Switzerland of South America
Our motorcycling adventure in South America has finally begun on December 1st! Early morning we had an appointment with Chilean logistic company in Valparaiso, the port town about a 100 km away from Santiago, Chile. An elegant gentleman, sitting in a small office with a painting of a ship behind him prepared all the customs papers for us.
At that time there were also three other adventurous motorcycle riders from Dresden in Germany and an experienced explorer of South American motorcycling routes, Christian from Austria. It took us all half a day to finally get our motorcycles rolling into freedom: we had to prepare the papers in the office with the painting of the ship, then walk to the customs office (all those offices are in the proximity of the port in Valparaiso), spend about an hour there until the customs officers issued us the papers of temporary import of the bikes and then finally get to the terminal to retrieve our bikes from the warehouse (it was about 20 km away from the port). All went smoothly except for the unpleasant one hour waiting for the end of customs officer’s lunch-break at the terminal when we were finally all packed up, dressed up and ready to hit the road.
Luckily the motorcycles were completely fine after a month-long travel on a huge cargo-ship, so as soon as we were done with all the formalities, we hopped into our saddles and rode out of Valparaiso towards Santiago.
Apparently traffic in Santiago, as well as in all the huge cities we ever rode though, gets easily jammed. All the small local motorcycles filter through the stuck traffic with no problem, but our side-panniers make us so wide, that we have to move together with the cars… So after a small struggle in 30 degrees heat we managed to finally get out into the mountains north-east of Santiago and found a perfect camping spot for 2 nights in Yerba Loca national park. The scenery there was amazing! As we finished setting up our tent, by the mountain river, a herd of horses came in the dark, crossed the river and continued walking up the mountains. The snowy mountain peak and millions of stars in the sky made the full atmosphere just perfect. The following day, as it was Friday, people started gathering to the camping spots. Apparently, Chileans love camping. By the evening the location was completely full and I’ve never seen so many huge tents in one place!
On Saturday morning, we got down to Santiago again. It seems like a very nice city from what we have seen! However, due to some festive events in the center, the traffic jams were huge and again we struggled through them in a midday heat. We had to reach the center in order to get into the post office and take a parcel that we have received from Lithuania and to find a Sony shop to buy the new photo-camera. Luckily our insurance company accepted the claim for the camera we have lost in Brazil, so we could replace it with a newer model J It does feel like Christmas came early this year – we got our motorcycles and a new camera and it’s only the beginning of December!
From Santiago we continued South, staying in campings or renting a room if the weather was not nice… You can check our riding map here: http://www.2wheeledadventures.com/ (if it's not yet updated, please come back a bit later - we are working on it :) )
So far our impressions about Chile exceeded expectations! The roads here are very good and well maintained, drivers are polite inside the cities and outside, cities are comparably tidy and well organized, campings are available everywhere with great facilities and the prices are reasonable, people are quite reserved, but very friendly if we get in contact with them (our Spanish skills so far are limited, but I believe we get better every day). Here the Chileans always leave you alone if you do not show any signs of a desire to communicate and I like that – the opposite option in Caucasian region we were visiting when we rode to Georgia and Azerbaijan earlier this year was very tiring – anywhere we would stop for a moment, there would be a crowd of “watchers” gathering around. I personally prefer the option that we are experiencing here.
Overall we love Chile and our first impressions of this country goes well with the saying we heard the other day from a Brazilian surfer – he said that Chile is considered to be the Switzerland of South America. We completely agree with that!