Monday, January 5, 2009

South from Santiago to Puerto Saavedra – Jan 3 – 5

Leaving Santiago, for the south was mostly agriculture and freeway. Not only boring, but since Santiago is surrounded by mountains the entire valley retains the smog and pollution levels are high. I rapidly got tired of this and decided I needed a detour to the coast. The road to Constitution was nice, but very hot.

Constitution itself was not of particular interest, although there were some interesting rock formations along the coast. This is called ¨Piedra de Ventanas¨ (rock of windows).

Leaving Constitucion on Sunday morning (Jan 4) was almost a perfect day. After all that time in the desert, I felt like I was back riding in the Northwest (I really missed you, Don and Herb). The road followed the coastline, through pine forests and farming villages. Timber is a major industry in this area, and it even smelled like Tacoma, with many pulp mills.

There were also many beautiful fields of wildflowers. I was really enjoying the ride and the scenery.

I stopped for coffee in Chanco. While most of this part of Chile is quite modern, I did see one particularly interesting set of gentlemen in an ox cart along the road on their way to market. (

I decided to pass by Concepcion, Chile’s second largest city. After the holidays in Santiago I had had enough of large cities to last me for a while. I ended up that night in Lota, a former coal mining town now fallen on hard times. However, I did stop to ask the local cops for hotel directions and one of them actually went with me and helped me find a place to stay. His name was Milton, and when I told him that was my father’s name he figured I would never forget him. How true! He also was amazed that I went looking for him later just to take his picture

The next morning in Lota was really interesting. As I said, this is an old coal mining town. Since the mines closed about 20 years ago, some of the miners work as tour guides in one of the old mines, something I just had to do. We started off by going 150 feet underground in the old cage elevators… hardhats and headlamps absolutely necessary since there is no electricity and very low ceilings.

This mine extended miles underground, with tunnels even going out under the ocean. The conditions that the miners worked in, particularly in the early 1900s, were appalling. Not too far from slavery. Like many ‘company towns’, even in the US, they were forced to buy their supplies from the company store, often at highly inflated prices.

Originally all mining was done with a pick and shovel, but eventually they got hydraulic jackhammers.

Heading south, I stopped by a beautiful lake for a little picnic, I then rode on towards Puerto Saavedra where ran into 50 km of dirt road. The bad part of this was that they were re-doing the road and it was all fresh, loose gravel. This stuff is absolute crap to ride through, with constant sliding around. It was not particularly pleasant (OK, it really sucked).

However, finally I arrived at Puerto Saavedra, where I stayed at a great little hotel on the beach for the night.

1 comment:

benita francisca said...

después de tantos añ pongo a revisar mis documentos y me encontré con su tarjeta de presentación y decidi entrar y para mi sorpresa y la de mi familia encontré mi foto, vestido de uniforme y conté a mi señora la historia, la historiaa de este trotamundos que recorre sudameria en una motoo...
espero que siga así y que recuerde a este Milton de Lota.