Chilean experiences

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Apricots from Salamanca

There are some unexpected encounters that only travelling with sidecars can offer. Just a few kilometres before the Chilean city of Salamanca, we stopped at the National Reserve of Chinchilla, hoping that we will see one of those rodents. Sadly, those animals being very fearful and going out only at the end of the day, we didn’t have the opportunity to see one. Unlike a local, who was riding a van and followed us for a few kilometres. Intrigued by the sidecars, he stopped by us to chat. 

To go through the next step of our journey, he gave an apricot to each one of us. This little orange pearl has never been as juicy! Seeing our interest for this fruit, he showed us the content of his van: a mountain of fruits. It was not with a few apricots that we left, but with a full bag…

The tradition of the scarecrow of the Chilean New Year 

It was on the 31st of December and it was with Alex, around 8pm that our mechanical afternoon ended. We had a quick shower between two containers, in the half of a tank considered as the “mechanic shower”. We put a shirt for the opportunity. Then, we went to the neighbours to spend New Year’s Eve with them. We brought crepes with ham and cheese or chocolate cooked on our camping stove during the afternoon while working on the sidecars. We tried to cook them on a barbecue but we didn’t success. 

At midnight to wish the happy new year, we didn’t toast with a bubbly drink but we hugged each other and did warm “abrasos”. 

Then, we burned the man of misfortunes. Indeed, for this evening it’s a tradition in Chile, like in many other countries of South of America, to make a scarecrow and to dress him up with old clothes. A few minutes before midnight, we wrote on a piece of paper the things we would like to disappear in 2019. We slipped those words in the scarecrow. At midnight, we burned the man made of straw to leave all the negative things behind him and therefore to start a New Year on a good basis. 

The trolleybus of Valparaiso on the Avenida Colon

The different avenues located between the Valparaiso bay and the “Cerros” perched on the hills are a good playground for the trolleybus. The several cables helping the propulsion of the buses make a nice network web above the junctions. By following them, any travelers can go around in the colourful city, discovering the main squares (the Victoria square, the Sotomayor square…). After a generous meal and before to climb up the hills to visit the areas of the city, we decided to preserve our strengths and to go up the Avenida Colon by one of these trolleybuses built in another century. The majority of the vehicles of this network have been built between 1946 and 1952. Those vehicles are today the oldest trolleybuses still working in the world. 

When we climbed up the first steps, we jumped back sixty years ago. The cabin of the driver was welcoming (unlike the modern ones looking like a bunker), the holders covered of leather are fixed on the ceiling like Chinese lanterns and the seats were stuffed. When the doors opened, each traveler was looking the ones arriving in the bus before to look again this street going under the whells. We spent only a few minutes in this trolleybus but it was already with a bit of nostalgia when we stopped at the Plaza Victoria… 

The parilla of Santa Clara

At the end of the afternoon, after a nice day on the road, we looked for a wild camping spot. We passed the small village of Santa-Clara and took a track for a few kilometres to reach the Palpal river. When we arrived on site, there was a big party. Many families and young partiers came to enjoy the river for the evening and the night. We usually prefer quiet spots but we set up the camp along the bank of the river in spite of the buzzing atmosphere. 

After chatting a bit, the neighbours Tony and Gennaro invited us to a “parilla”. Happy of this offer, we accepted. They went in Tony’s 4×4 to pick up the meat. We have been surprised when they came back. They arrived with the fully equipped barbecue in their pickup truck. We thought we would meet them and their friends around a public barbecue. But it was actually only for us that Tony and Genarro brought this parilla. They prepared the nicest fire to keep an unforgettable memory of their village. The meat was delicious and accompanied with a Chilean pisco, which is according to Tony, proud of his country, “the best Pisco in the world, shared in the best village of the world, with the best company, in the world”. The following day, in spite of the specific indications, we didn’t find the biggest house of the village which should be Tony’s house who kindly invited us for the breakfast. 

Wearing crampons to walk on a glacier

Our day on the glacier of explorers began early in the morning when we have been picked up by our guide Maria-José at the Nutria campsite. Maria-José is quite small but full of energy and drives a big old Ford van. On the track, separating us from the first checkpoint, with the Deep Purple music, she was driving like a pilot making the back of the van slipping on each curve. This journey, she knows it perfectly and could do it without looking, like Michel Vaillant (reference to a F1 pilot in a French movie). 

Arrived at the first checkpoint, we needed  to take a little boat to cross a small lake. The lake was there since a few months due to the rupture of the rocks letting the water from the top of the mountains going through. This water has covered the road in the bottom of the mountains, making the guides building a boat to reach the point of departure of the excursion.

Once our bag with the equipment ready and the advice from Marie-José understood, we started this adventure. It began by walking alongside the river created by the glacier melting and we crossed a field full of rocks. Then, we did our first steps on the “field” of ice. The first kilometres have been done on a grey surface which is actually a glacier covered of a layer made of rock dust, sand and small rocks. This part is named the “dirty glacier”, which is before the “white glacier”. 

After walking during an hour and a break, we put our gaiters and crampons. The first steps were quite hard. The feeling would be the same as walking for the first time with heels. We didn’t have any other choices than learning again how to walk to move safely and without any risks on the glacier. Maria-José gave us precious advice. First on a flat surface, before to learn how to climb up and down without  going too fast due to the slope. The secret is to not hesitate to walk with strength, you can even exaggerate a bit. Knowing how to walk on the different profiles of ice is a mandatory condition to go exploring the glacier. The field of ice was going over 4200 km2. There were small puddles with a water of an intense blue colour. We followed the dynamism of Maria-José taking us from a mirador to a waterfall, from an arch to a tunnel, with a fast move to make sure we will see as much as possible of this white treasure. Only issue, we sacrificed one pair of sunglasses in the turquoise water of a crevasse to be able to try the pleasure of being a glacier explorer for one day. 

Getting jam as a gift on a ferry 

A few kilometres before Villa O’Higgins, it was 10am when we arrived in front of the pier of the ferry crossing the Rio Bravo. Some cars and trucks were already on board. The motorbikes were the last ones to go. We parked the side-cars in front of a big construction truck. As we didn’t have the time for breakfast to make sure we will have the first ferry, we brought butter, bread and orange juice. Juan was looking at us from his truck. Intrigued, he came to chat a bit. A few minutes later, he left and came back with a thermos full of coffee and a pot of plum jam made by his wife. On the deck of the ferry, it was finally a great breakfast. An unforgettable experience warming our hearts of travelers.