La Serena, Part 3: Back To Santiago
And on the third day of our trip to La Serena, we woke up early, and packed our stuff. Some would set off later that day, but I wanted to spend the day taking the meandering scenic route, inland and far from the boring Ruta 5. Previous chapters include Part 1, Part 2A, Part 2B.
This was the route we took:
And from Los Vilos, back towards Viña del Mar, and then home via the Ruta 68.
FuturoAs and son.
It was foggy and drizzling. Yuck.
Ben, Dusan and Rodrigo #2 and I set off in the general direction of Ovalle. We soon left the mist behind, and the air got noticeably warmer. I was starting to enjoy myself.
The non-oring chain was in a sad, sad state. I put anything I could on it. Ben lent me some generic grease, which I smeared on in ridiculous amounts.
Rodrigo #2's bike. Completely un-restricted exhaust, 750 cc displacement. It was just too loud, however you try to justify it. And the man had replaced the standard kickstand with an eagle's foot.
Please appreciate my well distributed load and general packing skills. Ridiculous, isn't it?
After the climb, lots of twisties.
Embalse La Paloma.
Silence, cool breeze.
I would have loved a swim, but we had to push on.
This is where Rodrigo #2 and Dusan went their own way, since they'd be taking the Ruta 5 back to Santiago.
Ben and I set off in search of dirt roads.
Near Monte Patria. Yup, that's Condorito and Yayita, comic book characters deeply ingrained in Chilean pop culture. What are they doing here?
We rode through many desolate towns, all dry, dusty, the townsfolk sitting in the meagre shade to be found on the north sidewalk, back to the wall, in doorways, staring at us as if we were astronauts. I don't think it was through any particular sense of awe or amazement, I think they were just bored.
Speaking of astronauts...
And we carried on to the next town. And another. In each town, people were sitting in the plaza, and sometimes, there were cute girls walking around. We could just imagine what the locals were thinking as we rode slowly past the town hotties, something straight out of an old western: go back the way you came, stranger... we don't need people like you here... and neither do our women! he'd growl, then spit tobacco out the side of his mouth, and a tumbleweed would roll by.
We stopped at Combarbalá because my chain was not only dry again, it was making a strange sound. I checked it, and it was so loose that it was capable of missing the sprocket teeth entirely. Not nice. I tightened it at a Copec, using a borrowed ratchet, and all was well.
After Combarbalá comes Cuesta La Viuda, with some lovely twisties.
At some point, Ben stopped to take some pictures near the turnoff that we had planned on taking, toward the Reserva Nacional Las Chinchillas. I shot past, and he caught up with me 10 minutes later. We had no option but to ride on to Illapel.
And here, the sun had set, and before the light went, we put on all our cold weather clothes.
We came down an endlessly long road to the coast, with the last of the day's glow in the sky. Every now and then there was some solitary light at the side of the road, or on a hillside, but other than that, nothing at all, just the silhouette of the hills against the darkening sky.
Every now and then Ben and I turned our headlights off simultaneously, and as soon as we did so, the sky was flooded with a silver ribbon, the Milky Way. There was no moon out, but the stars were enough to see the road markings.
Normally I rode behind him, but during one of these blackouts, I was in front. Whily I had added LED running lights to my bike, his could go completely dark. It suddenly occurred to me that he could be 2 metres or two kilometres away. I tapped the brake while looking in the mirror. Sure enough, there he was, a red ghost against the black background.
We eventually reached the Ruta 5, and carried monotonously on to Los Vilos. We considered spending the night there, and rode around town. We were amazed at the amount of motels and the lack of hotels. On my second trip to La Serena on the bike, I'd learn that in Los Vilos, a motel is a place for families to spend the night, not somewhere you go during lunch break with your secretary.
I then remembered some friends would be having a party at their apartment in Viña del Mar that night, so I called them, and we agreed to drop in. Hours later we arrived, had a nice time, and then set off to Santiago, via the Ruta 68.
It was 6:30 AM by the time we got back home, exactly 72 hours after setting off to La Serena, extremely tired, frozen to the bone, dusty and starving.
An unforgettable trip.