1,279 meters climbing and 1,455 down – 19 km gravel
The 6th day of riding and thankfully a rest day tomorrow. A number of riders are in the lunch truck. None of the riders who started in Santiago are riding the whole day and only two of them are riding half a day. Most of the new riders have various injuries (numb hands, sore ribs, saddle sores).
Everyone is tired and a number of us are grumbling that this section is too hard. The person who scouted this section did it in a car, and we think they looked at it as each day individually rather than the effect of the 6 days all together. Also in a car, gravel looks much more rideable.
The first 66 kilometres was pretty good riding, some nice scenery with a few hills. At about 5 kilometres out of town I saw a dog sitting on the back of a horse, then the owner came out and jumped on the horse and off they rode with the dog balancing on the back.
At 67 kilometres we had to turn off a perfectly good paved road for a gravel road for 19 kilometres. The paved road went to the same town we are going to, in shorter distance. To add to our general joyful state, not taken into account is the time it takes to ride thick, loose gravel, and the lunch truck was not until 85 kilometres. I did not get to lunch until 1:30pm!
The gravel is like river stones, and is thick and loose, and your tyres slip and slide on it. There were a few steep climbs and descents, and despite being cautious I came around a corner and slipped on a patch of really thick, loose gravel and came off. Thankfully because I was going slowly I was a bit shaken but not hurt.
After lunch it was only 2 more kilometres of gravel, and then thankfully paved roads for the rest of the day. We rode along a lakeside after lunch for about 20 kilometres with some really steep climbs up to 18 percent. My legs were struggling and I was trying to mix up spinning and standing. I under estimated how steep one hill was when standing and pulled a muscle staying upright to the top. Hopefully it will recover quickly.
There were two hills that I just could not get up, so had to get off and walk as my legs had nothing left. I was feeling deflated as I had not thought I would have to get off on a paved road again. I felt better later talking to a couple of other full tour riders, who had also had to get off and walk up part of a couple of hills.
I was pleased to get to the highway which was 30 kilometres before Puerto Montt as whilst I then had to contend with heaps of traffic and trucks, there were no more steep hills. There was also a good shoulder until about 5 kilometres before the city. The 5 kilometres before the city there was no shoulder at all and heavy traffic, and it was a bit scary. Going through the city there was a shared bike/pedestrian lane but it was full of pedestrians moving at snail speed taking up the whole lane so after about 5 minutes I went back onto the road.
Puerto Montt was bigger than I expected, big malls and tall buildings. The hotel we were staying at however was 5 kilometres out of town. The road was really dangerous, with no shoulder and no pavement. Not surprisingly it also had a sign “No cyclists” (yet again!), however we had no choice but to cycle along it as there did not appear to be any alternative route.
A few cars angrily tooted at us. I was pleased to get to 1 kilometre before the hotel where the main road went left and we went right to continue along the foreshore. About 500 meters before the hotel one of the riders, who had already got to the hotel and was on his way out, stopped me and said “The Wifi is hopeless, the hotel sells no food or drink, and the rooms are tiny”, so full of joy I arrived at the hotel.
Cristano greeted me with a big grin and said “Good ride”, my response was “Not really but I don’t want to talk about it now while I think I may have lost my perspective”.
It was about 5:45pm when I got to the hotel and the first thing I see on the whiteboard is “If you want your laundry to be done you have to get it to the hotel reception by 6pm”! There were a number of riders not yet in so I asked Cristiano to talk to the reception to get this timeframe extended, which thankfully they agreed to.
The rooms are small! My view is a out a grate looking at a wall, and a curtain over a window that looks out into the hotel foyer. Six of the riders were so underwhelmed by the hotel that they called taxis and went back into town and found alternative accommodation.
I had organized to meet Sue, Nellie, Dick, Jo, Nick and Brett at 6pm for dinner, but given the time and that Sue had not yet arrived (she had brake problems) we pushed the time back to 7pm. I thought “a shower is bound to cheer me up” and got into the shower, which was like a small bath with a shower above. I did not see the safety mat at the bottom of the bath which immediately slipped from beneath my feet and I fell over. Luckily I managed to grab the handrail on the way down, so only hurt my leg which is going to have large bruise.
While I was waiting to meet the others for dinner I went for a walk along the sea front to stretch my legs, and stopped at shop and got a couple of pastries and an ice block. I also watched the cruise ship that had been in the harbor when we arrived heading out of the bay. Thankfully I was in a better frame of mind when I headed back to the hotel.
We met at 7pm in the lobby and decided to go to an area about 1.5 k away, where there is a seafood restaurant and a pizza restaurant. Brian (TDA accountant who has joined the tour here, and scouted the last section) said both were really good. The seafood restaurant was the preference, but it did not open until 8.15 pm so we had a large vegetarian pizza to share and a drink in the pizza restaurant while we waited. Unfortunately the seafood restaurant was not really good at all.
The food was dry and tasteless, and Nellie and Brett’s salmon was hard and dry as it was way too over cooked, and the chips were soggy and cold. I got a seafood selection called a “Sea food garden” and it was pretty unpalatable – hard small mussels, tasteless raw fish, clams covered in cheese like mozzarella, and a small crab pie I suspect made without harm to any crabs. However, the company was good and apart from the food the evening was enjoyable. It is Nellie and Dick’s last day on the tour tomorrow’ they are heading off to do a cruise before heading home to the Netherlands.
We walked back to the hotel, and I once again made the mistake of patting one of the stray dogs who then immediately nominated me pack leader and followed me to the hotel. Luckily I still had one of the two pastries so was able to give him something for his trouble.