Chile is a special place: delicious food, the kindest of people, a big-little city (Santiago), and hugely varied terrain of The Andes Mountains. In fact, it’s one of our favorite countries to visit. We raced the EWS both in Chile and Argentina back in 2016 and got married in between rounds near Bariloche, Argentina. Join us as we share with you our 2020 Andes Pacifico experience and take you on a whirlwind tour of Santiago!
Do you like to ride bikes? Do you like to eat good food? Do you like to travel internationally? If you’re looking for a proper adventure vacation, consider registering for the Andes Pacifico, a 5-day blind enduro bike race from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
Imagine you and your friends relaxing creekside, beer in hand, belly full of humidas (a delicious corn-like tamale treat), waiting for a gourmet dinner, while your bike gets a full tune-up by SRAM mechanics. After a dinner of Argentinian steak and quinoa salad, you saunter back to your tent for a good night’s rest before you wake up and shred a full day of Chilean anti-grip. Who wouldn’t want to partake?
Andes Pacifico Registration: Simply the best schwag of any race, period! Hats, shorts, sweatshirts, DYED Bro custom frame protectors...
Nick Hardin, Loosedog Lewis, Romain Paulhan & Kim Hardin warming up with a game of Foosball. Care to guess the winner?
A crew of gourmet chefs made sure we were never hungry, Iago Garay and Loosedog munching on some pizza
Cooking over coals to feed the racers and volunteers
Andes Pacifico volunteers made sure all athletes felt right at home, setting up rider's tents at each camp before we arrived, and managing bikes through the night.
Every evening, racers came together for a gourmet meal, shared the stories of the day and were updated as to the next day's stages: where we were going, what to be aware of...
"Antewaya" camp, meaning the "Spirit of Togetherness" offered up plenty of creekside R&R throughout the first few days of racing.
Over 80 racers took on this year's 2020 Andes Pacifico.
Introducing the Ladies: Alex Pavon, Kim Hardin, Paula Jara, Tamara Hermosilla, Laura Mislan, Shelagh Coutts, Florencia Espineira and Paz Gallo
Day 1: Gates of Quempo, took us across the valley from La Parva Ski Resort, for a starting elevation of 9000 ft.
The days were plenty hot and dry, leaving volunteers and racers to find shade wherever possible.
Nick Hardin getting ready to make a pass on Day 1 while navigating the anti-grip high in the Andes.
Day 1 was a quick and friendly reminder to use way less front brake. First crash: Visor gone. Second crash: Pride gone.
The last stage of Day 1 crossed a creek bed multiple times and took us into dark woods full of technical features: Premek Tejchman navigates a large boulder-strewn section.
Flo Espineira kicked off the 2020 Andes Pacifico with a significant lead of the women's field after Day 1.
At Andes Pacifico, you are fully catered for: food is cooked by proper chefs, creekside beers and snacks are waiting post-race for your indulgence, massage therapists are available to tune up your race legs or offer some extra vacation relaxation. Your tent accommodation and gear are moved from camp to camp for you as locations change. Bike mechanics are on hand and available for your bike fixing needs -- there’s even a tech riding the trail alongside racers for any on-trail mishaps... All the while, you’re on the trail having the experience of a lifetime, racing stages that start as high as 11,700ft at the Argentinian border, while condors circle overhead and juicy watermelon and empanadas wait at the finish line.
Every single person racing or at all associated with the event is awesome, everyone is there to have a good time, and you can choose to race to win, or race for fun! The event is full of good energy and genuinely wonderful people from all over the world.
Paula Jara & Kim Hardin gettin' cheesy for the camera
For this year’s event, organizers took the race farther North than it had ever been, meaning every day we saw different terrain than the day prior. Everything from high alpine moonscape, to steep and sandy, to loose and rocky, to riverbed tech and what seemed like “live” fresh cut trail through fields of thorny bushes. The anti-grip was constant, however, as braking distances at race pace were about four times normal and most stages required a high level of focus to avoid riding with too much front brake and ending up in the thorns. The anti-grip in Chile is no joke, and made for a wild five days of racing!
Mornings come quickly at Antewaya - wake wakey bicycles, it's time to play!
Day Two: Cordon of the Spaniards took us up via truck convoy through a large mining complex to the top of a mountain range just outside of Santiago. Every day started with racers loading into over 20 pick-ups to transfer to the first stage. The distances between stages were so great and the terrain so steep, that truck transfers were necessary.
Dusty, loose, anti-grip? Check! Kim Hardin finds her flow on Day 2.
The last stage of Day 2 was the first stage where you could really open it up -- less tech, more flow and wide-open sections. #doyouevendriftbro
How many racers can fit under one tree?
Aid stations featured fresh watermelon, empanadas & more!
Full faces were required, and DH casings were a must to protect from the rugged terrain.
Day 3: Los Libertadores
What looked to be a dry Lithium lake on the transfer to stage 2, Day 3.
Men's leader, Pedro Burns, duked it out with Romain Paulhan all week.
Greg Callaghan wasn't much behind, taking 4th for the week aboard his new Devinci Spartan.
Kim Hardin amongst the cacti.
The dry, dusty Chilean terrain was unrelenting on equipment, lending to plenty of flats and punctures throughout the week.
Paz Gallo high in the Andes.
A Chilean Cowboy & his horse.
The drive to get there took us four hours into the deepest of Chilean backcountry.
And... the hike-a-bike to get there, another 45 minutes -- but it was worth it!
Even "Wemule", Chilean Antelope, made an appearance.
Our Push'ed EVIL Offerings made easy work of the Chilean terrain.
Santa Cruz rider Romain Paulhan getting loose!
Day 4 was shortened to just two stages after stages 3 and 4 were removed due to destruction by horses. Fresh cut trails were made for us, however, horses decided to use them first. Regardless, it was quite the day as special permits allowed us into an area that had never been raced.
Fresh-cut trails were the theme of day 4.
Seventeen-year-old Paz Gallo has a promising future, taking second at this year's Andes Pacifico.
Iago Garay with the horns; the only rider ever to complete all 7 Andes Pacifico's. Third place for the Spaniard!
Day 5 took us to lower elevations, where we saw one particularly fresh, and very raw trail: Stage 2. Prior to starting, I pulled up my long-sleeves to mid-forearm. The starter immediately said, "No, No, No!" and pulled them down for me. What followed was dodging and weaving through prickly house-sized bushes, point-and-shoot style. Definitely ended up in said house-sized thorny bush. Note to self: look ahead further next time!
The last hike-a-bike of Andes Pacifico
Kim's favorite and most memorable stage was the last stage on Day 3, which took us down a track that was part sand, part loose baby-heads, and full of big moto ruts at that oh so perfect angle of descent. This ended up being a stage that was tossed at the end of the day for technical problems but was one of my favorites, setting that perfect drift into the moto-corners and just holding on. Mind the cactus and other pointy things, of course. The stage ended at a feed station of pizza empanadas, watermelon and other fresh fruit. Doesn’t get much better than that. As for memorable moments, I’d say getting to see so many of our traveling circus friends, as well as meet so many wonderful new people: Australians, Colombians, Czechs. Ok, and on the last day, getting to the beach...
After 5 days, and too many stages to count, we made it to the Pacific Ocean -- what a week!
The Pacific Ocean, ladies and gentlemen...
Dinner is served: Open-pit Tri-Tip Steak, whole chicken, chorizo dogs, and a plethora of extras.
Truck No. 9: The Hardins, and new Cali-friends: Konrad and Kevin
For Nick, this was his first race since ACL repair a little over a year ago. He chose to race Master’s in order to give himself the opportunity to return to racing with a little less internal pressure, and to allow himself the time to get back into the swing of things -- worked out pretty well as his knee felt 110%, and he won his category. YEW!
Women's Pro: 1st: Florencia Espineira, 2nd: Paz Gallo, 3rd: Kim Hardin
Men's Pro: 1st: Pedro Burns, 2nd: Romain Paulhan, 3rd: Iago Garay
Master's Men: 1st: Nick Hardin, 2nd: Eduardo Soto Molina, 3rd: Philip Schlosser
A huge thank you to all the volunteers who made this event possible!
No Pisco, No Disco!
After the event, chances are you'll find yourself back in Santiago for a bit before you fly out. So…. what do you do when you’re a full-time foodie in Santiago, Chile, you've already packed your bike away, and only have 24 hours to see the city? You find all the must-visit dive bars, and hole-in-the-wall eateries in Santiago and do them all!
Santiago, the capital of Chile, sits in a valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains. Home to over seven million people, it is a place of vibrant street art, pisco and chilean cuisine. While currently in a state of civil unrest, in our experience, the capital was actually quite safe to visit.
Downtown Santiago is bustling -- horns honking, skyscrapers as far as the eye can see, yet it feels small as you walk around amidst the hustle. People are kind and curious, always warm and welcoming.
Our first impression of the city: friendly. From the “city center”, it was about 4 km in any direction to a must-visit place - not bad! We were able to navigate the city quickly on “Lime” Scooters at a reasonable price -- most of the time they were faster than taxis due to traffic! To cruise, download the Lime app, find your nearest scooter and zoom!
From anti grip to shredding the streets of Santiago...
Our first recommended stop is Chipe Libre, the Independent Republic of Pisco. Known for their Pisco tasting flights and small snacks, it’s a great place to shake off the jetlag, taste some pisco and see a bit of the city. First things first, however, Pisco! The origins of pisco took place in colonial times in the XVII century as wine producers were struggling to produce wine for the city of Potosi. The Atacama Desert proved such an obstacle that the wine was not getting to Potosi in a drinkable state, so producers started to distill the wine and import it through a port in Southern Peru named “Pisco”. This distilled wine eventually became known as “Pisco” -- Peruvians claim it is due to the name of the port and area, while Chileans believe it is the generic name of the spirit and should be used by each country to define the spirit. To this day, the argument remains, as does Chilean Pisco and Peruvian Pisco.
Unique to the spirit, regulations state that Peruvian pisco can be made with a range of eight grapes, must be distilled only once to proof after resting for at least three months and cannot be aged in wood. Chilean Pisco, on the other hand, can be made from a range of 14 grapes, and maybe distilled multiple times to proof, as well as aged in wood. These small differences in production lend to significant differences in flavor and notes -- try one of each and let your bartender be your guide. At Chipe Libre, we highly recommend the “Chi (from the South) Flight”, featuring Diaguitas Reservado Transparente 40, Brujas de Salamanca Reservado 40, and Mistral Nobel Piscos -- the Brujas was our favorite; super smooth, with notes of caramel. Looking for a proper cocktail? Try one of the many flavored Pisco Sours (Pisco + Egg white + Lime juice) -- the basil is super refreshing!
Upon leaving Chipe Libre, take a left and wander the streets - you might find a corner street symphony of violins and cello, or a crew of dancers amidst street vendors selling everything from copper earrings to paintings and a wide variety of marijuana-based treats.
Some call this graffiti, we call it art; One of many favorites throughout the streets of Santiago.
Be sure to look up, as many buildings in this “Zona Cerro” area are used as canvases by local artists and feature not only designs and imagery, but graffiti protesting the high costs of healthcare, poor funding of education and general inequality in Chile. Pay close attention, as the people of Santiago share their voice and spread the message of what’s really happening within the city through their brightly colored stickers, flyers and graffiti.
On the corner of Merced and Jose Victorino Lastarria, enter the classy Singular Hotel
and go upstairs to The Rooftop Bar
for a small bite. From here, you can get a pretty good view of San Cristobal, the second-highest point in the city, marked by Statue Cristobal. If you have the time, it’s worth a visit via Funicular to the park.
But first things first, while you’re at The Rooftop Bar, order the “Carpaccio de Pulpo, limon y cilantro”, translated as Octopus Carpaccio with lemon and coriander and the "Empanada de Centolla" translated as the King Crab Empanada-- you will not be disappointed: Creamy, buttery octopus garnished with edible flowers, and small colorful beads of flavor bursting sauces. Buttery, rich pockets of cheesy crab -- while not a traditional chilean empanada of beef, raisins and olives, it was one of our favorites of the trip.
Gin and Tonic, Santiago-Style - Cheers!
From the Singular, wander about 20 minutes West to Mercado Central
and get a true taste of Chile. While a bit touristy and crowded, Mercado Central is home to a variety of markets, and most commonly known for its many seafood vendors and restaurants. Similar to Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, Washington (USA), you can wander the aisles of freshly caught fish or take a seat at one of the many restaurants inside for a bite of seafood.
Touristy for sure, but Donde Augusto serves up some of the best seafood in Santiago.
On the SW corner on the outside of the market, find Emporio Zunino
. Founded in 1930, it takes the claim as Chile’s oldest empanaderias, and is where all the locals go for an empanada. Pay at the booth inside, give your ticket to one of the cooks behind the counter and place your order - Fresh out of the oven comes a light and airy pastry in the form of a Traditional Pino (beef, egg and olive), Cheese or Pizza Empanada. The empanadas here are the most traditional of all we tasted (and we tasted at least one per restaurant!).
Across the square, wander to La Piojera
, the Mercado’s dive-bar to try Chile’s national drink, “El Terremoto”, which translates to “Earthquake.” If you drink too much, it’s as though the ground is shaking, and you’re in an earthquake! In an almost continuous motion, watch bartenders scoop pineapple sorbet into a cup and follow it up with Pipeno, a sugary white wine, and either Fernet or Grenadine syrup. Deceptively sweet, the Terremoto is a perfect way to wash down that empanada. Stay and watch the scene - bartenders are friendly and the place is by no means a dive-bar. Its colorful walls are covered in fun posters and signatures, and if you’re lucky you might catch some traditional accordion music.
El Terremoto, Chile's National Drink
At this point, it’s highly likely you’ll be in a food coma -- jump in a cab and head to Las Condes to Centro Artesanias los Dominicos
, a collection of artisans showcasing their talents. A bit out of the way, but well worth it for some culture and souvenir grabs. Most common is anything copper (think pans, earrings, rings, plates) as Chile is the largest prophyr copper exporter in the world. Also common: pottery, wood carvings, alpaca blankets and clothing, as well as various other fiberworks, and “Crin”: the art of recycling horsehair and dying it with natural plant fibers. These fibers may then be woven into jewelry such as bracelets or necklaces, or be used alongside metals of the region.
Centro Artesanias los Dominicos is a great place to find that little Chilean remembrance - note most artisan stalls are closed on Mondays. In addition, if you’re in Santiago on a Sunday, law states that workers must have at least two Sundays off a month, so many restaurants, etc... are closed.
Once you’ve gotten your favorite people a goodie, hop a Lime scooter to dinner at Margo
on Isidora Goyenechea in Las Condes. I’ll let the photos do the talking, but be sure to order the “Plateada” with Sweetcorn Puree, a traditional chilean dish, as well as the “Prawns with creamed Mote” and “Octopus with Chimichurri on Pea puree”.
Plateada with Sweetcorn Puree
Cheers to 24 hours in Santiago!
Now that you’ve eaten and drank your way through Santiago, it's time to hustle to the airport for your night flight!
Thanks for traveling with the Hardins!
Kim & Nick Hardinhttp://www.instagram.com/meetthehardinshttp://www.meetthehardins.com
Big thanks to EVIL, Chris King Precision Components, Race Face, Dakine, SMITH, PUSH, Dumonde Tech, KickStand Coffee & Kitchen for supporting us in our adventures!Pro Tip: If you decide to make the trip, be sure to double-check your baggage as it is being tagged for Santiago (SCL). It is not uncommon that it will accidentally be tagged for SLC, and your bikes won’t show up for a few days. If that happens to you, visit the street market near Chupe Libre for a sock purchase -- worked for us!