We've just ridden from Concepción to Lebu along the coast rather than taking the major inland roads. It really feels like we are on our way now, no highways, no cities, more our style. No one mentioned that the whole road was being upgraded between Arauca and Lebu, or that gradients of 12% were the norm. We climbed well over 1000m yesterday and this morning climbed 700m in 13km, the majority on sandy dirt roads. It felt like a very steep Mongolia and neither of us quite have our mountain legs yet.
At times we were pushing for what felt like forever. By the end of the day we were exhausted and couldn't find anywhere to camp, Leo had had enough and sounded miserable, so we stopped at a house near a crazy windy beach, asking to camp, and ended up having the most amazing night, welcomed as guests at the holiday home of the fantastic Diego (a dentist from Santiago) and his delightful family. Astonishingly he spoke good English and was an even better Spanish teacher. He invited us for a barbecue and treated us to some gorgeous meat and salsa before we were joined by his vivacious father (a doctor in Concepción) who plied us with drink and was charming company, while Leo picked up handfuls of stones from the plant plots and threw them across the patio encouraged by Diego's 11yr old daughter Xaviera, and wandered around their house as though he owned it, before we finally crashed out drunk and exhausted in our tent at the end of the garden. Whenever it gets terrible it always turns crazy good in a few second!