The beautiful Atacama Desert
Trip Start Oct 20, 2009
159Trip End Jun 23, 2010
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We didn't know whether to wear warm riding gear or cool, as we were on the warm coast but heading into the mountains.
The low cloud in the mountains was like a thick fog, and we had to ride fairly close to each other to keep each other in sight. It had an eerie feel about it, but as we reduced altitude it was no longer a problem. We rode along several areas of coast, one more beautiful than the next and appreciated how lucky we were to be able to see this spectacular country.
Chile has a sense of humour I think. All over the country there are things of interest at the side of the road. We drove through a cutaway in a hill today and on the top of the hill was a skeleton with a hard hat and workman’s fluoro jacket. Every so now and then, we pass a tree which is completely bare of leaves, but has many 2 lire plastic bottles on its branches. Also some of the many shrines we see are themed, maybe in memory of someone who has passed away. One shrine had a lot of fishing gear draped all over it, and another was completely tiled in different tiles. Some shrines are very fancy and have a bench seat or chairs and a table next to them. Many of them sport a Chilean flag too.
We rode in unison for 341 kms today to an apartment Hotel in Copiapo, an industrial town, which is very dusty. Lynn, Des and I shopped at the local Hipermart and prepared a beautiful meal for the four of us in the apartment kitchen.
Antofagasta – Chile
We were just a little too late to see the Dakar race come through the Antofagasta area, but we did see some of the roads the race went through in the Atacama Desert. That’s a fascinating place. It’s so varying. I tried to photograph many of the contrasting mountains, flats, dunes, volcanic rocks and different colours and striations of the rocks, but like with most things, you can’t get it all. Sometimes the enormity of it all gave me the shivers as there wasn’t another person for miles around in some places. There was a lot of heavy vehicular traffic, the truck drivers were very considerate, moving over on the bitumen shoulder, so we could pass easily, tooting and waving as we passed or approached them. The essential Copec, Esso or Shell Service stations, in the middle of nowhere, were at good intervals, so we were never short of fuel.
At one of our rest stops in the Atacama Desert, and we had a few as it got up to 35 degrees today, we parked our bikes in the shade of some mining machinery on a low loader. Our bikes were dwarfed by it, people were stopping to take photos of the scene, it must have looked very funny from the road.
We reached an altitude of 2,200 meters riding through the mountains and Lynn and Des, still suffering the tail end of their colds, said they could feel their ears squelching with the increase in altitude. When we finally hopped off the bikes, we were all shouting to each other as we all had blocked ears and wooly heads from the constant riding in some windy conditions. When the winds first picked up today, I felt like saying "Get out of here, you belong in Patagonia". But in the main the ride was enjoyable, though a little long today, as we had a late start of 9:45am from the Hotel Miramonti in Copiapo.
As we rode into Antofagasta, for some reason I’d managed to score the lead position and it was left up to me to find a hotel. Luck was on my side as I spotted the Apart Hotel on the Esplanade at Antofagasta. I parked my bike and, while the others waited, booked us all into a 7th floor apartment, with 7 rooms, and overlooking the coast, and all the activities on the foreshore. The Chileans seem to do a lot for their kids, as far as entertainment goes, and there are any number of blow-up castles, rides and amusements for them here. Anyway, the apartment suited everyone, and Des even commented that it was the best one yet, (and not too expensive). We spent the evening sitting on the balcony watching the world go by. It was a lovely day, which ended on a very positive note. I just wished my ears would pop!
Antofagasta is at about the same latitude as Alice Springs, just below the Tropic of Capricorn.
To date we have travelled 14,000 kilometers through South America.