Chillin' in Chile
A broken bike frame turns out to be a blessing in disguise as magical moments unfold in Chile!
There’s tons of great photos and a video to enjoy here! Enjoy!
Photos from Iquique to Week 1 in Portillo at: http://tinyurl.com/mje7t8
Since landing in Chile I have been blessed by a constant stream of soulful, generous and super fun people who have made me feel right at home. As you may know, the frame of my titanium tandem finally cracked after over 7 years of use. My efforts to find a titanium welder in both Iquique and Santiago were fruitless so it was looking likely I would have to send it to the USA for repairs. At first I was pretty bummed out about this but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Check this out….
My first stop coming in from over 13,000 feet in Bolivia with a nasty cold, broken frame and slightly shattered spirits was the home of Roberto Corona in Iquique who I met on Couchsurfing.com. Roberto and his family took me in, nurtured me and made me feel right at home. I was cured in no time at all and ready to make my way to meet my good friend Sara in San Pedro de Atacama for some R&R and to formulate my plan of attack. We sucked up some of the epic mountain biking, salt flats and stunning sunsets in the world’s driest desert but I still could not find a titanium welder for my frame.
While there I ended up meeting a cool cat named Brandon who worked at Tierra Atacama Hotel and he mentioned that the manager there Chris Purcell is connected with Portillo Ski Resort down south. I had already sent a proposal to them to see if they would host me during the bike repairs and allow me to do some skiing but the proposal was not moving along so well. Sara and I stopped by Tierra Atacama to chat with Chris and share the current challenges and intentions with him. Chris and I got along like brothers right from the get go and I took him on a spin on the tandem while explaining my goal to do some skiing in Portillo and to use the Atacama as my launching pad when I get back on the road.
Chris and I connected on a solid level and he really liked the Peace Pedalers project. Before I knew it I was being hosted at the hotel (you gotta stay at this place if you head to Atacama—it’s divine! www.tierraatacama.com) and he also helped move my proposal along down in Portillo. The day before I made my way down to Santiago to send the bike frame I got an email from Ski Portillo accepting my proposal and they offered me an all inclusive 3-week ski vacation! I was jumping for joy! Sara was also invited to stay, ski and eat with me too. We were jumping for joy! Sara had my skis delivered via FedEx and even used her family’s account to send my bike part back to USA! Go Sara!
Down in Santiago my best buddy Garryck pimped Sara and I out with a killer 4-star hotel room with this Sheraton points and the next day we charged up to Ski Portillo where my 3-weeks of bliss would begin. The food, hotel, scenery, skiing, entertainment, people, staff—all totally first class but without the pretentiousness at some nice resorts. There are accommodation options ranging from bunk beds and cafeteria-style dining to posh suites with world-class meals a day. I have to honestly say it is my favorite ski resort on earth—and I’m only a few days into it!
As if this is not enough—the magic continues. I spotted a white-haired man named Tom sporting a Mammoth Ski Patrol shirt on the first day. Turns out he was there traveling with his son Dan and his girlfriend Nicole, both ski patrollers at Mammoth. My little brother Nick is also a patroller and they are good friends with him and his wife Kari! Small world, eh? So I found great new friends and ski buddies right off the back and have my brother Nick’s spirit with me as I charge the terrain with some of Mammoth’s finest.
I cut a video of the magic in Chile—hope you enjoy it!
My first week in Portillo was like a dream come true. My new friends Dan, Nicole, Ane, Stein and Tom were an excellent addition our ski adventures. Sara and I enjoyed our room overlooking the Inca Lake and we ate gourmet meals around our daily ski missions into the breathtaking mountains of Portillo. The first of 3 storms finally came in and dumped about 6 feet of fresh, cold Andes blower powder on the first Friday and Saturday, stranding our friends one extra day. The result was a ripping Sunday blue-bird (blue skies) day with literally perfect conditions. One lift after another opened as they dug out the chairs and slingshot poma rope tows to bring us into a white wonderland of fresh, dry, untouched powder. There is nothing better than riding these conditions than doing it with great friends and at a resort that only allows a few hundred skiers to ski per day—thus keeping the snow fresh for days after it falls.
Dan, Sara and the crew finally left and the 2nd week crowd of vacationers arrived next. I missed my crew dearly but soon met new friends and the fun continued for another two weeks. I could write dozens of pages about my magical experiences in Portillo but I’ll sum it up for you. I skied daily, unless the mountain was closed due to a storm. In this case I set up my “office” by the window and cranked away tasks for my projects. I also gave a total of three slideshow and video presentations on Peace Pedalers and our projects. The final result was finding several volunteer fundraisers and about $500 in donations I was able to send off to Rwanda to get our 2nd Good Hope School launched. All the projects are moving along well—check out www.peacepedalers.com/projects.html for the latest. Of course, a few times a week I hit the live music and late night dance activities at the bar and La Posada with the guests and friends. I must say it was 3 of the best weeks of my life.
I met some lifelong friends in my 3-weeks at Portillo and know I will be returning for regular ski holidays south of the border for years to come. There is something magical about this mountain that cannot be put to words, it just must be experienced. The 2nd and 3rd weeks of my holiday flew by pretty quick and before I knew it I was heading back down to sea level with my Portillo Princess Veronica for a weekend on the ocean in Valparaiso. Veronica is a ski instructor at Portillo in the southern hemisphere winter and a does the same in Europe for the northern hemisphere winters. We met my first week in Portillo and spent almost every day together doing plenty of skiing, hot tubbing and dancing the night away.
Valparaiso is by far one of the coolest cities on earth! Every corner I turned my jaw would drop with the colors, views, architecture, eclectic shops and art galleries. Veronica went to university in Valpo and had family there so I had the perfect guide to show me around. We spent one night in a hotel overlooking the bay, the second night her good friends Aldo and Maryorie and the final evening with her parents and family at their country home outside Valpo. I could not have asked for a better return to sea level than my 3-day weekend with Veronica and crew.
We finally had to make our way back to Santiago and get down to “business”. I was lucky to reconnect with my good friend Polo who I met up in Atacama and he offered me to stay two nights in Santiago with his girlfriend Macarena and roommate Paulina. In Santiago I began my mission to return some value for the gracious generosity of the Ski Portillo and Tierra Atacama by first doing an interview with CNN Chile. The interview broadcasted live and I sported a Tierra Atacama shirt so all was well. I then went over to a meeting with Oxford Bicycles where I managed to meet the CEO and he agreed to donate a new bike to Peace Pedalers so Cristina could ride with me up to Columbia. Cristina and I rode together in Argentina and Paraguay and were looking forward to more adventures together. Finally, I had a meeting with William, another Portillo friend and CEO of Megavision, one of Chile’s largest TV networks, to chat about other cool projects.
So it was mission accomplished on the business side of things and now it was time to welcome in the famous Mamacita in from San Diego. Mom was coming in to hand deliver the fixed part of my bicycle frame and get a bit of bonding time with me. One of my good friends Andres I met in Portillo offered to host mom and me in his flat on Wednesday night. He then went many of extra miles over the next few days that put this man Andres on the top of the Most Hospitable list by far. Check this out…
So Portillo was getting a dose of fresh new snow and I was dying to have mom see Portillo and dive into more fresh turns. So I proposed to Andres that all three of us head back up for another few days of skiing and enjoying the mountain paradise. Andres agreed to pick mom up from the airport, drive all of us up to the mountain, share a hotel room with us, drive us back down, pick up Cristina at the airport fresh in from Brazil, host all three of us at his pad for the weekend and then take us all to a backpackers lodge when it was time to move on. All this he did even with a nasty cold and plenty of work to do launching his new law firm. Go Andres! Mom LOVED Portillo and Andres and I were super stoked to get one more powder day in the sun!
So now Cristina was in town and we began sorting the new gear that was donated by Ortlieb and Assos (panniers and clothes) brought by Mamacita and began planning our adventures north. One of the big goals we have now is to do an expedition of Easter Island, or Isla de Pascua, one of Chile’s gems about 3,000km off the coast of Chile. I had heard so much about it and met people connected to it so I felt like the logical place to explore after our adventures in Atacama. Cristina and I are hoping to get tickets either donated by LAN airlines or picked up by Megavision as they are not cheap. In the meantime, William invited us to dinner at his house on Monday and I was invited to yet another cool media gig being on the popular talk show Cadena Nacional last night.
So mom left back to USA last night, Andres drive mom and Cristina to the bus station, I rode Cristina’s new bike there and last night we bid our “see you next time” to Andres and a teary-eyed goodbye to mom. Cristina and I are now on a 24 hour bus ride back up to my bike and gear in San Pedro de Atacama. Tierra Atacma hosted me a few days before I left down south, then they watched my bike and gear while in Portillo and now they are hosting me and Cristina 3 more nights while we gear up for an adventures ahead. I could not be more stoked! I’ve got a fixed bike, new gear, a super cool travel partner and the road is calling once again!
Over n out from somewhere in northern Chile!
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