for our tents; we could hear birds calling and cows mooing off in the distance. When we got up during the night the stars were very vivid and the Milky Way formed a fuzzy but distinct band across the night sky. Don noted that you could see other galaxies that lay to the side of the Milky Way. They appeared as faint smudges in the sky.

Next Page -->

Main Menu
cycle resources
menu Home
menu Products
menu Classifieds
menu News Archive
menu Articles
menu Stories
menu Reviews
menu Blog
menu Stolen Bikes
menu Interbike
menu Repair/Tech
menu Bicycle Recalls
menu Kids Corner
menu Other

Privacy | Submit News | Corrections | Contact Total Bike

Copyright 1998-2019 All Rights Reserved