My Cycling Tour in Chile, Conclusion


I would rate this as a very successful trip. I had no major breakdowns, accidents, or other disasters. The Chilean people were almost universally friendly and helpful everywhere I went. I had many interesting experiences. I learned some Spanish. Although I didn't plan my route to emphasize the most scenic areas I did see a lot of beautiful scenery. I got in over 900 miles of cycling. And I checked out a number of university campuses for possible future employment.

Here are a few random comments/observations that didn't make it into my diary.

Gravel road Road quality: Many roads are unpaved in Chile. On many of them you can tell that an awful lot of earth was moved gouging out the hilltops and filling the valleys to reduce the gradients. These roads are wide and well-graded with a substantial rock base. The engineering specifications seem completely up to the standards used back home. After all that work it makes you wonder why they didn't take the final step and add pavement. Perhaps asphalt is very expensive in Chile for some reason.

Trash/glass: Because of my volunteer cleanup work with the Santa Rosa Cycling Club's "adopt a road" program, I am very attuned to the amount of trash along the roadways. I was surprised that Chile seems to have even more of it than back home. However I saw less glass than I am used to. In over 900 miles I had three flats, but none due to glass. I suppose Chile must not have an "open container" law.

Drivers seem very polite in Chile, I guess because they are used to dealing with cyclists. I only had one "angry beep" in three weeks of riding and lots of "friendly beeps". It's kind of neat to hear a logging truck driver beep "shave and a haircut" as he goes by.

Toilet paper: I never was able to bring myself to throw my used toilet paper in the trash can. The argument is that the plumbing can't handle paper, but in three weeks I never had a toilet fail to flush. Toilet paper dissolves rapidly in water; it's hard to believe it would clog the pipes. I think it's just a Chilean custom.

By the way, carry toilet paper when traveling in Chile. Many bathrooms don't have any, even in hotel rooms.

Chilean Spanish is different. They tend to drop their esses. For example, "buenos dias" becomes "buena dia". "Muchas gracias" and "de nada" come out "mucha gracia" and something that sounds like "de nasch". Many words are different too. For example, I never heard or saw the word "maz" in Chile. The word for corn seems to be "choclo".

Few people in Chile speak English, even in tourist areas. If you are traveling alone you really should learn at least enough Spanish to order a meal, check into a hotel, and ask for directions.

Typical bus stop Everywhere you go in Chile you see those little covered bus stops every mile or two, even on the most remote back roads. Every farm out in the boondocks has its own bus stop. And service must be frequent - I swear there are more busses than cars on the back roads. I understand that the fares are cheap. It's the way most Chileans get around. I think it would be a great way for a tourist to see the country. You'd cover more territory in a given amount of time than cycling and you'd probably have even more chance to meet people.

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