Chile Postcard

Another day of flogging hissing pissing pelting sluice. We a spontaneous trio queue up at the ferry ramp for a few hours crossing, Andy and Francisco on a shorter jaunt from their homes in Santiago, roll the bikes onto the slick steel, welded ridges catching shoe and tires edges, random twine handed to us to tie them down stoutly, we’re told. Soon the pitching has me tumbling inside eyesclosed nauseous, fumes in the tiny three booth cafeteria, everyone else is in their cars on the open deck with the pummeling sideways sheets.

This is the first of two ferries on the schedule today, separated by 10k of overland travel. When I buy my ticket I ask how much time I have to make the land crossing. She smiles, as much time as it takes to unload the cars and trucks from the first boat and to load them on the second. The second boat won’t wait. “Are you a bike racer?” I brighten: “Yes!” “You still wont make it.” She’s an age where her mocking and flirting get all mixed up.

We touch land, I’ve made the rounds to make friends so load the bike up on top of some oddly shaped tarped geological equipment, Boris and his guys happy to help with the portage. Fran and Andy have scored spots on a tractor trailer hauling wooden planks. We roll off and suddenly it’s the Dakar but with heavy machinery — every driver thinking he’s going to be left behind — to the next port, close high speed driving on a narrow gravel track in the woods. Boris flips on a video camera mounted to his rear view. I raise my eyebrows. “Because it’s interesting, no?”

Load up, slosh, debark a second time, snack, Andy repairs a flat. It’s their first bicycle tour. The gravel now black, shimmying through ferns, overlooking lakes, hillock sentinels, almost floating like in Avatar. We set off together, but they’re slow and I need to give it some stick to stay warm, thirty second or two minute climbs, bucking little washboard descents. The rain drops are the size of locusts now, the boys, I dunno, I’m just trying to meditate through the fury: repetition, revolution, breathe. Shivering again, a background vibration hum for my count, fingers that never get warm.