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Mutts On Bikes

Divine Interventions don`t make us believers

CHILE | Sunday, 1 February 2009 | Views [1007] | Comments [1]

I am not ready to stop for lunch, Rachel, how about you?

No, I am fine to keep going.

Okay, we will meet you two in Rio Loa.

The words exchanged two and a half hours before Kate and Rachel continued ahead from leaving Cat and Meg to have lunch in Tocopillo Chile before catching up.

Two and a half hours before Kate and Rachel left to immediately ascend a mountain pass straight up for eighteen kilometers. Before heading into the mountains where the coast was no longer visible. Before being asked by an Israeli couple, coincidently positioned dirrectly atop the climb, stopped on the side of the road poised to squat (yes that is what cyclists do in the middle of nowhere when they have to go to the bathroom)why they, Kate and Rachel, were not taking the costal route.

It is beautiful. said the women


Ya can`t even takje a s**t around here without bicyclists coming down the road. said the man. and then..

What are two ladies like you doing in this s**thole?

and promptly

I`ve been waiting years to say that.

Kate and I looked at each other and back at the couple as we tried to evaluate the possibility that there were two simultaneous coastal routes.

We are taking the coastal... said Kate

She reached in her handlebar bag to pull out the map.

We had noticed a sign pointing to the left that said Iquique as we coninued on stright up. We had wondered why the climb for the day had not been mentioned in the road report we read.

We had not wondered why the coast had dissapeared from view on this coastal route.

Well, let me take a picture of you and my wife, to commemorate the most women we have seen together cycling over the years we have toured, and to commemorate you two ladies riding all the way up here just to see this s**t hole.

And then we road back down wondering to ourselves if the Hare Krishna chant we were taught by a local in Vacuña, and had subsequently chanted on the way up the mountain, had somehow summened our exposure to this fate where upon we had climbed a mountain to meet two cyclists headed for Argentina at the top, surrounded otherwise by barren desert, who immediately redirected us back down, with the words of wisdom, that is going to suck.

We could not be sure about intervention until later when, set back hours, now restarting our original route, with our friends far in the distance and totaly oblivious to our position, thinking we were in front of them, the messages began to come.

Kate said a note had to be sent ahead, because she was very worried they they would be very worried. Insistant, though we were already pushing daylight, Kate wrote the note and without reading it I flagged a truck down and in my broken spanish asked him to deliver the note signed love Rachel AND Kate to our friends several hours ahead on the road. His calm smile was the kind of reasurance you get from watching PBS donation drives, that sort of good deed way of looking, and his neat and clean plaid shirt did nothing to negate it. It was the first of many of Kate`s note schemes, that I had continuosly and reluctantly particpated in throughout the trip so far, that I had any faith in. My faith was in that truckers gums.

And now we had to go. we looked at our watches and up into the sun.

We had a big tunnel to go through. We had done tunnels in the past, some pretty long ones, always riding past the no bikes allowed sign. But, today was different. Today, not only did our map litteraly show a large gap, as if the road stopped and you would have to clear a mile, or two, or three, or four, or five, long gap, which we had found out was the tunnel, but we had read a report from a couple that had ridden it the other way which described it as a completley unlit tunnel.

We would have to hitch. We got close enough we could see the road bend into the mountain and we stopped and put our thumbs out. No one.

Lets go up a little farther, I want to see inside it. said Kate.


Just before we got around the bend to see inside, a yellow van came down the road and immediately we stuck our hands out and as it passed me and pulled over next to Kate I realized there was no room for our bikes. But, they were stopped.

The continuing conversation ensued in Spanish:

The driver said do you need to rest?

No, I said, we just needed a ride through the tunnel because it is very dangerous for bicycles.

Both the driver and the passenger tilted there heads at Kate, I, and our fully loaded bicycles, then shrugged and said that we could tie the bicycles to the roof.

Kate began to dissasemble her paneers and as she did I stared at her in hesitation.

As soon as I start to take these off a truck is going to go by.

I said to her between my teeth in English.

She looked up at me and then down the road as I began to throw by bags to the ground.

And there it is. She said as we both turned to watch a big red truck with and empty bed kick up the Atacama dust as it cruised past us.

We squeezed in to the back of the van amongst many electricians tools, our bikes secured on top and as they pulled away saying Let us know where to let you out, we could now see into the tunnel which could not have been more than a few yards long.

So one minute later we told them they could let us out there on the other side.

As we pulled our bikes off the roof, before the yellow van pulled away, our second set of saviours for the day requested a picture to be taken, with them, to record the perseverence in the face of adversity by these american women cyclists. The corners of our mouths tilted upward in ironic composure for the camera.

And now we had to worry. we looked at our watches and up into the sun.

Though faster than yet that day, we didn`t ride far before a truck going the opposite direction slowed as he passed us waving his hand out the window.

It`s a note!

The man pulled over and eagerley crossed the road towards me, before I could make my way safely out of traffic.

Kate Kate?


He said, waving the note just out of my reach.

No time for introductions; no I am Rachel, in spanish you just say yes.

I said yes, though he repeated the name several more times before giving me the note which began Halelujah! We got your note!

It was from our friends who on this day in our absence had faced a malfunctioning derailer, a one footed ride due to a broken cleat for clipping in to the pedal (which broke off while they too were hitching through the tunnel that we were all warned of after not looking through it first), and the intense staring of many men, upwards of thirty, who were all in the back of a dumptruck.

After the note, Kate felt better and said we could ride slower now since they knew where we were. We then continued, me keeping up behind Kate, as she road as fast as she possibly could.

Four miles short of riding a century, we made it with time to sit and watch the sunset with our two patient persistent counterparts while we discussed the old man from Austria named Franz who was traveling solo on his bicycle that had a backup motor(only for the hard parts like headwinds and hills), and reflect on how he had shouted over his motor (taking his shirt off since he had seen Cat and Meg) at Kate and I that he had seen our friends, that they were fourty kilometers ahead down the road.

But Kate and I had known we had sixty to go, we already knew about our friends, because we had received a message...



that kate is a crafty one. and you tell a good story rachel.

  bryan Feb 2, 2009 3:27 AM

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