• 28 May 2017

It was backbreaking to continue towards south to Patagonia in Chile…

It was backbreaking to continue towards south to Patagonia in Chile…

It was backbreaking to continue towards south to Patagonia in Chile… 1024 683 Gürkan Genç


We set off early in the morning from our Santiago Embassy. I had met Engin Kaban in Turkey while riding through Izmir. He came to the presentation I was giving to the cycling enthusiasts and said: “Gurkan I’ll catch up with you somewhere in the world”. He also published a book, “sirtcantalilar (backpackers)” which I had read before I set forward. Engin Kaban is a person with great experiences, a good traveler and most importantly shares his experiences. We met in Santiago. Engin had traveled in South America many years ago. At his last visit, he married Loretta his Chilean girlfriend he had met during his travel in Spain. When we met in Santiago we barbecued kofta (Turkish meat balls) for Loretta’s family in their house. Engin called me asking for help to knead the minced meet, I said “you do it and I come”.

Since bicycle is used as a transport vehicle in Santiago, there are bicycle lanes in many districts of the town. Bicycle lanes were constructed even in the water channel of the city. Also, Engin was using his bicycle more since he came to this city. He said he was trained and wanted to ride a few days with me and we set off together.

It was good to ride on bicycle lane despite we already moved 30 km out of Santiago city center. Afterwards, also in small towns road safety continued for a long time. Our direction was towards south with no fixed route. Since I’m not on a short time bicycle tour with certain time limitations, choosing a certain or fixed route is out of question. I just ride on my own free will towards a place en route.

I try to find dirt roads avoiding main roads. My behavior, my mood on the road and many other things had caught Engin’s attention. He shared his observations during our 3 days’ journey on his web page (https://sirtcantalilar.com/gezi/gurkan-genc-ile-pedallamak)

During the day Serhan and Zeynep traveling in South America on bike sent a message.

  • Gurkan we are 200 km away from Santiago. I’ll send you the coordinates where we’ll stop at evening.
  • We are riding towards south on side roads, we’ll meet somewhere for sure.

I knew Serhan from his travels he made but we never had met before. Years ago, while he was riding from Turkey to Japan together with his friend Bilgin he had sent me a massage: “We have printed your road memories in pdf format and now are on road to Japan”. Since then I come upon his shares from time to time. But face to face we saw each other for the first time in South America. After his Turkey-Japan tour, now he is going to end this tour in Miami. You may follow him on his web site (https://www.serhanmert.com/)

Towards evening he sent the coordinates where they had stopped to overnight. The period I stayed in Santiago was long and I had put on weight. The 116 km ride on this day didn’t make me tired at all. It was Engin’s first long-distance experience and he was riding prettily fast. He climbed the long 8 % slope faster than I expected he would. At the evening arriving to the place they were staying I started to laugh. Although there were so many alternative options to overnight, they had chosen one of the Love hotels found at the skirts of cities.

The payment is done hourly at these hotels which I saw in almost every small town, village or city in South America. These are places preferred by couples not having the opportunity for intimacy elsewhere. Overnight stay is more expensive compared to normal hotels. Moving with your car inside, lights turn on at either side like traffic lambs. You turn towards the green light, where the door of the room is open. Each room is like an apart hotel. Then, the owner comes and takes the payment from the opening on the middle of the door unable to see the faces of the people inside.  As Serhan and Zeynep got tired, they saw this place and entered without thinking further. Sometimes when the battery of my body is death I also don’t care where I put up my tent or stay overnight. During my Japan travel I had stayed at Love hotels in South Korea and liked very much.

Inside the large room we, four travelers, cooked dried beans with sucuk (Turkish sausage), ate with bread and chatted all the night through. As I mentioned before, every traveler has a different way of preference. Many people say that I’m carrying too much but Serhan and Zeynep were carrying twice as much my load. When I met them I was carrying 64 L capacity load on my bike, theirs was 120 L. I looked in one of their panniers and after seeing the first thing I got in my hands, I stopped. : ) (a dust pan and a shovel). Well done! Nothing to say more. They are traveling with their home. God speed you.

Since we were riding in February the weather was hot and I tried to ride through shady woodland. One of these roads came to apple fields. It was long time ago I had eaten apples picking right from the trees. Now then! I jumped in to the field. I have empty spaces in my bags, just fill up. Meanwhile, Engin was chatting with the worker in the field. At the end of the conversation I got informed that those apples were exported to UK. I did a short research to learn why goods are exported to Europe and even to Turkey from South America and added to my road memories. Let me mention here that Chile is the country to which Turkey exports highest amount of walnuts.

Since Engin had knee pain on the third day, we decided not forcing more and his journey came to an end. It was nice to travel with a companion and share the road after a long time. I wished we could ride together one more day to see Santa Cruz located 160 km southwest of Santiago.

While looking around for an interesting place or to find a museum to visit, I found “Museo de Colchagua” in a small town. At first it was hard to ride towards there. There was a heavy truck traffic but at least a shoulder. Although I was searching for side roads on GPS I couldn’t find any towards the direction I wanted to go. After truck traffic was over I lost myself in vineyards…

Italy, Spain, Scotland, Japan… A happiness filled me up, like the one when I was riding in those countries. This was a feeling I didn’t have for a long time, it was a moment as if I went back in time.

Just one road frame revived many places in my mind.  As all those were passing in front my eyes like a film strip I stopped riding and listened to the songs of the crickets and birds. I set down under a tree shade and looked to the sky for long time without thinking anything, just listening. At moments when I think nothing a bright smile appears on my face which I don’t know how to interpret. How come a person will sit for hours without thinking anything? … Many people ask me what I think about while on the road. During the first year was thinking but a long time has been passed since September 9th, 2012. I guess, nothing has been left to think. Really, I think about nothing on the road.

Museo de Colchagua is a private museum established by Carlos Caldeon in Santa Cruz. It was the most beautiful museum in Chile I had visited, also the biggest private museum in this country. I don’t know if I would still say it was the best museum I’ve seen so far after riding through the whole continent. I spent almost all day in this museum. The story of this museum possessing such a rich archive is very interesting. Carlos Caldeon was put on wanted list in the USA for his alleged involvement in supplying weapons to Saddam regime. Even, a reward was offered for him. He spent all the money he earned from arm dealing for the vineyards and for the museum he established here. After his death his son established a foundation to extend the museum and wine business.

You can find anything you are looking for in this museum. It was a prosperous private museum which reminded me the Koc Museum in Ankara where my bicycle I used during my Japan travel is exhibited.

It is possible to see a pen or a sword or a piece of dress belonging to persons making history in this museum. This museum also possesses an old automobiles collection 10 km outside the city. I also went also there but it was under renovation. The vineyards were amazing too.  I entered the museum early in the morning and left late afternoon to get back on the road. That night I stayed at the church in Chepica, a town along the road. During my Africa travel I overnighted in countless churches and schools. Here I also tried to overnight in several churches, but it was not so easy like in Africa. The doors of the churches are mostly locked. If not, it is usually hard to find the head of the priests. They accept a traveler in these houses of God if only the head of priests approves.

I saluted the priests in the church situated at the square of the small town and asked whether I could put up my tent in the garden for one night. They showed me a very nice place and invited me for dinner. To me this is the right thing to be done in Mosques, Churches and other places of worship. This is not an issue of freeloading, as in the old times when travelers on horses, camels were welcomed it should be the same for today’s travelers at non-motorized mode and in matter of fact I was welcomed in many places.

Years after years the power of social media has reached an incredible level. Maria following me on Instagram sent me a massage. “Gurkan, if you’re coming towards Chileon, I would like to host you”. “The city is en route, I would like to come” I replied. As you might had read Engin’s report I shared above, the roads I choose to ride on change during day and I switched to main road from the side road on which I was riding. Just at that moment, while I was thinking to go back to side roads I saw two cyclists coming over one of them shouting: “Gurkan, Gurkan!” Wow, I’m not that popular in this country. They were Maria and her daughter Lucia. They had come to meet me. 40 km plus 40 km back, mother and daughter riding to meet me… Wow, well done, what else to say. That was the end of side roads.

Well my Spanish is not any good. Maria doesn’t know English at all, her daughter Lucia speaks only broken English. That will be funny. We went to their single-family house. Maria’s mother Rosa also was living in this house. That is, three women in a house. They set the table and we dined together. Thanks to Google Translate, without it, it would be a nightmare. Google translates from English to Spanish very well, on top of it I speak on microphone which is translated automatically to Spanish.

Upon Maria’s question: “Gurkan, you are for such a long time on road, don’t you have any muscle pain?” I immediately replied. “Well, I do have. I have pain on my shoulder”. They let me sit on a large chair. Then brought a massage appliance. Rosa was sliding it from my head down to shoulders and so on. Maria was massaging one of my legs and Lucia the other. My god, I guess I’m dead and in heaven. What the hell is this? 10 minutes have passed, you got tired, it’s enough, no no, I was feeling comfortable… After 30 minutes when the massage was over I went to the couch and immediately fell asleep. I don’t remember anything else.

The next day before going downtown we dropped Lucia at the dentist. These dental braces are very popular in South America. In many selfies of teenagers those dental braces are at foreground. Neither in Argentina nor here I never came upon a person with crooked teeth but everyone with pearly teeth. After dropping Lucia to dentist, we went shopping.

Well, since I’m going to stay for a while I’ll share the food expenses.  I care on this where ever I’m hosted. When I stay with Turkish families, after a brawl shopping ends without my participation. This is not so in other countries. Afterwards we went to the tailor before returning home. While chatting via google translate I learned that Rosa is assistant manager in a school. As I was about to ask, Rosa said: “Gurkan would you like to talk to the children at the school?” I agreed but we needed a teacher speaking English for translation.

“I can talk in English and she can translate to the kids”. The next day I rode to the school on my bike and talked about my journey, what we can to do for future as humans living on this planet. It was a nice talk, the kids loved it. Sometimes I feel myself like a comics character, a funny feeling… I cannot define this but funny, don’t know…

The moment Maria said: “You can stay and live with us if you want”, I knew that this would not end good. It was time to leave. If not, I might give some news to my family. I’m grateful for the hospitality of this amazing family.



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