Resort shred number 5 - sorted. Now in Portillo on Monday 15th, just had 2 days wicked riding and about to leave for Santiago.
Survived Friday night in the mentalist institute hotel in Las Trancas, but only just. After the oddballs had served me dinner, as I mentioned last time made a sharp exit and went upstairs, falling asleep pretty much straight away. About half 3 in the morning, I woke with a start to a. a chainsaw whirring b. the maniacal giggles and shouting of an utter lunatic and c. terrified female screams. "What the f***!" I kind of whispered to myself, immediately breaking into a frozen cold sweat while desperately searching my brain for a viable escape route. As my eyes flicked open in panic, the penny dropped. I´d left the telly on and the murderous activity was Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, dropping a chainsaw onto a hooker. "Yeah, knew it all along" I told myself, while wedging another bag against the door.
Got the comfiest bus in the world to Santiago on Saturday morning, content with tunes from the pod while watching the shanty towns roll by, all with the backdrop of the mighty Andes. It´s an impressive range y´know - 4400 miles long, 300 miles wide, has an average height of 4000 metres and is the longest exposed mountain range in the world. Awe-inspiring yes, but I couldn´t take my eyes off the side of the motorway, where one after another the corrugated mini-cities exist in the dust and grime. How people live in such poverty is incredible, selling old metal and material and fruit and bits and bobs. Toothless and bedraggled people would stare into the bus window as we rolled by while driving slow at some stages.
Once into Santiago and off the air-conditioned bus, the first thing that hits you is the oppressive heat. No, that`s the wrong word. The air is heavy, choked and unable to move as it`s held in place by the overpowering and all-consuming smog which envelopes the city like a shroud. It made my decision for me - stay in the city or just make a beeline for Portillo and sort a bed when I get there as I hadn`t sorted anything yet. As soon as I mentally chose, some dude who had clearly been watching my tourist face looking for signs of potential purchase raced over, asked me which destination, plonked me in the nearest minibus and slapped it on the back windscreen, like some kind of modern-day steed. Into Santiago and out again, in the space of 10 minutes.
Winding up hairpin after snaky hairpin towards the 2880m high Portillo, I got chatting to Zak and John, Spain and Austria respectively. Top boys - that´s a gaff in Valencia sorted then. Once getting to Portillo, I strode into reception and announced in my best Spanish that I was here to redeem my reservation, for 2 nights, which I had made 2 weeks ago. Passport duly handed over, I made my best "but how can this be...?" facial expression as, surprise surprise, they couldn´t find my booking. The guy then says that they´re full (the resort only has one hotel and one backpacker place) - so I reply that Ive had no problems in any other resort and, as I´m writing an article about South American skiing, an inability to get a bed won`t do my Portillo story any favours. Result...? A bed for 2 nights.
That night met Jamie, a real nice guy who was there for a week and was on a Bali - NZ -South America riding mission. For the next couple of days, we monkeyed the life out of the money-making machine that is Portillo, jibbing off rocks and getting airborne wherever possible. The riding`s not all that good to be honest, with some crazy old lifts and not much in the way of varied terrain, but it didn´t matter too much. The sun was out, not a cloud, and we had a burn. Met up with another few lads, Chilean and Scottish, and a good shred was had by all.
So there we are, up-to-date - 5 resorts done, Valle Nevado left to ride. Having a cracking time, now it´s Santiago. Not sure what the form is when I get there - may hang out for a couple of days or go straight to Valle, keep you posted you lovely people x