Day 156: Tour de Paris

Day 156: Tour de Paris

Chantilly to Paris

Distance: 61.3 km

Time on board : 4 hours 28 mins

Average Speed: 13.7 kmh

Cumulative distance: 6897 km
Forgot today is Monday, a working day where everyone rushed to work. Woke up to see the hordes of cars rushing to Paris for work. On the hindsight, should have just skate to Paris yesterday which traffic is almost non existent on Sunday. Last night camped in the middle of roundabout. It was pretty comfortable to sleep if you can ignore the noise from traffic. Cooked my pasta for breakfast while waiting for the rush hour traffic to subside. But it doesn’t, so I continue skating, contenting the narrow road with them. Usually, they will overtake me by going on the other lane, but this time, with traffic´╝îcontinuously flowing from both directions, it become a mammoth task to overtake me on a narrow lane. Soon, the traffic behind me began to pile up and it was going to be this way for 40km. No choice but to take train to Saint Dennis, outskirt of Paris.
Skating into colossal cities like Bangkok, Saigon and Hanoi is nothing compared to this. Though it may seem the traffic in Paris is significantly fewer than those in Bangkok and Saigon, due to narrow lane without any shoulder, it is unwise to skate into Paris on peak hour. In Asia, though traffic is significantly larger, but i felt safer skating into cities like Bangkok and Saigon because the roads are wider with shoulder lanes and vehicles move a lot slower  among the heavy traffic. Furthermore, they are used to sharing the road with slow moving mode of transport like bicycle and me.
Stopped at luzarches to grab a train to Saint Dennis, where I can find a safer road to skate on to Paris. Once I found river Seine, it become easy to navigate. Just follow the bike path on river Seine. First stop is stade de France´╝î where France won their first and only World cup. Visited all other attractions including place de Bastille, Notre Dame, lovre, Effiel tower and arc de triumph. Paris was too expensive for me to stay in, since my fellow long distance skater Romain Bessiere the Globeskater with his girlfriend Maria Teresa Rabelo Rafael invited me to stay with them in Caen. Caen is located in Normandy, near D Day landing, isn’t my planned route at first. It is 250km west of Paris, so I had to take 2 hours train to Caen, where I was picked up by Romain at the train station. His girlfriend cooked me a great pasta and oysters feast. Normandy is next to the sea, thus it is famous for its seafood. 
Will stay with them for a couple of days to recuperate before moving on to Tours, where Panta Gruelon, another famous skater awaits me.

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Day 643: Castle Castro

Day 643: Castle Castro

Chile: 25 km before Castro to Castro

Distance: 25.2 km

Time on board: 2 hours 33 minutes

Average speed: 10 kmh

Cumulative distance: 20,962.6 km

Super chilled day. 26 km to Castro and 3 hours to skate there in smelling rose fashion. Woke up at 7 am and brew my hot pot of tea before setting off at 8.10 am. Cloudy with sun making a guest appearance at times. Had to wear double layers to skate in 5-10 degree Celsius. Not really spectacular landscape after all, I have already skated the Andes mountains Pacific coast highway, Chile’s 7 lakes. Nothing here seem to awe me, rolling hills up and down.

Pass another 1166 km marker on the Highway 5. A selfie with the marker since my longboard is made and sponsored by 1166 longboards.

B

y 11 am, arrived at La minga hostel. I was too early to check in thus I left Tony and Turtle there to explore the city. Bought 2 extra pair of shoes since they are on sales. 10,000 pesos or 15 USD for 2 pairs. I will need them eventually. Once I crossed over to Patagonia, I don’t know if I ever encounter any towns to replace my constant wearing off shoes. Better to get spares in case.

Day 642: Crap Cracks

Day 642: Crap Cracks

Chile: Caulin to 25 km before Castro

Distance: 71.5 km

Time on board: 7 hours 53 minutes

Average speed: 9 kmh

Ascent: 788 m. Descent: 726 m

Cumulative distance: 20,937.4 km

Last night, while getting up to pee, I could still see array of stars shining so bright despite the light pollution from lamp post. It would be perfect if the lamp post was turned off.

Today was a gift. All sunny and dry, a perfect day. Plan was to skate as far as possible towards Castro in a relaxing mode, so next day I have less ground to cover and more time to chill in Castro.

Though my sleeping spot is a bus stop, no one was there to commute. Everyone had their own vehicle. Therefore I was left undisturbed entire time. Even though the sun was up and shining, the temperature was 9 degree Celsius. That was similar to mountains in Bolivia. Had to put on my jacket and skate for a while before warming up.

The road was undescribable horrible. Concrete slab. The surface was smoother than asphalt roads but concrete roads cracked up easily, leaving giant cracks on the road, big enough to engulf my wheels. Repair were being made to patch the cracks with tar to cover the gaps but cracks appeared faster than they could patch. I had to tread carefully as I skated through these cracks. When approaching a giant cracks, first slow down and make sure that my goofy or left leg was firm on the ground, slowly pushing my board over the cracks. These process hampered my pace and imagine I have to do over tens and hundred of km since most likely the highway 5 in this island will be this type of road. Fortunately, I got ample time to arrive in Quellon on Sunday for my ferry. My speed barely rise above 10 kmh. Downhill was the most perilous moment. With cracks like this, I couldn’t let it go and dash down. I have to dodge the cracks, sometime cross over to opposite directional lane. Therefore, at times I opted to walk down the hill, seeing rows of cracks waiting for me. Unlike the ninja Potholes, at least they were visible, thus I can easily dodge it.

16 km, before Ancud, the first city encountered in Chiloe, a path led me to a beach facing the Pacific ocean. I could have camped there last night if not for the rain. It would have been the perfect camp spot. Chilled, enjoyed the view, listened to the waves roaring. I got time to smell roses today. So Why not.

By 12 noon, I only covered a mere 29 km before pausing for lunch. Continued on the same crappy cracked road. Hoping to cover at least 70 km, so tomorrow I will have 26 km to Castro.

Chiloe is an island and naturally there are hills. Highway 5 cut through these hills, thus I seldom get to enjoy long stretches of flat road.

Recently I became a salvager on the highway. Since my 15 litres water reservoir kept leaking, I had to find replacement. Few days ago, Found the 2 discarded 6 litres bottles on the highway. Now they serve as my new reservoir. Today found few discarded plastic bottles on the highway to be reused for various purposes. I don’t have to buy new bottles from Supermarkets, thus saving money and Environment. Killing two birds with a stone.

Encountered a construction site where they closed one lane to repatch the road. I wanted to ask them to patch my side faster but decided not to. When they closed one lane, only one side of traffic can move at a time. This worked to my advantage. I skated the entire lane when my side was closed and walked to the shoulder lane when they started to move in batches.

At last, after 57 km, the concrete slabs transformed into Tarmac. Oh my sweet tarmac. I miss you so much. I finally skate to my usual pace. Looking at the dark gloomy clouds, with high possiblity of raining tonight, I opted to sleep in bus stop again.

My dinner was spaghetti with olive oil sauce fried with garlic, asparagus and red pepper plus clams. The sauce from the clam made my sauce exceptionally delicious. However, as I reached for my pasta, I spilled my sauce. Managed to salvage part of the vegetables and clams. If not it will be wonderful meal.

Christian and his two young sons came over to say hi while I was camping at the bus stop just outside their house. Christian hailed me to his house and gave me a bottle of soft drink and packet of pasta and snacks.

Day 640-641: Friendzoned by Weather

Day 640-641: Friendzoned by Weather

Day 640

Date of entry: 13 November 2018

Chile: Puerto Vara to Puerto Montt

Distance: 21.5 km

A short skate to Puerto Montt thus I slept in my comfortable dorm a little longer. 10 pm, finally set off. On highway 5, nothing interesting to see and weather as usual, raining on and off. When I entered Puerto Montt on highway 5, a jogger was running on the shoulder lane. Don’t they have a park in Puerto Montt to run? Have selfie with him. Too bad, he never invited me to his house, though I hinted I am looking for a place to sleep, he never get the hint. I skated straight to Naviera Austral office to purchase my Sunday’s ferry ticket from Quellon to Chaiten. The lady informed me that I can buy the ticket in Quellon, Chiloe island on the actual day of departure itself. Seeing that I am on a skateboard, she mentioned that if I couldn’t make it to Quellon in time, there will be no refund. She insisted that I should buy the ticket in Quellon. I further insisted that I prefer to purchase the ticket now rather than to arrive Quellon and find out the tickets are sold out on Sunday then left stranded for a week cos ferry only run twice weekly. Anyway I got 6 days to slowly skate the 200 km across Chiloe island to Quellon. After standing on my ground, she relented and sold me the ticket. Then I made my way to Casa Perla, my hostel in Puerto Montt. Did my grocery shopping and watched recently released Crimes of Grindelwald in theatre. In my hostel, there was another group of travellers from Hong Kong. They invited me to join them for dinner where they cooked fresh seafood soup and pasta Growing up in a Cantonese household, soup is essential part of the meal. Every Cantonese dinner must have a soup. I missed my late godmother’s brewed soup. The dinner brought me back closer to home.

Day 641

Date of entry: 14 November 2018

Chile: Puerto Montt to Caulin

Distance: 73.4 km

Time on board: 7 hours 7 minutes

Average speed: 10.3 kmh

Ascent: 427 m. Descent: 417 m

Cumulative distance: 20,865.9 km

You know it is harder to move out to the harsh cold environment when you are in a warm comfortable position than when you start out camping in the cold. Since I am already in the cold, it doesn’t make any difference if I stay put or not. Either way i will still be wet and cold. Easier to psych myself. Whereas I am always tempted to remain in my warm sheltered hostel, it is always harder to get myself motivated. In life, it is the same. When you are at the top, you get complacent and not wanting to risk and step out of your comfort zone. In the end, you become stagnant in your life. Whereas those who are at rock bottom, they are really motivated to move up the ladder. If they don’t, life will be miserable for them. So it is a do or die situation.

Another sumptuous wide spread breakfast in Casa Perla. Yoghurt, strawberries, bread and jam. Had the breakfast with the Hong Kong travellers. They rented a car for their entire duration of travel in Chile. They too will be heading to Chiloe, of course they will be faster than I do.

Prolonging my stay till 8.30 am then finally got the strength to move myself out of my comfort zone. Back into the rain. Hello rain. First I have to walk up the steep slopes for 2 km or so. Puerto Montt layout is similar to Abancay, Peru. The streets are extremely steep. The drivers were patient with me occupying their lane while I was struggling to walk up the road. By 9 am, I got back to highway 5 and officially start my skate to the end of mainland Chile where I will cross the straits of Chaco to Chiloe island by ferry.

Skating in Chilean weather is akin to being Friendzoned by a girl. When I put on my rain gear, it doesn’t rain. All sunny and gets too warm for me in my rain gear. When I take it off, it rained again. Someone upstairs just want to watch me strip and put on. Can someone decide whether she wants to rain or sunshine. Don’t make it ambiguous. Half sunny and half raining. I am not sure whether I wear my rain gear or not. At least if it rains perpetually, I am prepared to deal with it.

In Chile, you have to ingrain the thought in your head that rain is a normal day. Everyday will be cold wet rainy day. Once ingrained in your mind, it will be easier to cope. When you get a sunny day, that will be a gift. Another of my life’s philosophy in skating. When you set your expectations low, anything extra that comes along, it is a bonus and a gift. That way, your life will be happier. Any sunny day here will be an excellent day, until it happens. When? I don’t know.

Someone upstairs decided to give me an answer, its reply was a heavy shower on me all the way. Cold freezing rain lashed on me, at least I know what to expect today. Skated till 37 km and seek refuge from rain in a bus shelter and lunch as well. 22 km more to ferry terminal in Pargua.

Made it to Pargua jetty by 3.20 pm. Missed the ferry by a couple of minutes. Fortunately, the ferry runs every 20 minutes. After all, the straits is only 6 km, doesn’t take too long a time to return back and forth. Ferry transports all sorts of vehicles and passengers. As I pushed Tony and Turtle up the barge, the staff were wondering on how to price me. There was no price for skateboard and baby stroller. I am the first. In the end, they considered my rig as Bicycle and I paid 2500 pesos or 3.5 USD for the 20 minutes ferry. Tony and Turtle were parked beside all the trucks and lorries while I went upstairs the lounge to seek warmth.

Upon arrival, I let all other motor vehicles to alight first. That way, I can have entire road to myself. Cos the ferry jetty is only the entrance to the island. When all other vehicles in my current batch move ahead of me, the next batch of vehicles from next crossing will arrive 40 minutes later. I got the entire lane to myself for 40 minutes.

As I skated on, I got the taste of the Patagonia Wind. I am not in Patagonia yet though. Chiloe island is situated right next to Pacific ocean and naturally bear the full blunt of the wind. I am not going to make it in time to Ancud and next day to Castro, where I will sleep in hostel. If I am going to pay for expensive hostel bed in Chile, I jolly well make full use of the time there, making my money’s worth. No point skating 100 km tomorrow till late evening and pay for a hostel bed just to sleep for a few hours. Anyway I got lots of time. My ferry to Chaiten is on Sunday evening. That gives me another extra full day to skate. Now my plan is tomorrow skate 60-70 km to somewhere and next day skate a short 20 km to Castro where I can enjoy the whole day. From Castro, it is 90 km to Quellon which I will divide it into 2 relaxing days and grab the ferry in the evening.

At 6 pm, after 10 km from the Jetty, I ended my day in a bus stop in Caulin, small village. Shelter from rain and wind, what more can I ask from.

Day 639: Behemoth’s toes

Day 639: Behemoth’s toes

Chile: las Cascadas to Puerto Vara

Distance: 66.6 km

Time on board: 6 hours 50 minutes

Average speed: 9.8 kmh

Ascent: 660 m. Descent: 630 m

Cumulative distance: 20,771 km

Everytime I am prepared, nothing ever happens. If I didn’t prepare, something is bound to occur. Last night, I set up my rain tarp for the predicted storm, in the end, it was dry whole night. Not that is a good thing, I needed to test whether my rain Shelter can withstand Patagonian rain and wind.

The sun rose, waking the mountains in sight. Reddish hue fell on the white snow, giving it red white mixture but not pink. More like red egg yolk.

Since at the bottom of volcano Osorno, naturally I have to crawl under the behemoth’s giant foot. Unlike in Peru, where I can snake round the mountain giant’s foot, Osorno doesn’t allow me. Instead I have to climb up and down the Behemoth’s toes. Steep up and steep down. Either way, I have to skate really slow. Skate down slowly the steep almost vertical slope and started walking upon the uphill. The process rinse and repeat. You can imagine how slow I get.

Furthermore, the picturesque mountain scenery seduces me. Every turn, I would stop to take shot. With mountains right in front towering over me, I simply have to pose for skating shots in mountains backdrop. Once in a lifetime opportunity. Can’t miss the photo opportunities.

As a result, progress was slow. By 10 am, I only skated 20 km in 3 hours. Last year around this time, I was in Ensenada in Mexico, now I have arrived in Ensenada, another town with same name. A driver stopped and came over to me. He too was a skateboarder. Yesterday, they had a skate pump track race in nearby Osorno volcano, where I already passed it earlier on. A pump skate track in the volcano Osorno, that must be a sight to behold. He was going up now and invited me to join him. He would drive me up but I have to make my own way back cos he was heading up north. I have to give it a miss since I got 60 km more to Puerto Montt. Tried few more photo and videos with volcano Osorno behind my back in Ensenada.

Once after Ensenada, the road flattened. With long stretches of flat smooth road, I am able to pick up on my speed. Ensenada had dedicated bike lane along the road all the way to Puerto Vara. For a brief moment, I followed on it but switched over to main road’s shoulder lane. A bus driver slowed down to politely inform me that I should be on the bike lane. That advice I didn’t heed. Cos the bike lane was littered with debris and I am facing the incoming traffic. Though there were barriers in place, facing the incoming traffic can be psychological frightening. What you can see does frighten you. I rather not face incoming traffic, prefer traffic to come behind me, so I don’t panic. I can’t control what I can’t see thus it doesn’t bother me as well.

A garbage truck with two collectors kept shouting me words of encouragement. We constantly leap frog over each other. When they stopped to collect the rubbish, I overtake them. When they drove, overtaking me. I got motivated to skate faster to catch up with them. Though truck was faster in speed, but my average speed was much faster cos they stopped frequently to collect garbage. They should have given me a lift since we are on the same pace, then I don’t have to exert so much energy. Of course, they didn’t have the space to carry Tony unless Tony is thrown into garbage truck. Once, I even helped them to collect garbage bags just for fun. I wanted to experience the job of being garbage collector. Don’t laugh, though it is a menial job, but they played an essential role. Without them, streets will be filled with rubbish. I gave them my respect.

Hit 43 km by 12.45 pm despite slow start. As usual, stopped at bus shelter to cook lunch. The garage truck at last overtook me. The truck runs on petrol but I have to run on food. How to compete with the truck. At least I was faster than them until I needed to eat. In front of the bus stop, was a wooden built church. Trees are in abundance here so supposed most houses are constructed in wood rather than bricks.

Resumed at 2.30 pm. I figured that it would be pointless for me to reach Puerto Montt cos I still have to take a day off tomorrow for grocery shopping and purchasing my ferry tickets. That meant I have to pay 20 USD for 2 days camping. That is the cheapest accommodation I can find in Puerto Montt. Next city is Puerto Vara, just 20 km away and I found online a cheap hostel, a dorm bed for $10. In Chilean standard, that is a bargain. Plan now was to skate to Puerto Vara and enjoy the rest of the day by the lake. Next day, a short 20 km to Puerto Montt should not take me more than 3 hours, where I still will have 3 quarters of the day to shop and buy ferry tickets and explore the city.

On the way, met 2 German cyclists heading northwards. They began from Ushuaia. We exchanged tips on the upcoming route. They warned me in Argentina Patagonia side, I would have long stretches of deserted area. Must bring more water.

Last 10 km to Puerto Vara, traffic beame more hectic thus I switched over to bike lane. I finally understood why my hostel in Puerto Vara was so cheap, cos it was located on top of the hill which I have to push Tony up. Good news tomorrow I will have half a hill to climb. On booking.com, the bed was at 10 USD but when I only walked in, I only paid 7 USD or 5500 pesos. Sometimes it pays not to book in advance. Cos booking.com takes comission from the booking, therefore the hostel have to jack up the prices to make up loss. When I walked in, I pay lesser cos there is no comission taken.

Went down to downtown for dinner and exchange my USD for Chilean peso. Along the way, met with 4 other cyclists from Canada, Colombia and France. They too will be doing the same route as I am. Going to Chiloe island before crossing to Chaiten. More company on the road for me. Bright sunny day to enjoy the two towering volcanos by the lake.

Day 638: Storm by the Beach

Day 638: Storm in the beach

Chile: Osorno to Las Cascadas

Distance: 75 km

Time on board: 7 hours 4 minutes

Average speed: 10.6 kmh

Ascent: 354 m. Descent: 379 m

Cumulative distance: 20,704.4 km

The lure of warm comfortable bed beats misty morning and wretched weather. Took another day in Osorno though it cost me another 20 USD for a night. What the heck. I calculated I have ample time to catch the Sunday’s ferry from Quellon to Chaiten. Analysed the weather forecast incoming week. Supposedly I will have better weather on Sunday, when I said better weather meant lesser hours of rain, and Monday will be dry and sunny.

Arranged to stay in a couchsurfing host in Puerto Montt on Sunday. However, since I postponed my skate, I can only arrive in Puerto Montt. I sent him a message informing this, so far no reply from him. I suppose I will have to stay in hostel in Puerto Montt on Monday.

Sunday morning, it was still drizzling. Waited till 8 am, after sky juice ran out. When I began skating, felt a massive resistance and a loud screeching noise coming from my wheels. My rear bearings have rusted and couldn’t spin at all, caused by the constant rainfall. Barely managed a 8 kmh speed on smooth flat road. I can’t skate 70 km on this bearings. Stopped at a park to replace my rusty bearings. My front bearings were spinning though not smooth. I only replaced my rear bearings as I have only 3 sets of spare bearings, can’t afford to replace all everytime it rust. I am going to encounter lots of rain in the coming weeks. Though my Gbomb sponsor Mark is always helping to supply me with bearings but sending over to Chile, will take weeks to arrive. I have to do with what I have left.

Once my bearings were all settled, I am back to business. Today is Sunday, another tranquil traffic. Not taking highway 5 this time, I took route 55, longer route to Puerto Montt, which I will arrive tomorrow. This route will take me around lake llanquihue.

Soon after, it is all sunshine and water on the road have evaporated. Enjoyable skating moment. Bus drivers slowed down to give me the thumb up as sign of encouragement.

Hit a shag. 26 km, the road was abruptly ended. The bridge was closed for reconstruction. I thought I could walk through it as I always did. Then I saw the middle section of bridge was completely gone. Unless I can swim or jump fly across the river, there is no way I can continue on. No wonder the touring motorcyclists returned back. They should have stopped to warn me. I don’t want to skate 26 km back to Osorno and take highway 5 again. There must be a way out. I consulted the locals in the town and analysed Google map. Lucky me, there was a suspension bridge for pedestrians to cross. Too bad for motor vehicles, they have to go a huge detour. After crossing the suspension bridge, I have to walk through a path of farmlands before connecting back to the route 55. All this hassle consume much of my precious time to skate.

Skated 40 km to the bus stop where I cook my instant noodle with eggs and asparagus. 44 km, reached at the junction where I either choose to go around the lake or go direct to fruitillar and connect to highway 5 to Puerto Montt, shorter route. If I choose the Fruitillar route, I can camp by the lake facing volcano Osorno. But I have been camping by lakes facing volcanos. This time, let me have a change of scenery, I chose to skate around the lake and camping by the mountain side.

When I turn into route 55 V, the volcano Osorno appeared in sight. The gigantic volcano dominated the horizon, as if I am skating right into the heart of the volcano. Horrors began, the road surface was chipseal. It was secondary road, therefore little maintenance on this road was done. I barely managed to skate below 10 kmh, mostly 8 kmh. Almost on par to the worst road I ever skated, Santa Ana in El Salvador. I got 25 km to skate. Oh gosh. Thought I could arrive early and chill by the beach and enjoy the scenery. At this pace, 6 pm was the earliest estimated time to arrive.

To make matters worse, thunder roared and suddenly sky opened its gates to flood me once again. At least I got a good few hours of sunny rain free to skate. With sketchy road surface, curvy downhills and wet slippery road, are recipes for disaster. Learning from my previous crash few days ago, I am not taking the risk to repeat history. Thus I ran down, clutching the brakes on Tony. After all, Tony was designed for jogging.

Resumed skating when I felt assured to do so. Singing in the rain to keep my spirits high. I associated the thunder with The Corrs’ Dream. The chorus goes like

Yeah, thunder only happens when it’s raining
Players only love you when they’re playing
Yeah, women they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know, you’ll know

Yes I am that old to remember this song.

By 6 pm, I arrived at beach in Las Cascadas. The long awaited storm began brewing. After exploring to find the ideal spot to set my camp, sky began its final assault. Gave all whatever it had before dying off. Though the rain had stopped, I am not taking any chances. I set my tarp as shelter from the rain, giving my bivy additional layer of protection in case it rains again during the night. Finally get to rehearse what is my rain Shelter. Used Tony as one end to secure the tarp and a tree for the other. I can say I did my scout master in my primary school proud. Soft beach sand couldn’t hold my pegs with strong wind threatening to blow them off. I have to find creative ways to secure my tarp.

Enjoyed the sunset and volcano Calbuco across. Tomorrow I shall reach Puerto Montt. I can’t predict what the weather will be like. All I sing this by Meatloaf

Somebody’s gotta stand in the storm
In the lightning, when it pours
Be strong enough to lean on
Show you what a backbone’s for

Stand in the Storm

Day 636: Singing in the rain

Day 636: Singing in the rain

Chile: Paillaco to Osorno

Distance: 69.1 km

Time on board: 6 hours 12 minutes

Average speed: 11.1 kmh

Ascent: 285 m. Descent: 344 m

Cumulative distance: 20,629.4 km

Last night sleeping in bus stop wasn’t completely a dry affair. The wind blew the rain into the shelter, soaking my sleeping bag partially and sprinkle my face with droplets. My ground sheet trapped the rain water and turned to a swimming pool, in an exaggerated metaphor.

Rain persisted through the night and morning. Brewed hot tea to keep warm. Looked like the rain is going to persist throughout the day. No point waiting for the rain to stop cos it will take forever. Better get started. Once wet, always wet.

A Chinese saying goes Making Joy during suffering. That is all I can do is to keep my spirit up in midst of cold icy rain. Belting aloud songs associated with rain as I skated. Mariah Carey’s Through the rain resonate the most with my skate in the rain. Here is the chorus.

I can make it through the rain
I can stand up once again on my own
And I know that I’m strong enough to mend
And every time I feel afraid I hold tighter to my faith
And I live one more day and I make it through the rain

Kept singing this song and others like a broken jukebox. I can’t remember most of songs’ entire lyrics, sang the chorus verses. All kinds of songs that comes to my mind, I sang aloud on highway 5. From rock ballads to pop. Singing kept my morale high. The rain ain’t stopping me, maybe slow me. I have to skate with caution on wet icy surface in order not to aquaplane or crash.

Along the highway, lies shrines of those who perished in accidents on highway. What saddened me the most is whenever I came across shrines of young children, characterized by soft toys hanging on their shrine. Died young not through their fault, through reckless driving of adults. A few minutes slower won’t make any much difference to work or whatever but a minute slower can save others and one’s life. Unless you are ambulance driver transporting patient in urgent aid. Later on, witnessed an accident crash. An container truck overturned, the wreckage was everywhere. I wondered did the driver managed to survive the accident.

Though slow in the rain, but I made good progress cos I didn’t pause much for breaks except to pee. Kept on singing and skating without any stoppages. By noon, clocked 45 km. Seek shelter in a bus stop to cook my lunch. A hot soupy instant noodles does the trick. While cooking in the bus stop, people came and go, awaiting for bus. Chatting with me as well. After lunch, brewed another pot of tea. Tea bags will be my essential item for my final leg to Ushuaia.

A respite from the rain for brief period before resuming to torment me once more.

When Life lashed rain on you, you open your mouth to quench your thirst

By then, regardless the intensity of rain, I am already wet. Thus it doesn’t matter whether is downpour or drizzle, I couldn’t care less. Heaven eventually ran out of Sky juice to pour on me. Yes, I outlasted the rain. However, it is a tiny triumph cos according to weather forecast, rain will persist throughout the entire week and longer. After all, I am in South Chile where rain never stops.

Arrived in Osorno by 3 pm. After 3 days of wild camping, it is time to seek comfort and warmth in hostel today. Saved enough money from free camping over last 3 days to pay for tonight’s bed. Hot Shower is my paradise now. 15,000 peso or 21 USD for a dorm bed. That is almost USA pricing. Have to find ways to camp dry apart from sleeping in bus stops cos I simply can’t afford to sleep in hostel every time when it rains. It is going to rain alot throughout my journey from now on. But I celebrate my victory over Rain. I can make it through the rain.

Day 635: Ninja potholes

Day 635: Ninja potholes

Chile: Panguipulli to Paillaco

Distance: 78.3 km

Time on board: 7 hours 8 minutes

Average speed: 11 kmh

Ascent: 674 m. Descent: 676 m

Cumulative distance: 20,560.3 km

I thought my idyllic camp spot was secluded enough for the night. Apparently, I was mistaken. Late night, a group of youngsters sneaked into my willow tree camp hideout to drink and chill. Obviously, they saw me in my bivy, but didn’t bother me at all. They minded their business and chit chat till late night. Across the tiny ditch, lies another tent. This must be a popular free camp spot. Wondered if they are on bicycle.

My camp spot is on the beach, it would be a colossal effort to push my loaded Tony out. Therefore, I have to make several trips back and forth, carrying my stuff and Tony to the road.

Started the day walking up exiting Panguipulli. Cos these are crater lakes, meant that I have to descend to enter the lake and ascend up to exit. The ascent was steep. Usually, in such situation in Peru and Bolivia, I would hail a taxi to take me past the steepest portion, it would only cost few dollars. However, here in Chile, taxis are extremely expensive, similar to a taxi in Europe or USA. This time, have to push up Tony by myself. The steep uphill lasted 3 km, almost a hour for me. After that, is back to business, rolling hills.

What I did on uphill, I pushed as fast as my human legs possibly could. In fact, I was accelerating on the uphill. This was to gain momentum and escape from gravity pull. More like a rocket launching to escape Earth’s gravity. This doesn’t work in insane steep uphill.

9 am, the American couple caught up with me. They too stayed in Panguipulli last night, except they got a Air BnB. The perks of traveling as couple, the cost of sharing a room is halved whereas I have to pay alot more for a single room. I better find a partner who is interested in travelling the world either bicycle or skateboard, maybe a motorcycle or car, so I can be towed. They are on exact route till Puerto Montt where they head directly to Carreterra Austral.

My brake pads and brake cable weren’t equipped to deal with high speed descent. Forgot to change over my Salmon Kool Stop brake pads from Pushie. They are really amazing, I can descend down the Andes on that, anywhere wasn’t an issue. All that I can find now in Chile is some cheap brake pads. On extremely fast descent, I couldn’t reduce my speed slow enough. The road was ambushed with potholes. Usually, I can see them coming ahead but the tree shade close to the road concealed the potholes, making them impossible to spot. The ninja pothole lurking in the dark was ready to strike me down Untill I was too close to see the ninja pothole, it was too late to avoid the imminent crash. I did ninja roll to the road side where the ground is grass and soft on impact. My stuff came flying all over the place. My sleeping bag and the dry pack, which carries all my essential daily use and most importantly my passport and credit card, rolled down the slope. Fortunately, my dry pack didn’t roll down to the bottom. If not, that will be disastrous. Losing passport and credit cards, I am not sure how to return home, stranded in middle of nowhere. Retrieved my dry pack and combed the accident site within 10 metres radius for my belongings. Unsurprisingly, I escaped unscathed, no scratches or bruises except a blow to my confidence. Tony and Turtle (my longboard) were still intact without any damages. Luckily there wasn’t any traffic behind me at the time of crash. Anyway drivers always gave me wide berth when they overtake me. Gathered all my stuff and what is hard to keep track what is missing untill you need to use them. As long as my passport and credit card, Tony and Turtle is there, it is all right.

A blow to my confidence, subsequent downhills, I walked down to be safe. Yes more such ninja Potholes to come and a crazy steep switchback. Once regained my confidence to skate downhill, made sure my downhill speed doesn’t exceed my uphill speed. In fact, my uphill skating speed is faster than my downhill. When there wasn’t any tree shade to conceal the potholes, then I had the guts to descend normally.

At 46 km, lies a river San Pedro 200 m away from the main road. There wasn’t any bridge to connect. In order to cross the 100m wide river, one must board a manual ferry or barge. Only one vehicle can board at a time. I pondered why couldn’t they simply build a bridge. At the side of the ferry crossing, there was a picnic site. That was supposed to be my camping spot yesterday if I skated 100 km. Instead, it became my lunch spot. Willow trees partially submerged on the river bank, clear turquoise river. Several BBQ pits right at the banks was submerged underwater. Not having a shower for 3 days, I was tempted to jump in for a bath. Once my feet touched the icy cold water, I jumped back out. Only if I was in sorching hot Argentina Chaco region or Paraguay, I wouldn’t hesitate to swim in this icy River. Set my picnic by the river. A family of horses was present to graze the grass. They weren’t interested in my fabulous lunch. My water supply was running low, tempted to replenish with the fresh clear river but decided not to when I saw huge horse poo next to the river. Better not to take the risk. Simply washed my utensils and pots with river water. Loitered around to enjoy the awesome picnic spot and napped till 2 pm before resuming.

For a stretch of flat smooth road, I was able to skate 18 kmh. That is all I asked for. Flat and smooth. No need for fast downhill or whatever.

Entered Los Lagos town to connect back to busy highway 5 once more. Highway 5 is actually safer than quiet 7 lakes route cos there was shoulder lane all for me and I can see all potential hazards in front of me, not concealed by any trees. Except the highway 5 shoulder lane was Dr Jekyll and Hyde. Mixture of smooth and rough surfaces.

Finally replenish my water supply at Shell gas station. The dark clouds meant the imminent rain tonight. Picked up my pace. Started drizzling. Stopped 5 km before Paillaco at a deserted bus shelter. I could continue another 5 km to Paillaco to camp in anther bus shelter from the rain. But I reckon that the bus shelter would be crowded with commuters in the morning. Settled for this one. Surrounding area was a thick forest, supposed there wasn’t any inhabitants in vicinity.

Day 634: Snow White and 7 lakes

Day 634: Snow White and 7 lakes

Chile: Villarrica to Panguipulli

Distance: 61.8 km

Time on board: 6 hours 51 minutes

Average speed: 9 kmh

Ascent: 655 m. Descent: 586 m

Cumulative distance: 20,482 km


Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I Skate the world
And the seven Lakes,
Everybody’s looking for something.

Changed the Sweet Dreams lyrics sang by Eurythmics to suit my feeling over these couple of days skating 7 lakes. Simply a dream.

Though my camp spot last night by the lake was idyllic scenery but it was still in a city. Till late night, locals hanged around the park and sang Chilean version of Mariachi music. When they were gone, the dogs came having their turf war. I guess it isn’t that perfect after all. No wonder the American couple chose to sleep in hotel last night. Nevertheless, why pay for a room where I got a camp spot like this for free. Make no sense to me.

Woke up at 5.30 am with nothing to pack, quickly had my breakfast and prepared to set off by 6.45 am. Carrying Tony up the stairs was an immerse challenge. A homeless man, shabby dressed came to help me. Gave him few hundred pesos as gratitude. Without him, I would break my back carrying Tony up.

Upon leaving Villarrica, I am faced with steep inclines. Was planning to skate 98 km to Punaco which will then take me another 3 days to Puerto Montt. In all, I planned 5 days to skate from Temuco to Puerto Montt. Me being cautious, I always had my backup route to rely on, in case when I fall behind my target. After 2 hours, I only cleared 13 km with all the uphills. No way I can do my 5 days route. Instead I opt for my 6 days plan, skating to Panguipulli 60 km today. Since I am only doing 60 km to Panguipulli, I don’t have to take the shortcut S-239 T back road, which is partially unpaved.

Followed on Route 95 to Lican Ray, my 2nd lake. By 10.40 am, skated a measly 27 km to Lican Ray. To arrive at Lican Ray, I must descend a sharp downhill to the lake. All the lakes are surrounded by hills and mountains. Thus, to get there, I must descend a steep downhill. From afar and above, I already can see the lake. Going down as lake was getting larger to my eyes, was both terrifying and amazing. My new brake pads weren’t equipped for such steep descent, have to footbrake as well, hurting my favourite green shoes. I planned to ride on it all the way to Ushuaia, I guess not anymore.

The American couple mentioned they too will head to Lican Ray, after which to Panguipulli as me. By now, with my slow speed on the hills, they should have caught up with me here. No sight of them.

Usually, I would cover 50% or more of my journey and stop for lunch by 12 noon. Not even 11 am or halfway, I decided against my routine and settle for lunch at the beach. With the scenic black sand beach facing the mountains, it was a Idyllic lunch spot. How can I just move on. The mature ladies at the beach operating the boat rides across the lake, chatted with me as I cooked my lunch. When I packed up to leave at 1 pm, the lady handed me 5000 pesos or 7.5 USD. Chileans are now competing with the Argentinians for the most generous people in my list. Simply awesome Chileans. I am keeping 5000 pesos for my rainy day fund when the weather turns torrential, I can fall back on my rainy day fund to sleep warm in hotels if possible. The weather is nice and my camp spot today will be amazing as well, another camping by the lake. No need to waste precious dollars on expensive hotels.

Back to skating, I was severely challenged by a steep yet short uphill, which sapped away my strength. After which, the remaining 35 km was marked with a series of roller coaster hills. Going up and going down till the final 2 km, a super steep descent to lake Panguipulli. I opt to walk down. Better to be slow and alive than fast and dead. The view by my 3rd lake lived up to expectation. Willow trees partially submerged in the lake and snow capped Volcano Choshuenco lies from afar. Found another idyllic camp spot under the willow tree. Maybe tonight will be tranquil for me.

Every day is going to be more beautiful as I head down to Patagonia. This was only the appetizers for more to come.

Day 633: Snow White Queen

Day 633: Snow White Queen

Chile: Temuco to Villarrica

Distance: 81.5 km

Time on board: 7 hours 26 minutes

Average speed: 11 kmh

Ascent: 388 m. Descent: 295 m

Cumulative distance: 20,420.2 km

Crossed over to Bariloche, Argentina to celebrate Martha’s. Had to cut my trip cos the return bus was all sold out for a week except the next day. After the night meeting Martha for dinner, the next day took the return bus back to Temuco.

At Temuco, managed to watch Queen’s Biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Is more of Freddie Mercury’s biopic. You know the movie is entertaining when I mouthed Queen’s hits and shaked to their beats. I have been a fan of Queen since my secondary school days, even traveled to Zanzibar, Tanzania, home to Freddie Mercury’s birth place.

5 November, I was scheduled to leave Temuco. As I pushed Tony, I faced resistance. The brake pads were rubbing against the rim when it wasn’t activated. I waited till afternoon for the bike shop to open and fixed my brake. Stayed another night in Temuco. My Guesthouse wasn’t that expensive, 9000 pesos or 13.5 USD

All was fixed and set to go today. Skated through Temuco’s rush hour traffic unscathed. Continued on to highway 5 for 27 km till Freire. Switched to Route 199 to skate 7 lakes, longer but scenic route. The traffic on 199 wasn’t any better. Double lane and anorexia shoulder lane. I stick my guns on main lane. Traffic have to wait for the opposite lane to clear before overtaking me. Sometimes they didn’t care, just squeeze past me. I missed my highway 5 with shoulder lane.

The American cyclists couple whom I met in Mazatlan, Mexico caught up with me on the road. They too were taking 7 lakes route and heading to Villarrica today, and ultimately Ushuaia. My companions to finish the journey with me. Naturally, they rode faster than me. With wind pulling me back, I managed 11 kmh speed, too slow for cyclists to wait for me.

45 km, at a picnic bench next to a small pond, the American couple were there having potato chips for lunch. Nice spot for me to set up my mobile kitchen, cooking a hot meal. Rested till 1 pm before finishing the remaining 36 km to Villarrica.

55 km, the Villarrica volcano unravel on the horizon. Snow capped Behemoth dominating the landscape, motivating me to skate there faster. Passed through a golden meadow of yellow flowers. I don’t know what is it but I do know it does brighten my day. On last 8 km, Sergio waved me to come over to his shop and handed me bottles of water. With that, I skated to Villarrica and stopped at a skate park facing the Mount Villarrica across the lake. Simply Surreal. Perfect camping spot. Locals told me it is prohibited to camp but I will take my chance tonight. How not to miss the perfect camping by the lake facing the majestic Snow White Queen.

Day 626: A ride from angel

Day 626: A ride from Angel

Chile: Saltos del Laja to Mulchen (hitched ride to Temuco)

Distance: 66 km

Time on board: 5 hours 30 minutes

Average speed: 12 kmh

Cumulative distance: 20,338.7 km

Dog peed on my ground sheet I was sleeping on last night. They couldn’t leave me alone even when I am sleeping, can’t they. Of course, I might be occupying their territory in the bus stop. Now bus stops in Chile appeared to be my usual camping spot. Shelter from wind and rain or whatever elements but not dogs.

Packed up fast to leave before anyone reported me to the police. So far, nobody in south America ever done that even when they see me camping in public. Everyone just go around to do their own business without bothering me.

Yesterday was rainbow and butterfly day then today was another cold freezing prison. Day before yesterday was the same. Could there be a pattern emerging? Alternate days between bliss and suffering? Skated past a series of bus stop to be greeted by a wave of smiley Chileans surprised to see me skating.

Exited the town and continued on highway 5. Continued skating in and out of fast lane and shoulder lane without getting killed. Took the advantage of the lane closure due to construction to have whole main lane to myself for some stretch.

Noticed that terrain is getting hillier as I ventured further south. Not that flat as before. Spent several times walking up the hill. I am already Andes mountain trained, so any of these hills doesn’t deter me anymore. Slow walk that is all.

Left highway 5 to enter the Los Angeles city to replenish my food and water at Lider supermarket, not the USA Los Angeles. The Chile Los Angeles. Yes, they have a city called Los Angeles as well. I could see the impending clouds of Doom, another day of miserable rain seem imminent. There was a bike lane parallel the road to the city but it was too narrow for Tony and too sandy to skate thus I opted for shoulder again. Drizzle from clouds of Doom started to trickle. I hurried my way to Lider. Bought a couple of snack and instant noodles for my lunches. I find it easier to cook instant noodles for lunch. For dinner, I could afford the time to cook more elaborated and healthier meal.

Seeing the rain about to descend from the sky, I hurried my way out. There was a service area where I can seek refuge and cook my lunch. At the service area having my lunch, a truck driver informed me that there was a hot shower in the other building. Hot shower in the cold bittery weather is a godsend gift. Grabbed the opportunity for hot shower since eternity. After the hot shower, the rain transformed to a monster downpour. I don’t know how am I going to get through these weather. A particular smile on my face, resigning to my wretched fate, the truck driver either had telepathic superpower or he can read the looks on my face. He turned to me and offered me a ride. I would be insane to refuse a lift in these kind of weather. He drove me to Temuco where I am supposed to arrive tomorrow. Well i could do another day rest after skating 500 km over 6 days, averaging 90-100 km per day. The driver dropped me off 6 km from Temuco city centre. I still had to skate 6 km to my hotel in the rain, by then it had already subsided. Booked $20 USD hotel single room. Cheapest I could find in Agoda app. That is good enough for me.

Chile only gave Singapore passport holders 30 days visa whereas my Filipino friends can stay there in 90 days. Already 2 weeks gone, I have to exit Chile at some point and renter to renew another 30 days. Furthermore, it will be Martha, my Russian friend birthday soon, celebrating in Bariloche Argentina, might as well take opportunity to kill 2 birds with one stone. Will leave my stuff in the hotel and head to Argentina for another few days before returning to Chile to continue my journey with a new 30 day visa.