We’re back online and have many stories to catch you up on. In our last real post, we were in Chile so that’s where we’ll pick up…
First of all, let me start off by stressing that there was no premeditated hitchhiking in our transportation plan for Chilean wine country. Our pousada in Isla de Yáquil (about 8km outside of Santa Cruz) had two mountain bikes for ready and waiting just for us. And I was excited about riding bikes through the country roads of Colchagua Valley, going from one wine tasting to the next, meeting people, getting exercise and fresh air, and just having an all around good time. In the days before our arrival, I imagined us and our wheels riding around with the soundtrack of the wicked witch from Wizard of Oz in my head. (I don’t know why my head chose that particular song, but I was going to let my imagination run with it.)
Our other transportation option: take a cab. But from the moment we arrived in Santa Cruz proper, we felt like we were scammed by the taxi network. There are two different kinds: black cabs are private taxis (meaning they can pretty much charge you what every they want and do) and yellow ones are “collectives” (meaning they will generally charge a fraction of what the private cabs do but you share them with other people). Neither kind of taxi has a meter and after spending a few days there, we were never able to get a clear answer on how much the ride would cost us, even when our pousada host was the one giving us the information. That kind of service is one that we always want to avoid.
But no biggie, we had bikes and we were going to use them.
On our first day of riding around, we successfully made it to two wineries, drank some good wine, had fun chatting up the local kids in the tasting rooms and even experienced our first earthquake. (Ok it was really only a small aftershock that lasted for about 15 seconds and I could hear the rattling more than feel anything. But to us it was an earthquake.)
It wasn’t until we had to bike home that our transportation option became an issue. You see, we biked about 4.5km to the first stop, another 1km or so to another vineyard that was still in repairs from last year’s earthquake, and another 4-5km to our next and final stop. We thought we were smart by getting directions for a short cut through the vineyards but it was still a good 8km home. It was getting dark and I was getting tired. I kept fighting with my bag all day when I tried to ride. I just wanted to get home. At one point Nellu even started singing the Wizard of Oz theme to try to boost morale. I just shouted back in my snotty voice, “It’s not working.”
We made it home of course. We always do. A little sore but in one piece. But we needed a new strategy for Day 2.
Nellu was unconvinced that we could actually make it to more than one winery our second day. But I was resolute. We had come all the way down to Colchagua Valley to taste some good wine! So we got our map, picked a place that one of the vineyards had recommended and asked our hostess to call us a collective taxi.
Usually it was about $2 for us to get into town in Santa Cruz. We were going about the same distance it had to be about the same price, right? Wrong! It cost us $14 and we still don’t know why.
We were pissed that we’d been tricked again by the wacky cab system. But after a wonderful time at our first tasting of the day, we decided that we were up for one more.
We ended up walking to our next stop, well walking and hitchhiking.
It first dawned on me that we could hitchhike when we were about 1km into 6.5km walk on a street just off the main drag. (We thought we maybe could get a bus!?). So when a gas delivery truck stopped about 10 feet ahead of us, I thought it was fate. Turned out, the driver just stopped to check his cell. He looked a little surprised when I asked (especially in English) but he gave us a ride down the road. When we got out I turned to Nellu and said, “Don’t tell my mother about this.” And we both swore that we wouldn’t do that again.
We went on to have a fun tasting at Vina Montes and put the experience behind us.
Or so we thought. When our second opportunity to hitchhike came up, neither of us flinched. A man in a grayish-pick up truck offered to drive us all the way back to Santa Cruz, which was really quite the boon. We sat in the back seat of the pickup’s cab (like that really made it safe) and the man cheerfully refused to accept the money that Nellu offered for his services. AND! We got back into town in time to visit Colchagua Museum before it closed.
Would we do it again – hitchhike through wine country? Probably not. But the real moral of this story is: when in wine country, rent a car!