Santiago, Valparaiso, and the road to Patagonia

Having relaxed for a couple of days with my friends, I set off for a bit of exploring without the bike, first to Valparaiso and then to Santiago’s central district.

Valparaiso is a bohemian city on the coast, famous for being a home at one time to Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet. It has a great feel to it, with alternative types living alongside some evident wealth, and a large smattering of tourists thrown into the mix. The city is built on some steep hills, and peppered with brightly coloured houses and a good deal of street art.

There are a series of lovingly preserved old funiculars in the city to allow people to negotiate the elevations. €0.15 was a small price to pay to save the knees on a couple of occasions.


Strolling around, I came across this novel way of polling smokers on their views outside a bar. Given the alternative vibe in the city, I was surprised at the result to the question of whether police issuing speeding tickets was an unnecessary practice or an important function. Clearly Chileans believe in speeding laws more than you would imagine,  judging by their driving!


The graveyard also provided an interesting insight into local history and immigration.


Back in Santiago, I enjoyed being in a big city again. I took in some culture in galleries, and was also lucky enough to see an adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by the Santiago Ballet Company at the magnificent theatre. It was good to see some dance again, and the production was impressive.


Santiago also has an excellent transport system, so I was able to move around the city with ease.

Once back at John and Gertje’s home, I was fortunate to share Christmas with their family, and didn’t set off again until 2nd January. Having luxuriated for so long, I decided to bus my way to Temuco, as that stretch is along a main road, and apparently quite boring. From Temuco I began making my way through the rolling countryside towards the Chilean lake district. The scenery was reminiscent of Europe at times, albeit the snow-capped volcanoes in the distance served as a reminder of where I actually was.

The start of the lakes brought with it spectacular countryside, constantly changing weather, and an increasing number of touring cyclists. I teamed up for a few days with Laura, a lovely North American cyclist and we tackled a remote and challenging route which saw us cycling through spectacular countryside, wild camping and swimming in rivers of purest water.

We also experienced wild weather fluctuations – snow and bitterly cold rain one day, glorious sunshine the next. This was also when I discovered that my cunning plan of wearing rubber gloves to keep my fingers dry wasn’t really an alternative to good gloves (they keep the water out, but they transmit the bitter cold too). So much for my cunning plan to save weight and bulk in my luggage.


The road (and a ferry crossing) towards Patagonia took us to Argentina once again. It was another quiet border, with a quaint police station and hospital.


It was good to be back in Argentina, and once I arrived at San Martin de los Andes, it was exciting to be at the beginning of my Patagonian adventure. Only 3000 kms or so, some terrible roads, a few big mountains, and a heck of a lot of headwinds between me and Ushuaia now!

18 thoughts on “Santiago, Valparaiso, and the road to Patagonia

  1. Hi Stuart, love the rustic outdoor cooking? One small trivia question, how many punctures have your repaired so far on this epic trip? Steve


    1. Steve, great to hear from you. The outdoor adventure camping has certainly been a new world. Whilst I’ll always prefer a bed in a hostel or B&B, but there are many stretches now where there’s simply nothing available. I’ve been pretty lucky with the weather though, which is great. As for punctures, amazingly, I’ve not had a single one. That’s down to the tyres (Schwalbe Marathon Mondials). 6000 kms and they’re going strong (and that’s through some pretty rough terrain). Likewise the wheels – not a single spoke broken and they’re running true – testament to the build quality of the bike. Best to you and Lorraine, Stuart


    1. Hehe, well of course they’re not up to your standards of sartorial elegance, but I thought they were rather natty? And they did go rather well with the orange piping on my raincoat 😉 But in hindsight, maybe not that practical….. Hope all still well with you up North. Warmest, Stuart


  2. Hi Stuart,
    Valparaiso is the name of the appartment block that houses my appt down in Jerez!! It’s now a must that you join me there when you return to Europe so we can compare notes!!
    I’m still loving your photos and the wonderful journey you’re on – keep them coming!
    Take care,


    1. Hi Matt. I think you know that I’ll take you up on that – look forward to it. Glad you’re still enjoying the pics. I’m getting towards the end of the South American part now – only another 1100 kms to go until Ushuaia! Look forward to catching up when back, Stuart


  3. Oh Stuart what a treat – I enjoyed the story and the pictures taking us to a country side I have not been – Here is everything ok we just got back from a concert with a Russian youth Orchestra 12 – 24 amazing – I am very happy that the days get longer so much news from this side of the Globe. Love from Berlin


    1. Hi Gerda, glad you’re both well, and still enjoying being on the journey with me through the blog. As lovely as it is though, I’m really looking forward to being able to do some culture stuff when back, so hopefully I can join you and George to go and see something. Sending you lots of love, Stuart x


  4. Some of those photos reminded me of the time we cycled over the margallas to Khanpur. Amazing trip which you’re bettering and replicating every day now I’m sure! Do you ever get tempted to stop and climb any mountains on foot? When I see a mountain, I normally want to climb to the top of it, not just cycle around it… Mike


    1. Hi Mike. Sorry for the late reply. Yes, I’m often reminded of the Khanpur ride too, although I haven’t seen any camels yet! I’m not tempted to do any hiking – I’m too impatient to do walks on foot, and I also don’t really have any suitable footwear. Lots of people do though, and I know that some of the trails are pretty spectacular. To be honest, I see so much on a bike that I’m happy just to accept that you can’t see everything. But there’s lots to come back to South America for, that’s for sure. Looking forward to catching up as soon as I’m back home! Stuart


    1. Hi Sarah. Thanks, and sorry for the late reply. It really is pretty amazing here in Patagonia, but think it’s challenging to see it whichever mode of transport you choose. The distances are pretty enormous, particularly when you factor in the poor road conditions. Best, Stuart


  5. Hi Stuart,

    The gorgeousness of the landscape is overwhelming. Had you thought about staying on to live the “good life” in the back of beyond, say, ranching and skinny-dipping? 🙂



    1. Hi J. And the landscapes get better and better! No, beautiful as it is, I’m not tempted to stay. Too many good things back in Europe, particularly friends of course. And as for skinny-dipping, I’ve found plenty of places in Europe where I can do that, after all 😉


  6. Hi, it’s so great to read about your travels. Valparaiso looks like a town I’d enjoy visiting, I feel like you’ve really captured the vibe. And all of your photos are stunning, I feel like I can almost feel the sunshine and the breeze on my face. Not so sure I’d fancy those hills though, and particularly the road surface…. But I agree you are rocking that orange marigold look. I’m sure it’s a trend that will take off ; ) Looking forward to reading the next instalment xxx


    1. Hello lovely. Yes, I think you’d like Valparaiso, although perhaps you’d like Mendoza even more? The hills do take getting used to, as do the road surfaces. I’d suggest somewhere a little easier if you’re contemplating your first long-distance cycle tour. I’ve heard good things about Japan? Much love to you in blighty, hope you’re managing to get some work done in between all those holidays of yours 😉 X


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