Part 3: The final hurdle

The final hurdle of the Daylong Challenge, the hop from Mendoza to Santiago, crossing the Andes. While this was the shortest leg of the journey, climbing up to 3,200m for the pass was still tiring – though the spectacular views of the Andean peaks above it was worth every effort we had put in to get so far.

Up and over

Seeing the Andes fading into view ahead of us as we cycled into Mendoza was wonderful, beautiful, exciting and intimidating at the same time, especially as the thought that “we have to cycle over them??” was top of both of our minds. For want of another phrase, they did literally tower over us.

We had a day’s rest in Mendoza, and we did use it to the maximum: relaxing as much as possible. Unfortunately we weren’t really inclined to go to any of the vineyards as we knew we had a tough day climbing the following day. It was sad though, when we did leave, seeing all the vineyards and their restaurants by the side of the highway; wishing we could maybe just try a little. Ah well.

The climb up into the mountains was not, however, too hard. It was just a gradual ascent and not too steep – it was just constant. Brazil seemed much harder as there we would have so many steep climbs in one day. It took us about four days or so, and the day getting into Chile saw us spent a good two hours or so at immigration and customs making sure that we didn’t have any illegal foods with us (pretty much anything, it felt like!). But after that it was… all downhill! Down through Las Curvas – road that had goodness-knows how many hairpin turns. It was so steep and the corners were so tight, it was impossible to go fast, and hands were kept firmly on the brakes.

When we got to Los Andes – the final town before Santiago – we saw that Natalia’s front wheel had suffered irreparable damage and it wasn’t certain for how long it would last. The only solution was to minimise weight on it. Fortunately, we had a great friend in Santiago, William, who was able to come over in the morning to meet us and take some of our non-essential baggage with him, to reduce the weight on the wheels. Our saviour! Was great to finally make it in Santiago that evening and relax with Will over a beer. We had done it!

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