In Chile to say that someone has “buen lejos” means that they look good from a distance. I’d like to say that was a witty way of me saying that these gents look better from a distance than they do up close, but the sad truth of the matter is that this is as close as I got to them on this seven hour odyssey up into the mountains in the central valley of Chile.
An acquaintance of mine who I’d gone on a very mellow hike with a few weeks previously mentioned this trip to me, up Cerro El Roble (El Roble peak/hill/mountain, take your pick, depends on the context), with some buddies of his from a cycling group. I’d heard of the group, but didn’t know anything about them. Sure, I had that nervous tossing and turning the night before, would I or wouldn’t I make a good showing? But in the end, it’s just you, your bike, training and adrenaline, so off we went.
When we first hopped out of the car at the parking lot in Til Til (of the famous tunas noted below), I saw that I was well out of my league. First, the only woman (bad news), then, the only person riding a hybrid (extra quadruple bad news), not to mention that everyone else’s bike had both fork and back suspension, and my bike is woefully rigid. It’s like driving a mini on terrain created for an SUV. and I had the mini.
I did my best, pedaling up the precipitous climb most of the way to the top, though I have to admit that there was a section where pushing was inevitable. Joyfully, I began to see other footprints in the loose dirt. Even some of the invincible had walked. And on I pushed. They soon came zooming back past me as I hoofed up the rocky incline.
Nearly 2000 meters of vertical climb over 31 km was plenty for me. A quick photo shoot at the top, and we were on our way back down. We were mercifully spared the thick blanket of clouds hovering in the valley, which only briefly spat sleet on us. A quiet thanks to my friend, whose birthday it was, a little fruit and olive shopping, and we were gone. A small group of the original starters waited for us down below, to give some pats on the back and an incredulous “OMG, the girl made it down that mountain without suspension and without falling.” I think there may have been some video taken, but my ego was bruised enough that day. I don’t need to see myself on tape.
And about those guys who flew past me, without ever looking back or checking in to see if I’d made it back in one piece? They arrived first, winning the macho prize. I didn’t see them long enough to be able to pick them out of a crowd. But at least I got a good photo, and I can honestly tell you that these guys look amazing from a distance.