A few tour boats waiting with a Frigit fleet in the background
A set of "Ascensores" looking down, built between 1882-1916 to hoist people and goods up the dizzying city heights back in the heyday's of Valpariso's bustling port. They are still used today and we took one down to the main street & plaza.
Along the road thus far we have encountered many inspiring and interesting people that have inspired us. Juan Lizana, is one of the latest people that we have met who rode a bicycle around the world for more than 30 years and visited more than 107 countries and aquired 7 languages while he was at it. The purpose of his trips is mainly working with children as an accomplished wood carver. He spends his time and energy handing down his skills and offering the childern an opportunity to partake in a project totem pole that is erected in the town where he is hosted by a community while he carves. Juan has left his mark in more than 107 countries and has carved thousands of pieces. We were very happy to have met him along our way and inspite of his increadible work he was just as interested in us as we were in him.
We finally departed Santa Cruz at noon after spending the entire morning talking and admiring Juans carving skills. We didn't really have a planned direction to go in so we rode along the coast and found a beach that had tourist accomodation and surfing. As it is the middle of summer here, everything was completely booked solid and there were no hostals, hotels or camping available. We rode toward a huge lake on the map and followed a sandy dirt road for 21km. The scenery was quite picturesque and was what Julie said she imagined Africa would be like. The were no houses and only fences for cattle...which were also absent. Finally we were within 300 meters of the lake shore and we could see the water from atop a small hill. Unfortunately there was a huge fence and gate across the road that abruptly ended our trip. If you're not from here you can't go here....just like the cottages in Canada I guess. Oh well, we returned back to the nearest town and inquired about a hotel.....and then the next town and so on...riding well into the dark we finally arrived in a shabby port town with a ...you guessed it...a Casino. The price of our accomodation was steep at 45,000 peso's (approx 90 bucks US) It was a flea bag place worth $30 tops in the US but here ...we had to pay the piper. (although they had an instant Nescafe cappuchino machine for breakfast in the morning ...free of charge...and in a paper cup!)
In the morning we rode just 3 km up the road and the landscape opened up to beaches and hostals everwhere...we needed to find a bank to withdraw cash but there was none in sight. At last we found an ATM and hopped back onto the bike and rode through an entire section of town that had ATM's every 30 meters. It's weird how they lay towns out in some places.
We pulled into a beach that looked like it was open to the public. The breeze off the ocean was cool but the sand was hot. No one was swimming and the only people in the water were 2 surfers in wet suits. There is no education here about littering on the beach. It is puzzeling to walk into what looks like an amazing beach and worry about taking off your shoes for fear of walking on garbage strewn all over the place. There were toothpicks and cigarette butts everwhere! and plastic wrappers, bags and bottles all over the beach. The only clean portion of the beach was the intertidal zone where the ocean takes it all away and dumps it in some innocent cove down current.
Julie and I returned to the bike just as a group of Chiliean kids came along with what looked like an organized summer activity camp. One of the kids said "Hello" and I replied. The communication gap was closed and the next thing I knew, I was completely surrounded. There were about 30 kids all asking questions and grabbing everything on the bike. Some were twisting the throttle, others grabbing the brakes and clutch levers...all innocent stuff that I do to the Harley's when I go into a bike shop myself! The leader (a guy in his 30's) began chatting to me and translated my broken spanish. Some kids asked the same question over and over again despite me telling them that I didn't understand. It is funny that they can't comprehend that I can't comprehend. When they were finally finished and their group leader rounded them up to head further to the beach I was again completely surrounded by 3 foot high 10-12 year old kids pressing hard against me with their hands stuck straight out. Each one of them wanted to shake my hand first and I had to work quickly so as not to cause anyone to wait too long before getting their picture taken by Julie at station 2. It was totally hilarious and the disappointment of the filthy beach was all but gone.
We decided to make it to Valparaiso and chill out for a couple of days. Valparaiso is a cultural town...I think that means historic or something. It was a major port back before the Panama canal but an earthquake back in 1906 followed by the opening of the Panama canal shortly after that was too much to adapt to in a short time and thus the city never recovered financially. Walking through the streets today you can still see the old money that built this city with its column pillars and detailed stone work on many buildings and the multiple elevators called "Ascensors" built between 1883-1916 that get you from the city below to the top of the city up a 45-50 degree angle hill on rails and cable bullwheel system. There are 45 different hills in this city and 15 ascensors total according to our less than reliable guide.
Julie is heading out tomorrow and flying solo to Canada. She doesn't really want to now that she has tasted the red wine and eaten the tender beef. Alas I must continue this journey as man would. I'll drop off Julie all teary eyed at the airport and I'll fire up the machine and ride onward to the end of the world alone missing my companion who I loved everyday on this trip.