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Thurs 20 Jan: England–Santiago

We

View of the Andes

arrive in Santiago and take a taxi to our hotel, the Posada del Inglés, where one of us reassembles the bikes and the other tests out the swimming pool.

Notes: flying over the Andes to Santiago is always exciting. On our previous visit to Chile the mountains seen from the flight were better than anything we saw from the ground, which is one reason why this time we resolved to stay in the high Andean region.

The Posada is a km outside the city limits on the road to Farellones. John, who runs it, is English and friendly and helpful.

Fri 21: Santiago–Farellones (31km, 1500m ascent)

We

The climb to
Farellones

leave camping equipment at the hotel. The road outside it climbs to the ski station of Farellones. It is said to be one of the best sporting climbs in South America, which we can well believe. The first 15km are gentle, gaining only 400m. Then the road forks near a café: left for Las Bronces, right for Farellones.

Co. el Plomo
from Farellones

The ascent now becomes serious, offering a total of 40 tight hairpins in several sequences. Trucks which negotiate the route have to resort to 3-point turns to get round them. There are good views, particularly of Cerros Altar and el Plomo along the Yerba Loca valley, and more views when you arrive at Farellones.

Notes: there are no supplies on route except for the café mentioned. We stayed at La Cornisa. Most facilities were shut: Chileans head for the beach in summer.

Sat 22 morning: Valle Nevado (30km, 860m)

The

El Plomo
from Valle Nevado

road crests a ridge, drops, dithers, and eventually begins a zigzaggy climb. Valle Nevado advertises itself as a year-round resort, but it was shut this summer and we were told we could not cycle on the pistes beyond the hotel, so we returned to Farellones for lunch.

Sat 22 afternoon: El Colorado (24km, 840m)

We rode to the ski resort of El Colorodo and then on increasingly poor tracks to Cerro Colorado above it, making guesses at junctions. Eventually we locked our bikes to a snowbreak and continued on foot to the summit, which is probably not much above 3200m. It looked from the top as though a more satisfactory route would have been to head for the col a little north of the summit, from where pistes lead directly to Valle Nevado without much more climbing.

Sun 23: Yerba Loca (30km, 1150m)

There’s a popular mountain biking route from La Parva to the National Sanctuary in the Yerba Loca valley: it’s shown, for instance, on the JLM map. We decided to follow it. Beyond La Parva it rolls through grazing meadows, even being signposted at one point.

The eye of
the needle

Then it starts contouring round a hillside. The main track here is waymarked by red poles and splashes of paint: where it goes we have no idea. The cycle route takes a left turn down a broad ridge. At first we missed it, getting onto increasingly entertaining ground. We backtracked, found the ridge, and were disappointed not to be able to ride much of it. At the bottom we were told we shouldn’t be there, since the Sanctuary have now closed the area to visitors. We rode out on the access road and repeated half the hairpins of the Farellones climb.

Note: a better idea in hindsight would have been to visit the Sanctuary from the access road when returning to Santiago.

Mon 24: Farellones–Los Andes (31km, 40m)

We freewheeled back to the Posada del Inglés where we collected our camping gear. From here we travelled by taxi to Los Andes some 80km north, arriving in time for lunch and not having much to do in the afternoon.

Notes: the taxi was £28. It would have been cheaper to take a taxi to the bus station and travel by bus; cheaper still to cycle to the bus station or all the way to Los Andes. But Santiago is no place for cyclists.

The road from Santiago to Los Andes is motorway in part, and closed to bicycles. There are various alternative sections: the old road, now sometimes used for access, and detours to Colina and the Cuesta Chacabuco; but we couldn’t see whether they linked up. The route is in any case arid and boring, and would be thirsty work. Ivan Viehoff tells us he cycled along the motorway.

At Los Andes we stayed in the Plaza, which is functional but acceptable. There is a good bike shop on Av. Argentina.

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