Pumped, full of caffeine and running on around 3hrs sleep from the last 24hrs, I packed my bags, ready for a cycling adventure unlike any other I had undertaken before. My expectations were not of a luxury getaway, but a third world experience and some epic scenery on open roads - perfect for my mission to get Out of the Rat Race.
Our destination, Pichilemu, is known well by surfers worldwide, and is a popular beach destination for weekenders living in Santiago.
I find my guide Carlos, 43 and slightly out of shape by his own admission on time at 7am and already doing a deal with the hotel concierge for future business. I came to learn during our three days together that he was a real networker, known and liked by many, with a penchant for telling stories and speaking his mind.
As we climbed into his mid 80's Nissan pathfinder, I cast a curious eye over our bikes - basic, but fine for the job.
Among many discussions during our 3.5hr trip to Pichilemu, Carlos informs me that staying at a cheaper place is a good idea and that he'll pass the savings on to me. This, combined with the fact that it's a public holiday long weekend and he hasn't made any booking anywhere, convinces me that this will be the only option.
Upon arrival he embraces an elderly lady whom he has known for a long time, then shows me the room. Clean with 3 beds. I did ask for a separate room, but figure no problem. I tell him I might snore and will most likely have the light on in middle of the night due jet lag. He doesn't care.
We walk all around the beachside suburb while he gives me a brief history, meet some more of his friends, eat empanadas and some local seafood. Apparently a lot of destruction occurred during an earthquake in 2010 and many places are now abandoned. Most buildings are poorly maintained and footpaths everywhere 'under construction' like that job you're gonna do 'tomorrow'. Dog poo is more prevalent than in Paris. Despite this the place has a very relaxed feel. No one is in a hurry and hundreds are on the volcanic black sand beach ignoring a moderate wind and enjoying the 10 degree C water, while surfers line the break.
Back to our palace to prepare the bikes for an afternoon spin. As Carlos attempts unsuccessfully to inflate the tyres with a faulty floor pump, his mechanic's eye notices a hairline crack in the paint on the fork of the bike designated to me. He passes me a blade and instructs me to investigate further by scratching the paint off to check if it is only a surface paint fracture or something more serious. I confirm the crack goes through to the aluminium fork. Carlos drops the pump and checks for himself. Removing the wheel, he squeezes the fork together and the fork starts to talk to us through it's now open wide mouth. Bummer!
After some swearing and consternation, a few plans are afoot. Return to Santiago tonight and do a shorter tour into the mountains on touring bikes? Stay and ride solo on Carlos' bike? I decide to sleep on it for a few hours while Carlos heads out to try and source a replacement fork.
On his return, he produces a friend's mountain bike, which he commits to use and continue with the tour as planned. He will allow me to ride his US Postal Service Trek. I gratefully accept the proposal despite the bike being way too small - my knees hit the bars when I stand on the pedals!
The solution to the faulty pump is a trip to the service station, where an auto pump filles our tyres with ease, but to a maximum 70psi. Not exactly ideal! Really, I am just happy to be here, and super keen to check the place out.
With most of the day now gone, we decide to give away the day's riding, but Carlos (also a budding amateur photographer) offers to head out for some happy snaps, and insists on helping me out with some product photography. Sporting an old-school manual Lyca and light meter, he looks the part and I look forward to seeing the results.
After filling up on empanadas at the beach, and still feeling the effects of jet lag, we head to the supermarket to grab dinner. I end up consuming a modest bowl of cereal before collapsing into a mild coma at 10pm. Carlos would later complain about my snoring, at which point I reminded him that I had asked for a separate room. The savings were more important apparently, because he stuck with me the following night!
I wake the next morning to find that a thick sea fog has rolled in. We're keen to get started - I always love riding in the fog - it seems more peaceful somehow. We set off with no fixed plans - just one destination for a morning coffee. Bucalemu, south around 35km, is the place, then elsewhere to make a 4-5 hr ride. It becomes obvious to me that it would only be out and back when we had already done 2hrs getting to Bucalemu. I was hoping to do around 100km, but no matter - the ride was serene in the fog and the company was good.
Back at the hostel after lunch we discover that toilet paper is a luxury not provided for. Carlos goes for a surf, and I decide to do my business at the beachside bar after sampling some local cerveza, wondering how long it would take for the toilet paper to materialise. By day 3 we had it!
For dinner, it's Carlos' special spaghetti, prepared in the hostel kitchen. Despite the basic ingredients it's a pretty tasty affair, but unfortunately the serving size is roughly adequate for a six year old girl. Sensing both of our stomachs rumbling - Sonja, the live-in manager and mother figure, came to our rescue with a large marrow stuffed with meat and cheese to sate our hunger.
Day 3, and our last opportunity for a ride. We decide to go north back towards Santiago for a change of scenery. Initially the sea fog is still like a thick white woollen blanket, but after riding around 10km inland (an hour into the ride) the sky clears.
After 15.5km of riding mostly uphill, and almost two hours in the saddle, including breaks, the road starts to tilt downhill again. Carlos calls it a day and turns around, not fancying having to climb back over any more hills. At this point we discover that we neglected to pack tyre levers with our kit. I decide to accept the risk and continue riding on my semi-inflated tyres in the hope that I won't end up hitching back to town. I ride out another 20km until the road turns to a dirt track, but that's as far as I am willing push my luck. Best not tempt fate any more than necessary.
On my return I spot something crossing my path - a GIANT spider. I must have seen it 50 or 60m away. This thing is huge, and I reckon I would have even stopped for it if I was driving a car. I take a quick photo, not wanting to get too close, and decide it is about 3/4 the size of my smartphone. Impressed, I re-mount, leaving Mr Badass to continue on his merry way to his next meal, which I assume is probably a calf or a small child.
Carlos goes for another surf in the afternoon while I walk to town to find an internet connection. We reconvene for a Chilean dinner of fish and shellfish in a hot broth, before packing for the drive back to Santiago. Carlos needs to do some last minute business with friends, so asks for his cash for the tour - turns out I saved a whole $20 by sharing a room in a hostel with no toilet paper. I think you can keep the 20 bucks next time mate!
Keep an eye out for my next blog in a few weeks - I'm travelling to New York for a tour of the waterfront, with a focus on some OORRsome bike shops and the best coffee in town. You can get a glimpse of what I'm up to ahead of the blog by following my twitter feed and Instagram here - www.twitter.com/OORRsome and www.instagram.com/OORR.some . Until then - stay classy, and please share your comments below. Let me know how you're getting #OORR !