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We have had too many layover days in Santiago. Because of mechanical problems with the chartered plane we arrived in Santiago a day later than planned. We arrived on the afternoon of the 30th when we had expected to arrive the 29th. That would have caused few problems because we could have just absorbed the lost day by trading it for our scheduled layover day. We could have spent just the few hours that were left of our layover day in Santiago and started riding the next morning, Jan. 31, for San Fernando. That way we would have stayed on schedule and I wouldn't be mixed up now about what day and date it is today. But we had too much stuff for the plane. 79 bikes were left in Panama City along with some baggage. It was hoped that the plane would return and bring the remaining things to Santiago within a 24 hour period, so our stay was extended one night. When the plane went to Peru instead of Santiago our stay was extended again. Only on Day 32, Tues., Feb. 1, did the plane with the bikes finally arrive. Our two mechanics, Dave and Merlyn, who had stayed behind in Panama City with the bikes flew to Santiago with the bikes but they had to travel in the baggage compartment and nearly froze.
The first full day in Santiago I went for a walk with several other riders to explore the city. We went to the top of two hills to enjoy the views. Santiago is big and spreads in every direction until it touches the foothills of the Andes. Air pollution is a problem and a brown haze hangs over the city. It's a big city, I've heard 7 million. The mass transit systems are effective. They have a fast and clean subway that is inexpensive to use. There are so many busses on the street that one rider remarked that you could walk across town on their roofs without ever setting foot on the ground. There are taxis and privately owned cars too but the excellent mass transit systems must help keep the numbers down.
The people of the city seem to be very focused on their work or their own thoughts. Unlike in the countryside, no one laughs or smiles. The city has a seriousness about it. The sidewalks are crammed with people, many of whom are too casually dressed to be workers, one wonders why they are there. It would seem that the answer is to go shopping because the shops are also crammed with people. It is summer now and school is out so many children are on the streets too. I think it may just be the custom for the sake of entertainment, just as some people in the states and elsewhere like to go "malling".
The second layover day was an unexpected bonus. But what to do? Beth had read a guide book and suggested that we take a public bus to Valparaiso for the day. We had a great day. Valaparaiso is on the Pacific Ocean so we enjoyed spectacular views. The best were from the former home of Pablo Neruda, a Chilean poet who won the Nobel Prize for literature. His poetry is beautiful and his home is amazing. He had a playful nature which is reflected in the eclectic way he built and decorated his home. I am so thrilled to know about this poet and look forward to the day when I can find an English translation of his poems.
Valaparaiso is famous for its 15 ancient funiculars and elevators that carry you to the top of the hills of the city. We rode one of each and were amazed that any thing so old and so simply constructed could still be operating.
It was rumored that we would have to miss our next layover day in Concepcion to make up one of the extra days in Santiago. Now we have been told that that is true. We will be bicycling for 12 days without a rest and we will be camping every day too. You may not hear from me for awhile. Now it is already late, I have cleaned and prepared my bike, but I played Balderdash when I should have used the time to send this email update.
Day 32 we should be in Talca but we are still in Santiago. Because of mechanical
problems with the chartered plane we arrived here a day later than planned. That
would have caused few problems because we could have just absorbed the lost day
by trading it for our scheduled layover day but we had too much stuff for the
plane. 79 bikes were left in Panama City along with some baggage. It was hoped
that the plane would return and bring the remaining things here within a 24 hour
period, so our stay here was extended one night. When the plane went to Peru
instead of coming here our stay was extended again. Only today did the bikes
finally arrive. Our two mechanics, Dave and Merlyn, had stayed behind in Panama
City and finally flew here with the bikes today but they had to travel in the
baggage compartment and nearly froze.
Rumor has it that we will miss our next layover day in Concepcion to make up one of the extra days in Santiago. If that is true we will be bicycling for 12 days without a rest and we will be camping every day too. You may not hear from me for awhile. Now it is already late , I have cleaned and prepared my bike, but I haven't any time left now to describe today's adventure.
Santiago, Chile to San Fernando
The first day of our epic nonstop 12 riding days got off to a fantastic start with a police escort out of Santiago. That was awesome. Finding one's way through a city while pedaling and reading the DRG, trying to avoid potholes and drains and traffic, searching for street signs, stopping for red ights and stop signs and pedestrians, wondering why the mileage on your odometer doesn't seem to match the DRG, is - well, a struggle. Santiago is huge, spreading for miles in all directions. We'd have been hours trying to get out. But with the police escort we just sailed through the streets. We were own parade. It is rumored that Rafael, our volunteer doctor who just joined us in Santiago and is a Chilean, organized the escort. It is said that he must be from an influential family to have accomplished such a feat. Whatever, it was wonderful. We all gathered on the street in front of the Hotel Liberador where we had stayed and when finally most of us were there and astride our bikes we set out, a police car leading the way. We rode two by two so as to use only one lane while police on motorcycles sped ahead stopping traffic from side streets so that we had clear sailing all the way. We never stopped even once! The police escort continued for some 50 or 60 kilometers until we were well out of the city and the cycling was easier. We were thrilled with the escort but many of the motorists obviously weren't since closing the roads blocked traffic. Many people must have been late to work. Few people in the city waved to us or shouted greetings.
But that changed later in the morning when we rode through the countryside. The Chilean TV personnel and cameras had been present that morning in front of the hotel interviewing individuals and filming us as we loaded our bags on the gear truck and assembled for the escorted ride through the city. By the time we reached the countryside everyone had seen us on TV and stood ready to shout encouragement or applaud as we passed. We felt like celebrities. It is rumored that Rafael also arranged for the TV coverage.
The police set a fast pace but by working hard (pedaling like mad) I was able to keep up and with such a fast start made good time that day. About 100 kilometers of the ride was on very busy Highway 5 and not fun because of all the fast, noisy, smelly traffic. To quote the DRG, "A good deal of the shoulders are rough and trashy, and some are excellent. On occasion they might even disappear at an inconvenient time. Always ride well to the right and off the highway. Rarely is it safe to ride 2 abreast along Highway 5. We are simply pleased that Highway 5 is paved." Because Highway 5 is the only paved road going south we were to be stuck with it for days.
That evening we camped at a sports complex, which may sound fancy but it wasn't. However there was a covered dining area to give some relief from the hot sun, and the barbecued dinner was excellent. After dinner a local group of folkdancers and musicians treated us to an evening of entertainment. I was tired and had planned on turning in right after dinner but of course I stayed. They did dances from all areas of Chile. I especially liked the costumes worn by the men for the Chilean national dance. They wore black pants and white shirts, black hats with very flat brims and black knee high leather boots with enormous spiky spurs. It was a fun evening.
Odyssey Riders and Staff
DO YOU TELL YOUR BIKES APART?
It is amazing how different our bikes look from each other now and how familiar my own bike looks. The bikes were exactly the same for the parade but since then we have each changed them a bit. Some people have brightly colored handlebar tape instead of the original black. Others have added aerobars and silly horns like rubber ducks or turtles. Some people have stuck decals or painted designs on the frame and fenders. There are many different kinds of saddles. In short, now I can spot my bike in an instant! First I look for the number 10 which is attached to the rear fender. Next I look for my handlebars which have a different kind of black tape that wore out already so I have mended it with shiny black electrician's tape. I have a special rack on the handlebars and on the rear rack to hold my bike bags. I have different tires than anyone else. My bike is easy for me to find.
DO YOU PACK UP YOUR BIKE TO PUT IT ON THE AIRPLANE?
We have to do four things. We have to remove anything on our bikes that might stick out and be in the way or fall off which includes aerobars, bike bags and water bottles. Next we turn the handlebars. To do that I first loosen them with an allen wrench, then turn them as far as they will go, and finally tighten them a bit with the Allen wrench so they will stay turned. When I am done my handlebars are turned as if making a very sharp left turn but the front wheel is facing straight ahead. It takes less than one minute to do.
I also have to remove the pedals which is harder because I usually have to wait my turn for the pedal wrench. I loosen them with the pedal wrench, then finish unscrewing them by hand. I carry them in my bike bag until after the flight when I can put them back on the bike.
The other thing to do is to let some of the air out of the tires. People think they may expand in the unpressurized cargo part of the plane and possibly explode. I don't know about that. Some of us have forgotten to let any air out and the tires did not explode.
When those 4 things are done we wheel them to a waiting area. For our first flight, men loaded the bicycles on the plane one by one. For the second flight, palettes were loaded with bikes, then the bikes were shrink wrapped with plastic. I don't know which way is better or faster. We haven't had enough room for all the bikes on a flight yet.
DO YOU PUT THE BIKES ON THE AIRPLANE?
The bikes are put in the cargo area with the luggage. When there wasn't enough room for our bikes we wanted to put them inside with us in the aisles, but they wouldn't let us.
DO YOU PUT THE BIKES AT NIGHT?
We keep them close to us. Some people have tents big enough to put the bicycle inside. I can't do that. I try to put my bike next to a tree or another immovable object. I lock it to the tree. If that isn't possible, we lock our bikes together in groups, at least four at once. The idea is to make them too heavy and cumbersome to move. In Baja two bicycles locked together were stolen.
SOMEONE IS INJURED WHERE DOES HE GO?
That will depend on the injury. If it is a minor injury he will stay with the group. He will ride in the sag vehicle every day until he can ride a bicycle again. Most injuries are like that. But if someone has the bad luck to break a bone so that a long recovery time is needed, he would probably be asked to go back to his home and rejoin the group later. So far that has happened to only two people.
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