Our welcome to the city was about as warm as one could hope for. We pulled into the Plaza de Armas midday on a Saturday, filled with emotions as we laid to rest a life we had become so accustomed to. Never more (for now) to wake with the rising sun, to pack a tent still damp with morning dew to begin another days project on wheels. Still, so much unknown and adventure lay before us as we opened ourselves to a life completely foreign to us. We got off our bikes, soaking in the sights, the smells, the incredible quantity of people. We stopped at a nearby cafe for a much needed moment of rest and an even more urgent giant plate of food. Moments later, an overflowing, overwhelming mass of food arrived, only to disappear within minutes. As we sat, contemplating what we had just accomplished and where we were going from there, two men sitting behind us invited us to their table for coffee and conversation. A retired police chief and volunteer firefighters both, our conversation soon expanded to include their familes and before long, they were insisting we join them for lunch (never mind the huge plates of food we just ate) and we began pushing our overloaded bikes down the pedestrian mall, trying to keep up with Luis and his family as they led us to the delectable plates of Chilean ceviche and wine they had just finished describing (the real thing is better...you'll see, they told us). We arrived at the crowded indoor market and as we sat outside pondering exactly what we might do with our massive machines, there was Luis (a teddy-bear of a man reminiscent of "Da Bearss" guy on Saturday Night Live) already well inside the market shrugging off our concerns about our bikes and motioning frantically for us to follow him. Still a little skeptical, we struggled to keep up, weaving our awkward loads down the skinny aisles among stalls of raw fish and the hundreds of people milling about, most of whom were offering us curious glances and the occasional snyde remark. No worries though...we are with the former chief of police and he knows everyone. Before long, he has negotiated a secure storage locker among frozen fish for our bikes and has bypassed the long lines to find us a prime table while ordering a mass of food, wine and pisco sours that arrives like a desert oasis in front of us. Our small group has now expanded to include a good portion of the Octava Company fire department and Luis' wife. We were welcomed warmly into their world, treated to a lunch we might only have dreamed about and we parted ways feeling like old friends and veterans of a city we had just hours ago pedaled into for the first time.
We have just returned from a brief yet joyous reunion with our families in the states and are settling in to life in the city. Stay tuned for more tales from the road as Seth embarks solo sometime in mid March for the epic wonders of Patagonian Chile and Argentina to the south (penguins!!).
Keep in touch all of you!!