On top of the desert

Trip Start Mar 20, 2011
Trip End Jun 05, 2011

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Flag of Chile  , Antofagasta,
Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Today we were all up bright and early and ready for another hard day riding on another of Bolivia's wonderful bumpy dirt roads. I left with the old gang nice and early and headed for the filling station at the edge of town. However when we got there they kindly informed us that they had no petrol. I was ok as I had filled my tank yesterday but the rest all needed petrol. While they went to find the other station at the other end of town I went back to the hotel to inform the others that there was no petrol available at the station en route.

I then headed off to meet the old gang at the road out and off we went. this road was just terrible and had loads of corrugations. While the rest all raced on at about 30mph I was forced to keep speed down to about 20mph. My bike just would not handle these terrible corrugations and simply felt like it was just floating in mid air. After being passed by more bikes I decided to try and keep up with them and finally lost control and away down the bank I went. Up, down, bang, crash and all went me and the bike but somehow I managed to stay on two wheels. I made my way along a small dirt track which ran alongside the main road but with a massive wall of dirt and stones between the two it was impossible to get back onto the main road. I trundled on along this narrow track and finally seen a way of getting back onto the main road and so took my chance. This was not a good decision and I ended up sinking right into the mud. Lucky for me two of the bikers came along within 5 minutes and between the 3 of us we managed to pull the bike out of the mud. Big problem now was to get my bike up the bank and back onto the main road and get going again. After a few tries we finally beat the mud and my poor bike was back on the road once again but was covered in mud from top to bottom.

Off we went again on this terrible bumpy road. We had about 170 miles to cover today and all on this road. Before long Craig and John who helped me get my bike out were well away into the distance and finally out of sight. More bikes came past and were all managing to maintain a faster speed than me so I decided to stop and adjust the suspension. I set it to its softest positionand what a difference this made. The handling of the bike was now totally different and 100% better. At last I  could maintain a decent speed without loosing control of the bike.

We stopped for lunch and to fill up our tanks at San Cristobal just 60 miles from where we started today's journey. The restaurant we ate in was converted from a old water tank and everything inside from the BBQ to the bar stools was made from old mechanical machinery such as truck springs, mining gear etc.

We then headed on towards the Chilean border town of Ollague which is 3660M above sea level.  The Road here was yet another nightmare with corrugations and loads of sand although the scenery was just magnificent.

We all stopped for a photo shoot right at the top of the Andes which was about 16000ft. The surrounding scenery was really wonderful and so we decided to explored the wonderful scenery for about a hour. Nick, our leader made us ride our bikes back and forth a few times in a group so he could catch us all on video. From then we all headed on towards the border.

As we made our way back down the mountains towards our destination of Ollague the scenery was just amazing. There was everything from mountains, volcano's to masses of salt plains across the floors of the valley’s below. The sun was beating down and was just right for photography so I spent more time taking photos of this wonderful area than riding my bike. As we continued the road to the border just got worse and worse with piles of sand all along the way. It was just hell trying to ride in these terrible conditions.

Finally I caught up with a few others at the customs office at Ollague. This was nothing but a few huts right next to a large railway yard. The others had been there a while before me and were searching to find someone to check the passports and let the bikes out of Bolivia. Finally all was cleared and after I took A few shots of the old trains etc we headed along the road of no where's land towards the Chilean customs office. This road was just as bad as any other in Bolivia but one could tell the second we were into Chile as the road changed from a rough old dirt road to a much flatter and well kept road. It was still a dirt road but was 100% better.

Once through into Chile we headed into the railway town of Ollague. This was virtually just a railway town with one little hostel and a railway yard. It was about 18h30 when we arrived and the first thing I wanted to do before the sun went down was go take a few photos of the old steam loco shed that we passed as we came in from the border post.

After all the problems I had in Bolivia trying to see old locomotives I thought I better seek permission before I go wandering around any railway yard and so I took myself to the station which was just about 300m away. Here I found a station foreman who was very pleasant indeed. We got chatting and soon we were joined by another chap from the railway. We all chatted for about 15 minutes or so about our bike trip of the Americas. He then told me I could go and photo wherever and whatever I wanted in the railway yard. What a change from those unfriendly lot in Bolivia.

After wandering around the old shed and finding no steam locos I finally joined the rest of the group outside the towns hostel. We were surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, one of which was letting off steam right behind the hostel.

As the sun went down it began to get very chilly outside and so the hostel owner offered us a deal. If we fill the 4 beds in a room we can have it for $16 or we can sleep in our tents just outside by our bikes. Being so high up at 3660m and hearing the temp was going to fall to -6 celsius tonight I decided to book one of the beds in the hostel.

Normally I would not stay in such places and would rather stay in my tent but this hostel was immaculate and everything was polished and extremely well kept. The four of us who booked the room were fast asleep in our nice warm beds while the others froze their nuts off outside in their tents.

At about 07h00 we awoke and I tried to make my way to the loo only to find the place was in total darkness. There was not a single bit of light to in the whole building and I had to feel my way around. Finally finished in the ultra dark bathroom I made my way back along the corridor. Problem I had now was trying to remember what room was ours. Lucky each door had a brass number on it and as far as I could remember ours was no 9. I opened the door to room 9 and felt my way to the bed and lucky for me it was my bed!!!!

Once the sun came up and a bit of light got through we all went for breakfast where we met up with the frozen campers. Of course the banter between us and them started and how warm we were while they froze their backsides off outside in the freezing temperatures. It was a good laugh.

That's about it for today.  

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