Algarrobo to La Serena


valparaiso at night
I ran out of options for avoiding Ruta 5. So, screaming downhill, I entered Valparaiso the way every other road user does. In town, I found the hostel where I had arranged to meet Ray, a Chinese cyclist who I had crossed paths with on the Carretera Austral. Also in the hostal was a cyclist from the UK called Sam. Together, we went out for a few drinks before Ray headed back to Viña del Mar where he was staying.

Although the hostal was full of friendly travellers, and the town seemed to have a Bohemian feel, it was quite a struggle to find anywhere to get a pint. The first place we tried you couldn´t hear yourself think from a howling Jack White/Kurt Cobain wanabee singing in bad English with a wierd, and huge quantity, of tremelo. The next place we got a beer and a talented trumpeter leaning off a staircase and playing a few jazz tunes.

The next morning Sam and I rode out to Viña to visit the bike shop. It was a nice sunny ride beside the coast. Viña and Valparaiso are really one long conglomeration along the coast. The towns are both built on the sides of several hills. A bit like a huge ampitheatre focusing on the coast. We had a good long chat and a few empanadas and headed back to the hostal. The hostal owner had organised a night of beer, pizza and a "supresa". The surprise turned out to be a guitarist and a singer, they were superb and played a number of songs from Chile and also from other Latin countries.
me, ray and fransisco
I had arranged to meet Ray in Viña at noon on Sunday. It would have been like a cowboy showdown if it had not been for the fact that it was at Burger King. Anyway, we "rode out of town".

After a few km we hit the Ruta 5 and, cycling side-by-side on the broad shoulder, we put in a good stint along the motorway. It got dark and we looked for a campsite by headtorch. What we found instead was Fransisco. This Chilean hardnut was fixing a puncture without much success. In the end I gave him my spare tube. In return he took us to Pichicuy where we camped for free in a squalid backyard of one of his mates. I just put up the inner-tent part of my tent as there was not much chance of rain. Fransisco put up his tent. Only it wasn't a tent it was a miniscule bio-bag, a lightweight tent just bigger than a bivvy bag. We took in the town, bought Frank a beer, and watched something dreadful. If you have seen the film "Little Miss Sunshine" you'll have an idea.

Waking up to mist, dew covering the sleeping bag, and the repugnant smell of the "out-house", we packed up double quick and got back on the road. Ray and I headed off a bit faster than our new Chilean amigo and soon had quite a lead over him. We stopped at service stations for either ice-creams, or to clean up in the baños. At one of these stops, I saw Fransico fly past. At nightfall we put on headtorches and racked up a 136km day. We stopped by a sliproad to look for a campsite, and with his roll mat laid out under the bench of a bus stop we discovered Fransisco. Finding a better spot, in a field, we camped.
With strong tailwinds we flew along with blue skies. The landscape was semi-desert now with western movie cactus and shapely arid hills. At sunset, we cooked up dinner in a bus shelter. We had passed a nice looking campsite earlier in the day and regretted carrying on. It was only another 40km to La Serena and, despite the darkness and the 140km we had already done, we considered doing it that night. Fortune prevailed and a campsite appeared advertised from the motorway as only 4km away. We stayed there, getting a good hot shower.

Without breakfast we nailed it to La Serena. On the way, in the busy city traffic, we lost F which was a bit sad as we didn't get a chance to say "Adios!" The city is a university town and beach resort. We found the main plaza and got dirrections to the campsite, but first we got some cheap and nourishing food in a cafe.
fransisco goofing around
Now, Ray is fixing his stove and I am off to sample the delights of the beach. Maybe dip my toes in...

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