It’s a hell of a long way to come to ride a bicycle, from the moment I checked in at Heathrow to falling out of the plane at Puerto Montt was approx 29hrs… worth it though I think, and despite the stress of my flight cancellation to Madrid due to heavy snow .. in Madrid …it was a journey with a good vibe… I’ll explain in a minute but first back to beginning..
Given the dire warnings of the folk at the Met Office I elected to make the 300mile journey to Heathrow a day early…I expected a rough ride as I left home in heavy snow but it wasn’t too bad except for the section over Dartmoor… it felt like being back in Canada, just without winter tyres on my car…. I stopped overnight in the Heathrow Marriott… for free, one of the few benefits of flying all over for work… Not a fan of these big chain hotels but they do the job despite the pretentiousness of their marketing aimed at making you feel like you’re having a great time by being able to enjoy buying “a breakfast upgrade to include freshly squeezed orange juice” (their words, not mine…) or have wifi access in your room for just £6/hr (it must be special at that price right?)… So after years of travelling for work I’ve become somewhat cynical about the whole experience….
So back to the flight… I wouldn’t say flying with Iberia is a particularly enjoyable experience, but they are cheap and with a departure from Madrid at 1am all I was interested in was sleeping for as much of the 14hr flight as possible…. I’m not usually able to sleep on planes but a double hit of nytol (yeah, drugs… ) sorted me out for something like 7hrs of mixed semi & unconciousness. I had my own little supply of food (fruit & nuts and stuff) so could stick to my own schedule of wakefulness… Happy too that battery technology is such that my iPod stayed alive the whole way. So, he good vibe… yeah, it was strangely excellent, I met an excellent couple on their way to Jo’burg while being transferred onto the first connection to Madrid to run all day, and then sat next to a super chap on the Santiago flight… a Chilean guy living in Belgium, we managed to communicate in a mix of my somewhat tarnished spanish and downright rusty french. I didn’t get charged at all for the bike by Iberia either despite being almost 20kg over my allowance, I think in Heathrow they were just more interested in getting me to Madrid in time to avoid forking out for a hotel room for me. I collected the bike in Santiago and then rechecked it with LAN on the domestic flight to P.Montt. Very friendly girl on the check-in (no not like that, well not in public anyway) my bike gave her quite a headache as for some reason the booking for it hadn’t made it onto the local system… I took up a good half hr of her time as she tried to sort it out, and then when she did and told me nervously I’d have to pay extra she visibly relaxed when I said “oh that’s fine, I expected to have to pay excess for it..”. It was only about £33 extra too :-) The final bit of excellence to my day was losing my sunglasses.. seriously. Being so shagged out I got a taxi from the airport into town.. it was too small to get the bike box in so the driver and I cheerfully ripped into the box and stuffed the bits into the car before dumping the box and packing in a pile of builders waste (new terminal being built at P. Montt – it’s very much a ‘village airfield’ with a glossy front). I guess they fell off my head while we were messing with the bike in the back of the cab. I didn’t realise till about an hour after arriving at my lodging and swore a bit… and then an hour after that the cab driver stopped by with my sunnies, he found them while putting the seats back up in his car… can’t imagine that happening in the UK. Made me very happy. So, based on first encounters the Chilenos are terrific bunch of people. Not even a very cold shower (hot water only morning and evening) on arrival could dampen my spirits :-)
I’m staying for a couple of days in a groovy, colourful little hostel in Puerto Montt called ‘Tren del Sur’ (I don’t think I need to translate that for you..) just while I catch up on some sleep, get my shit together, decide on a route for the next few days and so on. Puerto Montt is cool, no sights as such just a colourful little town with a definite frontier feel to it. It’s cool and raining this morning so after coffee I’ll go for a wander with my camera. Haha, back to a life of underpant rotation and wrapping my brain cell around Spanish verb tenses :-) Love it.
p.s. forgot to say, bike arrived in one piece too :-) I’ve been lucky so far, this was the 29th time (that includes just transatlantic visits home when living in Canada) I put my bike on a plane, and to date have only suffered chipped paint on a race bike back in 2003 in France…. hope the luck holds out :-) It’s liberating packing the Nomad, it’s so tough that I can get away with just stuffing it in a box with a bit of padding on axle ends and stuff… I take the rear mech off and also the bars and saddle but that’s about it. If it collected a scuff along the way I can’t tell amongst the scuffs it already has :-)
p.p.s thanks also to those who’ve made a donation to Shelterbox, they’re slowly trickling in so thanks again :-)