My Cycling Tour in Chile, Day 8

March 16 Thursday, Melipeuco to Villarrica

Day 8 map

Day 8 elevation profile
45 miles (+15 in car), 1893 feet of climb, 1568 ft max

The road out of Melipeuco is smooth and scenic. On the map it looks like the best way to get to Villarrica is to turn left onto an unpaved road near the town of Cunco, proceed through the town of Los Laureles, and then continue south down the west side of Lake Villarrica. However I found that the roads are bumpy and the often-thick layer of gravel is made with large stones. Again, I couldn't make good time and was tired at the end of a supposedly short day. It probably would have been quicker and easier to stay on the paved road all the way west to the city of Temuco, turn south for 25 km on Ruta 5, and head back east to Villarrica on Hwy 119.

Bike on little bridge In Los Laureles I stopped to ask some people at a bus stop for directions. We chatted for several minutes. As I left I was wished, not for the first time, "Que le vaya bien" (May it go well for you). I actually learned that saying some years ago from my Mother, who picked up a little Spanish in the Philippines before the war.

Stream I was still some distance from Villarrica and it was getting late in the afternoon as I was walking my bike through the rough gravel just before a little bridge. It had started to rain. A pickup truck coming out a driveway had stopped so a rather scruffy-looking older fellow with gray hair done up in scraggly ringlets could get out and open a gate. I asked them how far to Villarrica and they said about 20 km. When they offered to give me a ride I hesitated about a nanosecond and then heaved my 80 pounds of bike+stuff in the back and hopped into the cab.

I sat in the back seat between two young women. The older gent, named Mario, sat in the front beside a young fellow expertly piloting the truck down the road like an Olympic skier down a slalom course. Mario was quite a cutup. He kept calling me "gringo" and maintained a running comic commentary. At one point he asked one of the girls her name. He then told me she was his cousin and would I trade my bike for her? I said, "Ahhh... OK!" to loud guffaws.

A couple of them were smoking but I was not about to complain. It was starting to rain harder and I could see that the condition of the road wasn't getting any better. At one point we plowed around a grader that was spreading out new gravel. It would have taken me a LONG time to ride that last 20 km. They let me out on a convenient street corner, and after a handshake and a "muchisimas gracias" I rode off.

I quickly found my lodging for the night, "La Torre Suiza", a hostel run by Claudia and Beat, a couple from Switzerland. After spending several years touring the world by bicycle, they finally decided to settle in Chile several years ago and provide the kind of lodging they would have wanted while they were traveling. I have a nice room on the third floor with sloping ceiling and wooden floors. The bathroom is just down the hall.

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