Trip-so-far recap, with pictures!

Hello loyal followers, friends, loved ones, perfect strangers, and everyone else that might be reading this (all the dozens and dozens of you)…

As our stay in Chillan comes to an end, it seems as appropriate a time as ever for us to actually post some pictures and content to the blog. What better way to do it than with a retrospective photo-laden recap of the first 2+ weeks…

We’ll jump right in with a photo of our now famous bike box fort, which kept us safe (or did it?) while we waited to see if we were ever going to leave terminal 4 at JFK Int’l Airport.

As many have heard, it was at least cool enough that it earned us a free round of McDonald’s from a great guy and his family at about 3am.

It also gave us a great vantagepoint to people watch from…

And be people watched from…

Due to the chaotic weather and bustling holiday season, we were entertained and we entertained all night until getting back in line at 5am or so… Eventually, around 11am, we managed to get to the front of the line, get boarding passes, and lug our bike boxes to security. They weren’t pumped to see them as our boxes were heavy, well taped, and awkwardly shaped, but they were taken in stride and whisked away. I must say that in spite of the crapstorm laid upon them, the JFK Airport staff were among the most professional and friendly people I’ve seen. I can only imagine that not everyone traveling that day were as jovial and upbeat as our motley crew, but somehow they managed to take everything with a smile on their faces as well. A big thank you goes out to the workers, the security, and everybody who helped facilitate that part of the journey. We also made some great friends and contacts through the people we rubbed elbows and knees and suitcases and who knows what else with that were stuck there as well. By the end, we had new friends in just about every South American country. When we finally made it to the front of the line and entered the serpentine gated section, we made a Chilean friend, “Loco”, who happens to be the men’s soccer goalkeeper coach at a certain division one school. He was a fun line partner and was very nearly on the same flight as us but was bumped at the last minute. He was a great character and will stick with me for a while. Once through security, we made a couple last minute phone calls, brushed our teeth (it was morning again afterall) and parked ourselves at the gate to see if the flight would be leaving as planned. Little did we know, 2 of our 5 wouldn’t see their bikes again for a few days.

After getting on the plane and sitting, standing, watching, eating, drinking, reading, and whatever else we could do for twelve hours, we debarked and went through customs. We had to pay to get our passports stamped to let us in the country (a reciprocity fee they called it, so I guess the thanks go to the good ol” USofA for that chunk of my savings gone…) and then cruised through security. Our second straight sleepless night in an airport, as our flight landed after midnight and we stayed around the baggage claim for several hours before finally being told that Anthony and Derek’s bags were definitely not within 5000 miles of us.

Dan, Zach and I (respectively, in the photos below) assembled our bikes as planned at the front entrance to the airport while Derek and Tony napped on some cardboard. (We´d become quite adept at napping on and around cardboard by that time.) Everything went together smoothly, and nothing was damaged in the transportation process by some stroke of luck.

Dan, Zach and I then said goodbye to our bike boxes that we became so intimate with over the past couple days, picked a meeting place to catch up with Derek and Tony in Valparaiso, and set off at 9am-ish with empty stomachs and about 10 hours of sleep combined over the past 2 days. Nothing like starting a trip like this off right.

Given the circumstances, when Zach, Dan and I came to our first mountain tunnel (of which there were two, and we knew they were not to be ridden through, only ridden over or hitched through) we said… and I quote “maybe it’s romantic cavalierism talking, but we should go over it” followed closely by “los Andes no tenga nada”. Boy were we wrong…

Zach was kind enough to post the easier route over that we took on the way back to Santiago. Here is the route over that we took heading west…

Here’s a closer look at the switchbacks heading uphill, which were in worse condition and steeper than the ones you’ve seen in earlier posts…

Here’s a shot from toward the top when the road flattened out and smoothed out, for about 50 glorious feet…

Here’s the view we were indulged with, a waterfall of clouds…

Here’s Dan saying “Well, this looks like the best way down…”

When in hindsight, it should have read “Well, this looks like the most extreme way down… those Riding the Spine guys ain’t got squat on us… Let’s do some hardcore bicycle touring down this switchback laden hiking trail along these powerlines!”

Here’s Zach enjoying our leisure filled day on bicycles…

Five bucks to the first person who can spot our trail…

Could you find it?

Finally, after 2 flat tires, a barbed wire fence, a mile by crow and 5ish miles by foot or wheel or whatever, we made it to the other side and found the nearest piece of pavement and kissed it with every last ounce of life we had. We had a 4km descent on the highway and pulled off to find water as soon as the road showed any sign of rise in elevation. We continued on our way and eventually came to the second of the two tunnels where we were left with no other choice but to hitch through. After nearly a half an hour of empty stares and reciprocated thumbs up, we were picked up by a Chilean man and his 7 or so year old daughter who was heading to Viña del Mar, just a few miles from Valparaiso where we were now summarily late to meet Anthony and Derek. We weakly loaded our 80+ pound bikes into the back of his small pickup and took off with the hopes that everything would stay where we put it in the back. Somehow, we made it in one piece without losing anything, though Zach would likely have sacrificed his bike for the ability to stretch out his cramping muscles at any point in the last 20 minutes of the ride. We remounted after pictures and free chips and rode from Viña to Valpo where we met up with our bike-less compañeros and then Cami and Romi, two of our ever so wonderful hosts.

Here is the living room of the apartment in Valparaiso where we stayed…

Three Zapatas live in this apartment: Pia, Nico and Camilla. They are an incredible family (2 sisters and a brother) and are all very smart and talented individuals. Pia and Nico are both incredible musicians, and Pia recently won a contest to have 5 songs recorded professionally.

We’ve got a couple videos of Pia singing, so when we figure out how we’ll try to post one of her original songs up. We enjoyed a lot of music while in Valpo, often because Nico rarely put down his guitar. He has an incredible wealth of musical knowledge in his head, loves funk, and can start playing along to music you play on the stereo within a couple bars.

Here’s the view downhill from the Zapata’s apartment…

And the view uphill from the apartment…

Looking back on it, we were supposed to leave the US on 12/28 and land in Chile on 12/29. Instead we left 12/29 and landed 12/30. We got to Valpo late in the day on 12/30 and then Tony and Derek’s bikes arrived on New Year’s Eve, early in the afternoon. We were all relieved when the bikes went together smoothly and without a hitch.

I think our feelings at this point were summed up quite concisely by Tony: (and I quote…)

“LET’S GET STUPID HAIRCUTS AND PARTY!”

In Chilean (which is VERY VERY different than proper Spanish), the ol’ trabajo in the front, fiesta in the back is called a “chocopanda” (phoenetically: SHO-ko-pahn-dah). They’re very popular here. Tony felt it was only fitting to apply such a style to his dome.

Derek went a slightly different route. They call this look “Flaite” (ph: FLY-tay).

Dan’s is, well, beyond words…

So we continued with the plan and rang in the Año Nuevo with a barbecue and a fiesta…

After all, you know what they say: “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is strength, in water there is bacteria!”

Not to mention there were about 12 barges letting off fireworks…

The next day we got up nice and early (which by Chilean standards is about 3pm)…

Then got on with our grueling day of heading to the beach. Valparaiso is filled with incredible street art.

Before hitting the beach we made sure to have a light lunch…

The first beach we tried was still a little bit dirty from the previous night’s party (that seemed to last for about 3 days when all was said and done… not for us, but for the city.)

So we took a short and terrifying bus ride to get to another beach, where we took advantage of the chance to clean our underwear and take a refreshing dip at the same time…

Here’s our crew with our unofficial sixth compañero Salvador Allende.

And a couple other of our compañeros, Nico and Cami.

We went to grab a drink at a cool artsy cafe that Nico knew of and ended up running into a couple other gringos locos (Chase and Jess), who came back to the apartment that night with us to celebrate Jess’ birthday. What better way to turn a year older than to get a crazy Chilean haircut…

It was a fun night that turned into a dance party for at least Derek, for at least long enough for one picture…

The next day we begrudgingly began the process of actually thinking about bike touring… Chileans call this look “muy flaite”…

Here’s our group, complete with hosts… From left to right: Nico, Derek, Zach, Tony, Dan, Cami, Romi, Pia, Me (Ted).

We didn’t leave for a little while…

Definitely not until Nico got a picture with everyone…

I can’t thank the Zapatas enough for their generosity and patience with us. It was incredible staying with them and having a stable and safe place to stay and spread out to start a trip like this was invaluable. Their generosity continues as we’re with Romi and Cami at Romi’s dad’s place in Chillan. Romi is a cousin of the Zapatas.

So then we took off and did some bicycle touring… those of you who remember the road we took that Zach so skillfully MS Paint’d into the blog might enjoy this shot of three of my compatriots hossing down the most glorious road we’ve ever ridden…

We made it to Santiago in 2 days, with a night spent camping on a farm outside Casablanca. We were kept alive and happy by Backpacker’s Pantry food (Thanks Amie!) and made it in one piece. After the grueling two day, one night tour, we stayed at the Bellavista Hostel in Santiago for a couple nights. We saw some sights and took some showers and ate more of the healthy local cuisine consisting mostly of french fries, mayo, and hot dogs. Eventually, we did some more bike touring (seriously, who actually rides their bikes anyways?)…

Where we encountered countless dangerous wild animals…

We took frequent safety breaks to stock up on emergency rations and supplies, which was usually either empanadas or soda. The great thing about bicycle touring (at least the part of it when you’re actually riding your bikes every day) is you get to eat whatever you want, whenever you want (prices and participation may vary).

You also can’t check the map without stopping for coffee… (while I appreciate the convenience of Nescafe, I would sell an organ for a cup of french press right about now)

In the midst of our four night, five day tour from Santiago to Chillan (where we stayed on two farms and two rivers, woe is me…) my father had a birthday. While I was unable to call him, I toasted him with a warm beer on a hot day.

Along the way we met a crazy Brit named Simon (his blog here) who is on month 4 of a 6 month tour from Quito, Ecuador to Ushuaia, Argentina (our destination as well). We rode 40 or so miles with him, shared camp with him and then gave him a Culture Cycles sticker for his pannier.

Everyone knows you didn’t actually ride with someone until there is a group photo to prove it…

We’ve already crossed paths with him again and fully expect to share many more miles with him down the road. We then briefly passed through a ripple in the time/space continuum and passed through my brother’s hometown…

Then got hungry and set our priorities straight…

We did a little more bicycle touring… (did I mention we’re bicycle touring? I swear we’re bicycle touring…)

We camped for our fourth night in a row, in the best spot yet… a beautiful river where we were able to wash up and swim and enjoy a nice sunset.

In the morning, Derek’s scent had attracted horses and he opened his eyes to see one standing over his tent. Wisely, he didn’t run for his camera for the sake of the team. Thanks, Derek.

Zach told the story of our last day’s bike ride and bus ride to Chillan, so I’ll spare you the repetition. However, what Zach didn’t tell you was that we decided our bike touring was too serious so we accepted an invite by Romi’s neighbor Coty to her beach house in Cobquecura, the city that was the epicenter of the biggest aftershock of the big earthquake in February 2010. While parts of the town are in rubble, it remains beautiful and vibrant.

This particular meetingplace of land and sea was violent, yet beautiful.

There was an open air fish market, right next to the boats used to catch the day’s meal.

The local girls showed us gringos a thing or two about pickin’ apart crabs, though I was happy to just eat rice that meal as the work:meat quotient was too heavy in the work half for most of the guys.

The view from Coty’s place’s living room reminded me a lot of my friends Trish and Steen’s place in Humarock, MA.

On our way to hitch back into town to get a bus back to Chillan…

While Zach wanted a souvenir to remember the beach by…

I felt fine taking only pictures with me…

We’re back in Chillan now and planning the next leg of our tour. We’re not going to have another house to take over for a few days from here on out, so we’re trying to get it all together and leave on good terms. Next stop may be Pucon or Villarica, or maybe just Valdivia where Zach is expecting a package. It has been a heck of a journey so far and I can’t even believe it has only been a little over 2 weeks since I’ve been out of the country. I miss you all and I hope life back home wherever you are is nice, because this trip sure makes me appreciate the incredible life I’ve built for myself and will inspire me to continue to build on what I’ve got. There are good people everywhere in this world and while I fully expect to meet many more before all’s said and done, I could leave today knowing I got my time and money’s worth.

Here’s a link to my Picasa page: tedcity on Picasa

You’ll find more pictures there of our adventures so far, as well as the ones featured above.

Take care, and thanks for all the comments and support.

With love and tired legs,

Ted

About companeros2011

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18 Responses to Trip-so-far recap, with pictures!

  1. Pingback: Two Wheeled Adventurers | Culture Cycles

  2. Kate says:

    Fantastic! I especially loved the pictures. I’ve been reading the posts via email, but your photos really make them come alive. And you’ve got some truly spectacular ones at that!

    P.S.– Love the hair cuts. I may have to follow suit🙂

    P.P.S– It is icy cold here in New Paltz, NY, and I’m not ashamed to own up to my raving jealousy of your beach weather. Not a bit.

  3. Ron Manganiello says:

    The pictures are great and add another dimension to the blog. Sounds like you all are having a great time. I like the saying about wine, beer and water. Same goes in Oaxaca except that wine would be replaced with mezcal.
    Animo!
    ron

  4. Cathy Mangione says:

    Great photos, vicariously enjoying the trip. One more thing, guys make sure Zach uses his sunscreen.
    Love,
    Mom and Aunt Colleen

  5. Melissa says:

    Lovelvoelovelvoelovelovelovelovelvoelvoelove la foto con Allende! Es la clasica!

  6. Melissa says:

    And definately wear the sunscreen as you close to the equator- do not skip out, you will be sorry, no mentira. ja!

  7. Kate and Judd says:

    Wow! Great way to get a sense of the trip! Thanks Ted. The pictures and comments had us laughing! An incredible journey so far. Seen any agave cactus growing anywhere? Dad’s wondering…..

  8. Maggie says:

    Ted and friends-
    So great to see some pics to go with the updates, looks incredible so far. Can’t wait to hear about more adventures! Much love from all of us at JYP!

  9. Steve Souza says:

    Thanks so much for the summary of the trip to date and for the pictures too. Had some great laughs as we read through it all and looked at the pics! Its great to hear about the things that you guys are seeing and experiencing. I’m glad that you’re also taking the time to enjoy the surroundings and not really fixating on doing all of the trip on two wheels. Continue to have fun, be safe and here’s hoping that the wind is always at your back. Mucho gracias!!

  10. peggi marini says:

    Ted and friends. Wow. The stories and pictures are amazing. Ted, hope you get to watch the game today!

  11. Kate and Judd says:

    My friend Don Julio and I will be toasting you just at game time today. If you don’t mind my beer will be cold. And as Steve Bushway says, beware of the Pisco. I guess Hannah found out the hard way:)

    The best is yet to come.

    Love ya, Dad

  12. Trish Siplon says:

    Wow! And wow again. What an adventure you guys are having. I am hugely impressed, thought maybe slightly less so on the haircuts. But then again, for a crazy adventure, a crazy haircut might be just the thing.

    We miss you back in freezing Vermont, but will somehow get by with tales of your adventures.

  13. Trish says:

    Bergie!! Loving the blog! We’re currently in vail with Nolan and are missing your culinary craftiness in whipping up cupcakes and sizzurp for breakfast. Stay safe and well and keep writing! Lots of love trish and steeno

  14. pam says:

    Ted, thanks SO much for the pics and story. we are vicariously riding along with you and love getting the play by play. We miss you but time is flying like always, so I hope you continue to make the most of your days – can’t imagine that you won’t! xo, pam

  15. Joe King says:

    I’ve really enjoyed keeping up with the trip so far. Keep the updates coming and be safe.

  16. Tristan says:

    Guys, you’re doin it right. Good stuff!

  17. Phil Stango says:

    Ted,
    Team HSBC misses you and I know this rider is following your updates closely, with moderate to high levels of envy😉 Today Arnie came over and we spent the day on a project I think you’d be proud of…we built a 12′ workbench in our living room! It’ll be a fine space for geekin’ out and wrenchin’ on bikes when you return. Looks like there might be some more snow in our near future, so enjoy the warm weather you’ve got. Though I’m sure part of you would love to be tearin’ it up on your 29er. Anyway, great to hear from you…helps to ameliorate the Ted withdrawals. Oh, and check this out: The other day Joeyfresh shared your blog on the “Today I Love” thread. You’ve really made it now! (see below)

    TIL Ted’s (UN: clockwork ted) most recent update on his South American bike touring trip

  18. Kate says:

    Looks like Los companeros have gotten to valdivia as a photo has been seen on picplz.

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