Hola!

I hope that everyone enjoyed the first part of the their holidays and is looking forward to the New Year.  I have completely lost track of the time and for that matter have not worn a watch in days.  I was 30 minutes late for dinner last night – which all of you know NEVER happens!  I just lost track of time and I loved it!!!

Yes, I arrived safe and sound in Chile.  It was a long day of travel – especially as my entire Buenos Aires hotel seemed to be experiencing Christmas morning hang-overs.  They missed my wake up call so it’s a good thing I woke up within a reasonable window.  It was a mad dash to the airport but I made it.  8 hours later I arrived at a tiny airport in Puerto Montt, Chile (check on the map – it’s pretty far down the strip of Chile).

Being Christmas Day there were no taxis.  But, there were lots of locals to “help” the tourists out. A kindly man in his advanced years offered to drive me.  I figured he looked a lot safer than some of the other “cowboys” – literally – hanging out who seemed to be offering more than a ride.  For the outrageous sum of $6 this man drove me 14 kilometers to my hotel.  He sang me Christmas Carols the whole way.  I was laughing too hard to join in.  (And for those who really know me, I saved this kind man from a terrible experience).

The hotel where I am staying  is set right on a stunning lake with img_0783two active snow-capped volcanoes.  The day was so vivid blue the whole setting looked like a re-touched post card.  I went for a walk along the lake and sucked in the clean, clean, clean air.  The sounds and hub-bub of Buenos Aires were very far behind and now I could feel myself really melting into this vacation.
It was an early dinner (not very good) and a very early bed time.  I was a tad nervous about what lay ahead and who exactly would be my “group”.

The morning of the 26th we all gathered in the lobby and started the introductions.  There are 16 people in the group:
One Family of 4 from Virginia
One family of 4 from San Fran/Mexico/Israel
Elaine and Jim from Boston
Sandy and Kat from West Palm
Liz – NYC
Gloria – NYC
Elissa – San Fran

The families are really cool as the kids are in their teens/20’s and hang out more with us than their parents.  The three single girls all know each other and were pretty much to themselves until Gloria and Liz got really drunk later that night and now we all know more than we probably want to!!!!!!

Our two guides are Emmanuel (lived half his life in CA and half in Argentina) and Florent (French – but splits his time between Italy and Chile/Argentina).  Predictably they are hot.

And We're Off...

And We're Off...

After a brief tutorial we set off on a 52 mile bike ride of “rolling hills”.  Oh, Dear God.  This was the “easy” day.  It was 85 degrees with blaring sun (you should see my burnt shoulders!) They consider this a  good way to get “Comfortable with the Equipment”.  It was 22 miles of mini-mountains to get to lunch.  Small straight hills up and then down – and then up – and then down.  Each “hill” began to look gargantuan.  I was having a terrible time getting all the shifting right.  (More on this later).

By the time I arrived at the lunch place (#7 of 16 I might add) – my legs were shaking so bad that I wasn’t sure I could actually get off the bike and contemplated whether it would be rude to ride straight over to the dining table and eat from my bike.  I just moved very, very slowly and was grateful my legs held upon touching the ground.

A Lovely Lunch

A Lovely Lunch

Lunch was at a beautiful B&B next to the huge Lake we were riding along.   It was picturesque with Italian aria’s playing and beautiful salmon and vegetables served at tables on the lawn.  It was nice to spend some time getting to know a few of my fellow travelers a little better – some are great, some, not so much.  Florent – sigh.

After lunch we were back on our bikes for another 16 miles.  I almost fainted when Emmanual asked me if I had eaten enough.  I assured him there was plenty of food.  His concern was that the next 18 miles are much harder than the first.  Great.   Around mile 10 I thought I would be re-visiting my salmon.  The “hills” were now steady up hill grades.  Just as I was going to give up the hills ended and then the next 6 miles were pretty straight forward flat ground.  It seemed so easy that I sailed through the next 6 miles.  Emmanuel rode with me much of the way and it was great to chat and take my mind off my hands which were now numb, my butt which no longer seemed to have any “padding” protecting me from the hard seat and my very burning shoulder blades.

At last we arrived at the hotel – it was now 4:30pm.  Emmanuel asked if I was going to continue to ride and go see the beautiful water falls.   7 miles there and 7 miles back.
“How many hills?”, I inquire.
“Not so many.” replies, Emmanual.
“Are there any big ones?”
“No – maybe one slightly big one – but otherwise it’s all flat.  And  downhill on the way back”.

What the hell.  I already came this far.  I was sweaty, overheated and dying for a shower but the falls sounded really beautiful.  So, naïve little me went for it.  I’m thankful that I can cuss in 2 (sometimes 3) languages.  I needed all those words to get me though this.  I quickly learned that “slightly big” to Emmanual had a very different meaning to me.  (Insert crude joke here – yes, yes – it’s always the same between men and women).  After a grueling hour (or so – as I have no watch) – after hills that I thought for sure would give me a fatal heart attack, confusing directions that sent me down a dry river bed and the fear that this may end my ability to get back on a bike for the rest of the trip – I arrived.  I kept looking around for others from our group who had gone on ahead.  This is an optional part of the ride so many stayed at the hotel.  There is no way I could have been the only crazy person to do this!?  Where are the three Type A girls who bike “centurions” for fun?  They think the AIDS ride is easy!!!  They should be here somewhere.

Nature at it's Best

Nature at it's Best

I’m not even sure I am at the right place  – but there is an entrance and someone you pay to come in so, I hope there is something on the other side to see.   I’m going in.  I pay my fee (25 cents) and wander through the woods on some paths that shoot off into many directions.  Some signs would be good here.  But then I come upon it.  Stunning.  Rushing water everywhere coming straight from the snow capped volcano that sits behind it all.

I am the dirtiest, smelliest person at the falls and I feel completely revived by the coolness of the water spray and the beauty of nature at it’s best.  As I marvel, I hear  a Frenchman call my name.  I turn and Florent is there.  He drove the van to make sure that everyone was accounted for.  (Of course, dashing that momentary thought that he came looking for “me”).  I was not the only one to make it to the falls.  The three Type A’s had also made it there a few minutes before me.  They were having some water and had put their bikes in the van (alas why I did not see them).  Florent said it would take too long to ride the bikes back to the hotel at this hour.   Yeah!  Such wisdom.

A Great Group

A Great Group

We returned to the Yan Kee Way Lodge where we scrambled into showers and then onto opening night cocktails.  I had no hot water and had to wait for the hotel staff to sort it out so that’s why I stumbled in late.  We had a lovely wine tasting and took turns exchanging information.  It turned out that quite a few of the gang were rather curious about me being there by myself.  It was a simple explanation – I loved to travel and would certainly love to have a buddy to do it with but in the meantime, I was not going to miss out on the thing I love to do most.

The evening continued with a lovely 5 course meal and wine pairings.  Personally, I was so sore and tired not much of it registered with me.  I did enjoy getting to know my Mates a little more (even the drunk girls who said a little too much).

The Day Begins

The Day Begins

The next day ,we all met early in the morning to get our ride instructions.  I almost fainted when Emmanuel said that today we were going to have some “real hills”.  He and I already have a very different interpretation on size.  The killer is when he says that there is one hill that goes on for 1.5 miles and the elevation is also 1.5 miles.  Huh?  Is there a chair lift?
Off we go and the morning is spectacular.  Stunning scenery, crisp morning mountain air.  Towards the end of yesterday I was finally getting a feel for all the shifting on the bike.  The left hand shift has 1-2-3.  The right 1 thru 9.  The combination of the left and right gives you the various levels of power to ride.  On the flat areas it’s  3-9.  On the small (Patty small)

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

hills it’s 2-6.  The first day I was hitting the hills at 2-4 or 5.  Essentially, I was powering my way through the hills.  Coming down a hill I was hitting it hard at 3-9 and then slowly shifting to get up the hill:  3-8, 3-7, 2-6, 2-5…  It was exhausting!  It left me gasping and panting by the time I hit the crest.  My legs would be burning, my face red, my body aching.

Oh, the beauty of 1-1.  It was quite a lesson and revelation.  If you go into the hills on 1-1 it’s a slow steady, easy pedal up a VERY long hill.  But, there is no huffing and puffing, no wondering if I am finally going to have that heart attack.  Slow and steady.  What a concept!!  I took great notice of my amazing accomplishment.  I did ALL the hills – even the really big one – and enjoyed it immensely.  30 miles of hill, after hill, after hill.  “We are climbing the Andes,” says Florent.  “It’s all up hill.”  And it was.  It’s one thing to ride 30 miles on a flat boardwalk along the beach – it’s another to scale the mountain roads of the Andes.

Lunch was at a charming family home that provided us a beautiful picnic.  We had a brief rest before we all scrambled into our bathing suits and went white water rafting for 3 hours.  We rafted Class III-IV rapids with a group of local river gauchos.  It was a refreshing and

Raging Fun

Raging Fun

thrilling ride after so much hard sweaty work.  We swam in the icy cold water of the river that came directly from the 3 snow capped volacanoes that surrounded us.

We didn’t leave the river until 7pm so it was another scramble back to hot showers and a great dinner.  Everyone is geling quite well and enjoying each other’s company.  We all love the wine and drink plenty of it!

Oh dear…once again, I am running late…we are off to Argentina today.  Gotta run…more later.

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