Once in Chile we found ourselves stuck in a humongous line of cars and commercial trucks, as there was only a one lane road. They are building a highway, so for now only one lane is open, and apparently during the day it is open for the traffic that comes from Argentina, and during the night for the traffic that comes from Chile. The road descends very fast, it is very steep and incredibly twisty, so the big commercial trucks go very slow. As it was only one lane it was very hard to pass them. We would manage to pass one at each turn, while the front of the truck would go wide, before the rest of the truck would go diagonally on the turn. Not extremely safe but the only option. Sometimes we would try and pass on the tiny gravel shoulder (wherever there was one) and then we would have the surprise to realize it was very loose gravel, and much lower than the road further down, so it would make it a bit challenging to get back on the road in between two big trucks. But we finally managed to pass them all (I am sure there were at least a hundred) and pick up some speed.
Not a very clear picture, but you can see the winding road full of commercial trucks
And here we were cruising at over 100 km an hour on the highway, when we saw a road toll. In almost all countries we traveled through so far bikes were not paying any road tolls. Well, it looks like here we had to pay. The problem was, as we just entered Chile, and there were no banks on the side of the highway, obviously, we did not have any cash. And they did not take credit cards. The lady tells us we can go back to some casino, where they have an ATM, and we can get cash. That was many km back. So we were like “Are you telling us that we have to go this many km back to get cash so we can pay $2 for this toll?” As there were many cars waiting behind us, she called her supervisor for a solution. Here she came, a very nice lady, and she told us she couldn’t let us go through the gate without paying (which we totally understood, they must have their systems) but she could let us go by on the side, on a tiny trail. As there were no banks in between this paying station and the next one, she offered to call the next station and let them know, so they let us go through.
Got to the next toll, at least this time we stopped on the side of the road so we didn’t block the traffic again. The girl there told us the same thing, she couldn’t let us go through the gate if we didn’t pay. We asked her if anyone called, she had no idea, she sent me to talk to the boss in the office. Went to find the boss, yes, he got the phone call, so he came with us and he opened the gate for us. Very nice people.
Someone asked me once if I had to move from Vancouver to any of the places I have traveled through, which one I would pick. So far I would have said Columbia, Medellin. But now I would say Chile. We love Chile! Same mellow traffic as in Argentina, or maybe even better, friendly and open people with open minds, beautiful landscapes.
We got to Santiago late, in the dark, after riding between thousands of vineyards (Chile is the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world) and we were expecting to see at least here some craziness, as it is the capital. No, it was the most mellow and civilized traffic I have seen in any capital of the world so far. Driving around to find a hotel, we got stopped by police. Apparently we didn’t stop at a stop sign. No one ever stopped at a stop sign in the whole Central and South America so far. We did slow down, check and kept going. No, here you have to come to a complete stop. Which is how it is supposed to be. This reminds me of the rules in my own country, as I almost forgot them:) We explained the officer that we have been traveling a lot, and where we’ve been it was normal not to stop at a stop sign, but just to be careful. He understood, just reminded us that in this country rules are really enforced, so we should abide. With the promise to be more careful, he let us go.
Right when we were leaving, a guy in a car on the side of the road asked me if we had any tools to fix a flat tire. We stopped and tried to help him, but his tire was pinched badly, so he had to go and have it replaced.
It was about 10:30 pm by now. So we rode round and round to find a hotel. Along with civilizations come high prices. A hostel private room was $85 USD, and they had no parking for the bikes either. But the lady there kindly gave us a map with all the hotels and hostels in town. The problem was, none of them had parking. We found a hotel with decent prices, but now we had to find a safe parking for the bikes. While Vasile was walking around to look for a parking, I was sitting by the bikes. And I see this guy shows up on a KTM 950 Adventure and parks his bike right next to ours. He comes and he starts chatting with me: where are we from, did we have any problems with the bikes etc. In the meantime Vasile shows up and they start talking about KTM mechanics and stuff. Vasile asks him if he knows of a safe parking in the area, as he could not find one, and the guy goes “Well, no, I don’t. But I just have a job here, for about an hour, and if you want to wait for me you can come to my house, I have another KTM there but I still have enough room for the bikes, and you can sleep there too”. Wow, we were blown away by his generosity and friendliness. After all he just met us. We gladly took his offer and around 12:30 am we were riding to his place. He made us feel so welcome and we met his little friend, Rocky, the cutest and most playful dog, five months’ old.
And just so you know, Rocky rides the bike too, just like all other members of the family
He even knows mechanics, he was helping Vasile to fix the bike
And he was obsessed with cleanliness – he kept licking us, I guess that was a hint we needed a shower:)
As we went to bed probably around 2 am, the next day I was feeling too tired, so I let them go by themselves riding. They were supposed to come back in half day or so. Well it was almost 10 pm and they were not home. I checked the SPOT to see where they were and I saw they were in the mountains, still on the gravel road, a few hours away from home. Five minutes later I got an OK spot message from Vasile. Ok, that means they are ok, but since the SPOT shows me they haven’t moved for a few hours, and they are in the mountains, they must have some mechanical problems. Unfortunately I had no phone number to call them and I didn’t know anyone else here to ask for help. Luckily Cristobal’s dad (Cristobal is our new friend’s name) came by, as he called him all day with no answer, and he got worried. Together we looked at the info we had and we decided to go and look for them. Cristobal’s dad is a biker himself, so he knew the road the guys were on, and he recognized the place right away. He knew exactly where to go look for them. He called a friend of Cristobal who had a pick up truck to join us, just in case we needed to put the bikes in the truck. We drove there in the middle of the night and right when we were turning onto the gravel road we saw the guys walking towards us, all muddy and tired. Turned out they got stuck with their bikes in some really bad places so they had to leave the bikes there and walk to the road, hoping they could hitch-hike back to Santiago and the next day get some help and go get the bikes. You can imagine how happy they were to see us.
The next day they went with some help and managed to bring the bikes home. They were both sore from all the effort and moving like robots. But despite this, Vasile was all excited about the ride and impressed with Cris’ skills on such a big bike. I am sure they will both remember this adventure for the rest of their lives.
The day after Vasile spent it cleaning and fixing the bike while I went to the mall with Cris’ step-mother. Fortunately no major problems caused, so by the evening the bikes were ready. We had some nice Romanian dinner (I finally adventured to cook a Romanian chicken paprikas), some delicious pisco sour, the traditional Chilean drink, along with some good quality conversation with the Rivera family. What an awesome family! Thanks again for your hospitality and a few incredible days.
A separate post will follow with the details of the guys’ ride. Some crazy stuff, believe me, I’ve seen the pictures! Stay tuned.