Breaking Chains and Not Burning Rubber
Saturday, 27 August 2011
I ve managed to clock up quite a few K´s getting around the City on my bike, which I like to think of as an extreme sport, espacially when the late braking buses are close. There are the occasional stretches of cycle lane but the majority of the time it´s either jostling with the high speed traffic, or dodging pedestrians and dogmanure on the pavements. Overall though it is better than I expected and not to far-removed from cycling in London. There are a reasonable number of fello cyclists. Very few wear helmets and I´m the only "stylist" with a high-vis ("Protect the Human" Amnesty) vest - I decided whilst cycle-touring in England that preventing getting knocked off and therefore the need for a helmet, is more important than the helmet.
The street dogs are quite a novelty, normally sleeping on street corners or strolling amungst pedestrians. They aren´t the aggressive, dirty beasts that I would have imagined. Instead they are full of god character, seem in good health, certainly well fed (by what or who I don´t know), and some even have trendy waist coats ( although this fashion statement is normally resereved for dogs with owners - will add some photos soon). Considering the number of them, a couple on most streets or intersections, it is supprising how little dogmanure is about, and I am amazed my tyres and soles have stayed dog-do free. However I did finally get chased by one a few nights ago on my bike, a little hound as usual.
A 48 hour national strike took place on Wednesday and Thursday, with national unions and student groups joining forces to show discontent with the situation and increasing fees. From media reports the numbers involved varies quite dramaticly, but it is interesting to hear that it took place right across the country.
The first signs for me were the smoldering remains of rubbish and tyres on the streets near where I´m staying. I then pretty much rode straight into a stone-throwing riot - a quick about turn out of that one. I cycled past a few marches, and street "sit-downs". But for me the city certainly didn´t grind to a halt, although it was interesting to see different stages taking place in many parts of city, with the pots and pan banging "Cacerolazo" been a facinating method of demonstrating (check out this link for an explanation) . Apparently things really hotted up during the nights, and I got my first taste of tear gas from a distance on one of the evenings, not pleasent experience.
It was great to see people standing up for their rights, and unlike the recent English riots, these do have real organisation and definded reasons. They show no signs of backing down, and from the people I have spoken to they are supported by the general public. By all accounts the govt has no clue how to handle the sitiuation.
I plan to spend another week in and around Santiago, trying to improve my very poor Spanish, hooking up with contacts, getting a few last bits of equipment sorted, and waiting for my friend from Switzerland to arrive. Dani will join me for 2 months riding around Chile. We will then head north to La Serena along the coast.
Monday, 22 August 2011
Smiles, pretty girls, and well dressed guys greeted me in Santiago. With a very nice 20 degrees and not a cloud in the sky :)
Customs and immagration were all fine, with the smiles continuing, even when my Nikau gardens, Takaka, Honey was taken away for incinaration.
It was great to see that my boxes were pretty undamaged by the baggage chuckers. So after an hour or so "she" was fitted back together and ready for the South American roads (see above photo).
There was no problem getting my 23kg bike box , the additional 21kg box, or my overloaded pannier / hand luggage and ukulele onto the plane btw.
Just as I was leaving the terminal a friendly guy asked if I make a bike trip in Chile, I said yes, he was all smiles and "good luck my friend" with a handshake - a great sign I thought.
Onto the "no bikes allowed" motorway, and around a few slipways the wrong way it was an "adventurous" start to my ride. A couple of road workers put me right a few times though. I ended up in a pretty shanty-town-like area and it was sad to see so all the high security fences, iron bars over windows, and gated cul-de-sacs, but guess that must be the situation here. No one seemed dodgy though as I aimed for the mighty Andes ahead. Eventually finding my way into the City Centre and onto Bella Visita for my first Chilean "fed" - a great one.
Amazing how little water there is in the river here, and how many dogs are on the street - not a bark out of any of them though.... :)
Well the AirNZ check in lady didn´t let my cynical side down....
Apparently I should only have the freedom to get a one way ticket to Chile if I live there. I need a commerical onward ticket. "but I have my bike...???" "huu that doesn´t count...."
After she came back waving a bit of paper she told me I would have to buy an onward ticket... Aaarrh! does NZ not want me to leave....is this a sign...?
I was sent away ansd I thought my trip home had stalled before I even got going.
After I pointed out it stated it doesn´t apply to people with a credit card ("but they could have no credit left" she insisted), she did allow me the privellage of getting on the first leg to Auckland. Thank you that wonderful AirNZ lady for given me such a pleasant leaving memory of Chch!
The check-in guy in Auckland had not much of a problem and was very helpful, but I did have my begging face on, why is that needed?
I don´t have to comment on the joys of the security and immigration checks and paperwork. But needless to say I felt unnecesserilly helpless and fearful. Maybe we spend more money and do as we are told that way....?
The above I am sure, sounds like a bit of a rant, but wouldn´t it be a wonderful world if its citizens had the freedom of movement around it without the "guilty until proven inicent" attitude from big brother......
Thursday, 18 August 2011
Sunday, 14 August 2011
"Muffy" volunteered to beef up the front rack using my old steel rear rack. So after spending Saturday laying myself fallow, I headed over to the Truck garage where he works and he got stuck into it..... Cheers mate!
I am sure the extra storage space will come in handy at some point on my trek, plus it enables me to support the handlebar bag, which inevitably becomes overloaded with quick-snacks, toys, and general tack. It is also removable.
No.8 wire eat your heart out!!! (Non-Kiwis won't understand)