Facts and Figures
Dec 3rd - Dec 9th 2010
Start Mileage - 30179
Miles - 190
Jama, Argentina (ACA Motel) - Calama, Chile (Hostal Nativo)
Coffee and slow pack this morning. The guys in the Motel/Service station aren't paying much attention to us, we had the flask filled and two coffees which we didnít get charged for, maybe itís free Ďcos we stayed! We thought we might even get away without paying for the room but Iím sure they would have realised before we got through the Customs point 200 Mtrs up the road Ö so we paid up.
A nice easy exit out of Argentina for the last time :-( The entry point back into Chile is after the Paso de Jama 160KMís away in San Pedro de Atacama, our planned stop.
A cold ride over the pass, glad we put the liners back in!! Riding over the Alti Plano again, wide open spaces, great scenery with weird rock formations sticking out of the desert sand. Lots of Vicunaís grazing at the side of the road, Ďtho what they are eating we donít know, just looks like gravel to me!! A bit further up the road we came across a few lakes spattered with Flamingoís and more Vicunaís.
We arrived at San Pedro de Atacama in blazing heat, wind and dust. We found the Aduana easy enough and sailed through the entry into Chile. The first thing that hit us about SPDA was how touristy it was, just hostals, restaurants and gift shops. The next thing that struck us was how everywhere was just geared up to rip off the tourist ...pricey place!.
After riding around town a couple of times going the wrong way up streets that had no direction indicators or names we found a campsite that was in the Rough Guide. Obviously on the tourist bandwagon and not wanting budget traveller scum darkening their doorstep, the price for camping was more than we have paid in good hotels, even in Chile! CLP 8000 each per night, over a tenner per person. The woman on reception even admitted that they prefer not to have campers and that their prices were to attract ďthe nicer type of peopleĒ, we left, annoyed, without even looking at the camping area.
After a coffee in the main plaza the tourist office was now open and we got a list of accommodation and campsites in town. All of the hostals were way more expensive than we were prepared to pay so we went hunting for the campsites. The first on the list was shut and looked like a landfill, move on, getting a bit hacked off with this place, the next place, more reasonably priced at CLP 3500, what we are used to paying for a proper site. Lorraine went in to check it out, we would be paying for a piece of dirt in someone's yard, surrounded by their junk, on a slope and toilet/shower facilities that were a way off hygienic.
Thoroughly hacked now, our money isnít good enough for here so we shot out of town and headed for Calama, if we want to see the Salar we can look at it on Nat Geo!! Next problem is fuel, we never found the fuel station in town and there is nothing on the way to Calama, so hacked off that I donít care if we run out at the side of the road.
About 5KMís out of Calama on a straight bit of road, I overtook a people carrier. In front was a cop car and there was a truck coming towards us. The cop swerved as if to push the truck out of the way even though I had stacks of room, then the cop put his lights Ö. S***! Does he want us to pull over? I slowed and stayed behind him, donít want to push my luck! He didnít stop and pull us over so we just followed. At the next junction I saw him look behind and then the lights came on again, crap, he wants us to follow him. Iím following the garmin to the town center which seems to be the same way as the cop is going, every junction and every set of lights he looks behind and puts the lights on Ö think we are in some doo doo!
We managed to shake him at one set of lights by letting a couple of cars get ahead of us, he went through on green and we got the red .. Woo hoo! Then there he is again a couple of cars ahead of us and lights on ... damn it!! OK thatís it, Iím going to pull over and wait to see what happens, nothing, he just kept on going, maybe he got bored or was just playing with us.
We couldn't find a hostal anywhere after riding around for ages, we did get directions to a campsite tho but when we got there, with a big sign at the gat saying ďCampingĒ we were told no camping. They did give us directions to another campsite which we found but again told no campingÖÖ hate this place too! Dummy spat, I have given up on today, it is dusk, I am hot and canít be bothered any more, pull over on the side of the road we can kip against the bike. We had stopped outside a Rotary Club so Lorraine went in to see if we could pitch up behind their building or maybe kip on the floor, no luck with that but he did tell us roughly where there were some cheap hostals. Again, loads of riding around without success. Give up again and chance our luck at the police station that we have passed a few times, hope the cop we followed into town isnít around!!!! Got away with that one. And we got easy directions to a Residencial with parking next door. Just to round the day off no shops close by that sold beer, coffee and bed.
Start Mileage - 30369
Miles - 245
Calama (Hostal Nativo) - Iquique (Hostal Casano)
Kept awake most of the night by the front doorbell going off every 10 minutes. Not a good start to the day!!! The gear we left on the bike overnight was still there in the morning so thatís a bonus. After a bit of trouble navigating our way out of town and riding the wrong way down a dual carriageway .. Doh! Ö. No signage again and it looked like two separate lanes, my excuse and Iím sticking to it. Heading towards Tocopilla and the coast then weíre going to take the coast road to Iquique rather than the Pan Americana .. A nice start to the ride with a few twisties into the mountains then 100+KMís of the most boring road yet, just straight and featureless bar the odd mine or two. We did get a toot and a wave from a train that was going in the opposite direction, must have been the highlight of his day as I think we were the only traffic on the road. Eventually we see the sea, a welcome sight after so long at altitude, the bike runs better and I run better.
A nice seafood soup and a slab of fish for me for lunch and salad for Lorraine then back on the road. A good ride up the coast through small fishing villages with the weather changing from sunny and warm to hot then mist and rain and any other variation in-between.
An impressive entry into Iquique with the 100Mtr sand dune towering above the city, gives a bit of perspective to the riding we have been doing at 4000+ Mtrs.
We found the Tourist Office at the top end of townÖ... not open on Saturdays!, so itís a ride around the busy streets to try and find somewhere to stay. We had seen a Hostal on the way in so went looking for that one first, looked ok as we rode past earlier. We found it again no problem but they only had a 10 bed dorm available and it was quite full. In my younger days I wouldn't have minded but I canít be doing with kids rolling in all hours smashed out of their heads!!! It was a nice place though and had parking. The girl on reception pointed us to another Hostal up the road, again, only a 10 bed dorm available but we would be the only ones in it for tonight, she said that tomorrow we could move into a private room for the same cost as the dorm Ö sold. The only drawback with the place was no parking available, the owner did try to get us to go through the main doors and park next to the desk but it was just too narrow and some big steps to contend with. With all the gear off and a 24 hour reception desk we felt it was safe enough to leave it outside parked next to the reception window.
More like a proper Hostel we had a big, equipped and clean kitchen we could use so we saved a bit of money by cooking for ourselves tonight rather than eating out again.
Iquique (Hostal Casona)
Day Trip -128 Miles
Up for breakfast and then wait for the room to be cleaned before we can move our gear out of the dorm.
10:45 and we are off to the first stop, Humberstone, an abandoned Nitrate mining town that was in operation from 1872 - 1960 with 3,700 inhabitants, miners and their families. Couldnít have been easy working in a smelting factory in the middle of the Atacama, the driest desert on earth!
After a couple of hours wandering around the old houses and factory we set off for Pica, an oasis town that Jeannette, the hostal owner had recommended we visit and a restaurant to go to for lunch. We arrived in Pica to find the center closed off for a festival to the local Saint with bands and costumed dancers from all over the region and beyond. We sat and watched the bands for a while then went in search of the restaurant where we had a very good, cheapish lunch with the bands parading through the streets. After letting the lunch go down we went back to the plaza and watched a bit more before moving off. We took a different road back towards Iquique, a potholed salt road through the desert with nothing to see but sand in all directions. Back on the main Ruta 5 the wind picked up a bit and we were being blown sideways and shot to bits by the sand that was whipping up until we turned off for Iquique and all of a sudden there was no wind, but nothing blocking it and we could still see the sand being blown about on the R5 .. weird!
Start Mileage - 30,772
Miles - 195
Iquique (Hostal Casano) - Arica (Hostal Villarica)
A lazy start and late on the road, 12:00!! Lucky we haven't got far to go. About 50 KMís out of Iquique we came across what at over 100 Mtrs high are supposed to be the largest Geoglyphs (Figures carved into the earth) in the area. We didnít stop too long as it was hot, hot, hot and we needed to get going again to reach Arica. A windy but nice ride through the mountains arriving at Arica around 17:00. We picked up a list of accommodation from the tourist Office and went on the hunt. We found a cheap Hostal just out of town with huge covered and gated parking, very clean and cable T.V.
Lots of fast food places in Arica but we fancied something a bit better and ended up in an expensive restaurant with proper waiters and tablecloths etc. The best steak Iíve had in Chile.
After a walk around town we picked up a couple of beers and headed back to the hostal. At the corner before our Hostal there was a group of women in strange traditional costume, not Chilean costume but traditional of the oldest profession, not sure that all of them had been women all their lives though!!!
Arica (Hostal Villarica)
Several coffees and a Skype session before we head out to the Azapa Valley and the museum, about a 20 minute taxi ride away. Another hot day!
The museum houses some Petroglyphs (Figures carved into rocks) that have been removed from their original sites because of vandalism and the mummified remains of bodies found in the region. There is a wide collection of artefacts from around the region covering several periods of the Chinchorros (a coastal people) and Tijuanacotas (a group that lived in the antiplano) . A separate section houses over 300 mummies from the Chinchorro era, dating back to 6000BC believed to be the oldest in the world, which were found during excavations near the museum. A very interesting couple of hours.
Taxi back into town and lunch. We took a walk to ďEl MorroĒ the cliff on the edge of town and decided not to make the climb to the top for the views, too hot and too steep!!
Start Mileage - 30,967
Miles - 88
Arica (Hostal Villarica) - Putre (Hostal Calli)
We are leaving the desert behind for a little while and heading back to the mountains. Weíre not riding for long before we start going up, a great road again, twisty and scenic. We arrived at Putre around 14:00, a small village at 3,500 Mtrs. about 80 KMís from the Bolivian border at Tambo Quenado. Not a lot here, just a stop over for the run to the border tomorrow.
Iím having trouble now and then with breathing at night at altitude, Coca leaves help sometimes but not always and coming from sea level in one hit I donít get acclimatized quick enough. Another night with hardly any sleep!!!!
Start Mileage -31,055
Miles - 103
Putre (Hostal Calli) - Curuhuara de Carangas (Bolivia(Hostal Kory Wara)
No sleep = late start. On the road for 12:00, not far to go but we donít know how Bolivian border crossings work yet! The ride out was another spectacular one through the Parque Nacional Lauca, lots of Vicunaís, Flamingoís, mountains and lakes. Then there is the still active Parinacota & Pormerape volcanoes, at 6,350 Mtrs highest point which seem to be in view for most of the ride until we reach the border at Tambo Quenado.
Exiting Chile for the last time was a breeze, now lets see how Bolivia works!!!
To be continued.