Cajón del Maipo Cycle
Saturday November 7th 2015
The very first time I'd been to the Cajón del Maipo in September 2011, I'd seen a lot of people cycling up the road to San José and I'd decided I wanted to do that too. But then I got a herniated spinal disc which crippled me for months and made life in Chile pretty miserable. For nearly a year it made all movement painful and I wondered if I would ever cycle again.
Surgery in June 2012 removed fragments of the ruptured disc from places where they were damaging nerves. The surgery was instantly successful in stopping the pain and life got better by a huge factor. I was left with a paralysed foot and needed a lot of physiotherapy to walk properly again. The doctor told me not to cycle off road or uphill for at least a year.
The foot recovered over time, I eventually lost my zombie shuffle and walked normally again, and slowly I got back to normal activity. But the thought of more spinal disc problems was truly terrifying and I was extremely cautious about cycling, so I didn't start again until well over a year after surgery, and the first real climb I tried was in January 2015. After that, my love of hill climbing was well and truly reignited, and with no back problems at all, I started finally to do more demanding climbs than up San Cristóbal.
So at long last in November 2015 I was ready to cycle up into the Cajón del Maipo. I was going camping at Roan Jase again, and I set out for the cycle at 10am. It was a grey cool morning, and the first section through Santiago was fairly boring. I cycled through Ñuñoa, Macul, La Florida and Puente Alto, and after an hour and three quarters I was at the edge of city. I cycled past Las Vizcachas and into the Cajón.
The road was really not steep. In fact there were a surprising number of downhill sections so that overall I hardly felt like I was climbing much. A few sections were tough but mostly I stayed on the outer cog and kept up a decent speed.
After about three hours of cycling I reached San José de Maipo and stopped in the main square for an empanada. It was warm and sunny and I felt great to have finally reached here. Roan Jase was just a few miles further on, and half an hour after leaving San José I arrived.
The next day I cycled back down. Some of the others who'd been camping were heading back by car, and the rest were going by colectivo and metro. I left at 3.15pm, about 15 minutes before the car and 25 minutes before the public transport people. It was a really, really fun ride down the valley. The car overtook me even before I reached San José again, and the colectivo passed me a little while after San José. But they had to wait for a metro at Las Mercedes, while I blazed back through Santiago, loving the good road and downhill gradient. I got back to my house 2 hours 12 minutes after leaving Roan Jase, beating the public transport people by a decent margin as it turned out.