My Cycling Tour in Chile, Day 6

March 14 Tuesday, Angol to Curacautín

Day 6 map

Day 6 elevation profile
97 miles, 3806 feet of climb, 2290 ft max

Road stretching off into the distance This was a long day - 97 miles. There was quite a bit of climbing near the beginning after the turn south toward Los Sauces and again near the end. Despite getting an early start I arrived not too long before dark. This ride really should be done in two days rather than one.

Man on a horse in a field I was by myself much of the day. There was very little traffic and a long way between towns. Chile has a population of 16 million in an area close to twice as big as California which has a population of 34 million. When you consider that a third of Chile's people live in the capital, you can understand why there is a lot of open space in the rest of the country.

Bicycle racers Not long after the turn east at Traiquén, I saw some motorcycle police coming the other way. One pulled over to my side of the road to talk to me. I got that he was trying to warn me of a hazard up ahead but I couldn't understand what it was. I caught the word "carrera" and he kept touching my bike and saying "bicicleta". A couple minutes after he left, some more motorcycle cops appeared, followed by three cyclists riding hell bent for leather on the wrong (my) side of the road, followed by a car with bicycles on the roof. Oh, now I get it: a bicycle race! "Carrera" means "race" as well as "career". I knew that, but it's funny how when you hear a word out of context sometimes the meaning will not pop into your head.

Race support vehicles At the next intersection I was told to stop. I had just got the bike parked and my camera out when the main peloton went by. It must be a fairly major race judging by the long line of support vehicles, police cars, vans with dish antennas on the roof, etc. (I surfed the Internet when I got home and found out it was the 10th annual "Vuelta Ciclista por un Chile Lider" multi-day stage race.)

About 60 miles into today's ride I crossed over Ruta 5. I was tired and hungry and decided I would stop at the first place that had anything that looked like food. That turned out to be a convenience store at a turnoff from the freeway. I probably could have got something better and cheaper in the town of Victoria just east of the freeway, but I didn't feel like taking the time to look. I bought two barros Jarpa (ham and cheese sandwiches), some cookies, and a 1.5-liter Coke and went outside to sit at a plastic table and eat my lunch. While I sat comptemplating the scene, the store clerk smiled at me as she left at the end of her shift. The only other person outside was some guy absorbed in his laptop computer who barely acknowledged my presence. I sat and ate and rested for a half hour or so before heading on.

Road with mountain in the distance After a few miles, a pickup truck passed me and then stopped in the middle of the lane a hundred yards in front of me. As I cautiously passed, a woman leaned out the driver's window with a big smile on her face and pointed rearward. I figured something must have fallen off the bike, but I looked backward as I rode and didn't see anything. After a couple minutes, the pickup started up again and went around me down the road.

It was at about this time that I figured out that she was probably trying to offer me a ride in the back of her truck. And, who knows? Perhaps more than that. If I had kept my wits about me I might have ended up with a bigger adventure than I had planned!

I'm pretty sure it was the woman from the store.

In Curacautín I'm staying in the Plaza Hotel and had dinner in their dining room. I tried the "congrio" since it's a typical dish mentioned in the guidebooks. I'm normally not much of a fish eater but this was very good - it didn't taste fishy at all. Of course it helped that after 97 miles today I was famished.

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