Long days of desert riding
25.01.2015 - 28.01.2015
We left Vicuña early and had planned a scenic route along much quieter roads. However, an hour into our journey, and half way up a very gravelly hill, we were greeted by a locked gate. With the gate impossible to pass and both agreeing there must be a solid reason for the road being closed, we headed back to La Serena and on to Copiapo along the pan-am highway.
This turned out to be a good decision as this quicker route still took ages and had a number of petrol stations en route - we are still without a Jerry can.
Copiapo itself was as the guide book promised - very quiet on the tourist front. This meant that there was very little to do and even fewer places to stay. Eventually we found a room at a '3 star' (dubious) hotel and were joined only by a number of local miners.
After our night in Copiapo, we had a second all day ride in as many days. Again we took the pan-am highway and again we arrived knackered and rather unimpressed with the town. Fortunately there was more to see en route to Antofagasta - namely the giant hand which very randomly appears in the Atacama desert. This was spoilt only by a freak sandstorm - not much fun on our little bikes.
Antofagasta offered similarly little to us, but was far larger than Copiapo. Our hostel was basic but also expensive - not a great combo. A rather greasy Chorrillana and a pint at a local bar was a well-deserved reward after another long day.
Antofagasta also marked the last time we will see the coast for a while.
After another quick one night stop, we headed for our third and final long drive in a row. The first stop was Calama. The plan was to stop at Calama's Registro Civil en route and either collect the final bike document (Padron) or at least hurry the process along and pick it up in a few days.
Things did not go to plan. In fact, things couldn't have gone worse. We parked the bikes in a seemingly busy road, round the corner from the Registro Civil. The first blow came as the man at the office told us our Padron would not be ready for 20 working days AND there was no speeding this process up.
This was seriously bad news - not only was Chile proving to be very expensive but we also had little left to see and had booked Spanish lessons in Sucre. Basically we could not afford to stay another 20 days in Chile and nor did we want to.
On returning to the bikes we were greeted with even worse news - one half of the panniers on BOTH bikes had been ripped off and stolen. We were both already pretty gutted following the Padron news, so this was a pretty low moment. The panniers were padlocked and tied to the bike - there was little more we could do. Bad news and terrible timing.
Feeling pretty low and not Calama's biggest fans, we decided to head straight for San Pedro de Atacama. This proved to be a good decision. After a bit of trouble finding a hostel, we decided a beer and some decent food was well overdue. San Pedro was an incredible little town - very tourist-friendly with plenty of very nice restaurants. We finally ate very well and for a decent price. Feeling a little happier, we decided to head for the border in a few days with the documents we had and chance it - we both agreed we had little to lose.