The First Ever Bike Tour in Chile, as Seen by DuVine Guide Tommy Paceby Bike tour guru
In January 0f 2012, DuVine ran our first ever bike tour in Chile. And what an amazing trip it was! Now it easily ranks as one of our favorite destinations, visiting Alpine lakes, a spectacular volcano, and so much more. But don't let us tell you about it. Tommy Pace, one of our resident French experts and all around phenomenal guide, was there to experience the maiden voyage of DuVine in Chile:
On occasion, when working as a DuVine guide, a curveball is thrown your way. These curveballs are usually unforeseeable changes in the daily routine. Not all curveballs are negative. In fact, many are exciting and add to a trip dynamic. Memorable events for me include an intimate tasting in the Loire valley that turned from a short visit into a 90-minute discussion about the natural wine movement. The winemaker promised only an abbreviated tasting but somehow, as luck may have it, six bottles found their way to the table. The most recent pitch thrown my way was equally exciting.
In mid-December, while speaking to Andy, he asked me if I would like to go to South America. In January DuVine would be offering its first cycling tour in Chile - a twelve day trip in the Lakes and Volcanoes region. Eager for a new adventure, I jumped at the opportunity to travel to this new region. Unsure of what to expect, I prepared for my trip by learning about Chile and by brushing up on my Spanish.
The tour began with a 20 km ride, wide open skies and big mountains looming around every bend. Although it was only meant to stretch the legs after a full day of traveling, it was really only adding to the excitement of the trip to come. On the following day, the weather didn't want to cooperate, but that didn't keep the group from embarking on a ride to the Argentinian border with mixed sun and rain. Returning to the our comfortable 4-star hotel, Termas Malalcahuello, we relaxed before indulging in a feast of local grilled meats, fresh salads and phenomenal wines. Waking to the morning sun, a quick glance out my window confirmed that I was in volcano country. The Lonquimay volcano was out of the clouds, covered in snow, displaying its majesty. This giant would loom on the horizon for the duration of todays 65 km ride past mountain streams and through expansive wheat fields.
Three excellent days into the trip, nine more to go.
To take a break from cycling, DuVine's local experts suggested we go for a hike amongst the Araucaria trees (oddly named the "Monkey Puzzle Tree" in English). After nearly three miles of uphill hiking, the group began doubting the guide's decision. Just before we lost faith, the hill flattened out and before us appeared three large lakes, carefully wedged between the neighboring peaks. It was a stunning spot for a rest. One of our guests, an artist, approved of the site and quickly began painting the stunning scene.
As if the first three days of riding weren't fabulous in their own right, the following days proved to be even more spectacular. Smooth roads led us past stunning farms and impressive volcanoes, all of which led directly to expansive lakes. A wide angle camera lens could barely capture the exceptional landscapes that seemed to extended endlessly across the horizon.
As a guide in France, I was hesitant about my tour in Chile. Could the wine stand up to the European classics? Would the rides match up to the scenic countryside of Burgundy? What is Chilean cuisine? Needless to say my fears were allayed every day. When sipping on a classic Sauvignon Blanc or a delicious Carmenère, I was convinced that this new world could match up with the old world style. And the food? Amazing seafood, roasted meats, fresh fruits, the best avocado I've ever eaten; I could enumerate forever the tasty morsels that I enjoyed during my trip.
On the final night while enjoying a Pisco sour, the quintessential aperitif in Chile, we tried to decide on the best ride. It was impossible to agree on just one! Three of our nine rides were competing for the top slot. Some guests swear that the stretch of road alongside Llanquihue Lake was the cream of the crop. Another top ride was the cruise up to Termas Huife on a shaded road with views of the smoking Villarica volcano. My personal favorite would be the ride along the shores of Lago Panguipulli - smooth asphalt led the group up hillsides before plunging back down to the side of the lake.
As impossible as it was to choose the best ride, we had an equally difficult time selecting the top hotel. Was it the tree-house inspired Baobab hotel, which flaunted imaginative architecture? The impressive five-star Villarica Park Lake that hugged the scenic lake? Who couldn't enjoy the modern yet classic Hotel Patagonico with its the top-notch comfort and service?
Looking back on the past two weeks, during which I made new friends, biked over 500 km, basked in the warm sun, and learned (or at least attempted to learn) a new language, I can honestly say that I had amazing experience on a true DuVine Adventure.