Another roller coaster of a day. Both geographical and psychological. It starts with a climb, a truck ride and a frontier crossing. Starting at -2 degrees and finishing at 28, started with the silence of a high altitude bivvi, and finishes with a Latino birthday party. Started in one country and finished in its neighbour's. We collect some more passport stamps and yet another version of officialdom's non-comprehension.
Camping and that essential element, sleep, are integral to a travel. Divining places of rest can be a trial, can be exciting. Like crap food which is best valued as simply fuel, so a poor site is simply a way of passing the dark time. At best a piece of questionable brain rest. A poor site, be it a grubby overpriced room or a mozzie infested scab of withered grass is tolerable but soon forgotten. Where as the notable or unusual is cherished. We collect two of the latter in quick succession. There was the tented classroom that came with parquet floor and trestle benches, followed closely by a bivvi high up on the Western Hemisphere's highest hill. To which was added a full moon.
This crossing is popular with touring cyclists. It's the easiest way to access the Andes and western Argentina. Fly into Santiago and start climbing immediately. We know of eight cyclists who crossed during our two-day sojourn in the vicinity of the frontier. So what followed is a bit of a puzzle. This is our second entry into Chile with cycles; the last was with the convoys of Bolivian petrol trucks. The last was simplicity itself. Lorries and cycles being of a similar nature, the Navigator oft describing her cycle as a camion. The staff more interested in our impressions and intentions; their sole concern to make sure we had no garlic. Only here, we simply don't fit their simplistic binary formula, neither a bus passenger nor a car driver. The computer has no square box into which our round peg can be rammed. I'm now tempted to create an officious, laminated document just for my bike, along the lines of our spurious passport creations that nobody has yet to question.
We eventually escape. It took two hours, easily a new record. What comes next is pure acceleration. Down a headwall head first, Down twenty nine hairpin bends. Not one single crash barrier. Go over the edge and you would free fall onto the middle of the rising carriageway, the road's route so tightly stacked. Surreal, made extreme by the ski chairlift that passes overhead. I pull over to rest my breaking fingers and to watch the choreography of marching semi articulates. From my vantage point, I have a view that is solid road, lorries appear to be playing 'chicken', racing towards each other, then just missing by a hair's breadth. Down through this we sail.
Last night it was the silence that is sweet noise. Tonight it's Latino party night, to which can be added the clanking diesel loco and the jake brakes of tanker lorries, finally mix in a hazchem of rotten eggs. A day that gave us our fourth Andean crossing, yet it will be hard to think of a day that has given us such extremes.