Saturday, January 21, 2006

Santiago to Curanipe

To bed around 4:00 a.m., then up at 9:30. Noon check-out, then worked on e-mail for an hour.

Left Santiago after 1:00. The bike felt really heavy (though only the spare tire was added.) Resuming the ride always "takes some getting used to".

I was once again on Chile's Ruta 5, and from Santiago south to Puerto Montt, it is a toll road. (This could get quite expensive!)

In the Maipo Valley (around Buin, I think), I stopped at a large roadside restaurant, the “Bavaria”. An odd sight in Chile! The menu features German dishes explained in Spanish. "Now I’m in trouble!" No prices listed. "Kaiserbraten" sounded good.

The restaurant is a huge building with split log walls, stripped tree trunk beams, brick floors, ivy growing in overhead, glass walls.

I'm sorry: German is such strange food! So heavy. But I do enjoy it occasionally!

South of the Maipo Valley is Chile's famed Colchagua Valley wine region. The valley is enormous. Traversing from north to south, it is eerie how similar it feels to driving from California's Salinas Valley, up through Sonoma County and on into Mendocino County. One major difference is the many rivers flowing down from the Andes and across this valley to the ocean. The land is incredibly rich, the climate so familiar and comfortable.

Big names in the food and beverage industries have significant holdings here: Coca Cola, Nestle, Dole, Del Monte, Driscoll, San Pedro and Miguel Torres to name a few. Grapes haven’t taken over yet, but it will be interesting what changes a few years bring. Will grapes eventually replace other crops, as has occurred in so many of California's fertile farming valleys?

Turned west at Parral and headed for the coast. My "progress" slowed significantly in the busy beach towns. I keep forgetting it's vacation time!

Followed Max's directions out of Curanipe, to a point "sixty meters past (the coast highway's) 25 kilometer marker." There, he said a driveway would lead down to his beach house, “Luminojos”. But I found two driveways, both gated. One was locked, the other unlocked, but displaying warning signs: Great Dane and Boxer guard dogs on duty! This seemed like the right place, but I was reluctant to wander down this road and test my luck.

Drove back toward town, looking for a phone booth. Found one about five miles away. Called Max's cellphone, but there was no answer. Decided to take my chances on the dogs. (I’d wear my riding suit, gloves and helmet if necessary!)

Drove into the property, down a dirt path to a small house nestled on a tree-covered promontory. Only one fearful dog was to be found there. He slinked away as I approached. Everything looked right, but I wandered around the outside of house looking in the windows to find some clue to confirm my sense. Finally, I saw the Let My People Go Surfing book on a shelf. "This is the place!”

As the sun went down, I decided to set up the tent. Max and his other guests may not return until late and it was getting chilly. I was just climbing into the tent when they arrived. They had all been at the beach, Max and Jeremy surfing. (A big occasion: Jeremy rode his first wave today!) With them were Trinidad (Jeremy's girlfriend - I had met them at Jack's house), their friend Camilla from Santiago; and two German travelers Max had connected with through a traveler's website: Manuela, from Effelder, and Kristin, from Roedental. (Both towns are near Coburg, Germany.)

Tonight, Jeremy (who's training to be a chef) barbecued hamburgers for all. Quite good! We also enjoyed the Tabali Cabernet Sauvignon that I had given Max on his birthday.

I slept in the tent, the wonderful sounds of waves below and wind in the trees above!

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