Sunday, 1 November 2015

Through the Atacama to Valparaiso, Chile.

It was several long days of riding through the Atacama desert. Long, arrow straight roads stretching to the horizon. From Antofagasta I stopped at the "Mano del Desierto" sculpture for the obligatory biker photo before an enjoyable ride under cloudless skies in the starkly beautiful desert. As the road neared the coast, a thick blanket of gray clouds appeared. Its better riding earlier in the day, before the winds pick up, the occasional wind-farm stand as testament to how windy it can get here.
Finally managed to find petrol and gratefully filled the tank with 95 RON and my belly with doritos and a snickers bar. I think the bike got the better deal. I ended the day at Bahia Inglesa, a tiny beach resort on the Pacific. Summer hadn't reached this latitude yet and it was distinctly chilly. An out of season beach resort is an odd place; very few people around, I was the only guest at the hotel and a power cut added to the eerie atmosphere making me think I was an extra in "The Shining".

The next day dawned cold and overcast. Another long day slogging through the desert under leaden skies made for a dull ride. I was praying for the sun to reappear; which it eventually did, only to hit the heaviest traffic I have seen for a while. More vegetation was gradually appearing; a mass of pink/purple flowers spread across the desert floor in places. Finished the day at La Serena, a pretty town of colonial buildings, all the more appealing as the sun had reappeared.

I left La Serena in the sunshine, but it didn't last long. All too soon, the clouds and low temperatures returned. This made for another long slog south. The road followed the coast for most of the day, past some good surf beaches. All empty. Dual carriageway and an overcast sky; not my ideal riding conditions. Few curves and the Andes are seemingly a distant memory. I'm having doubts whether I should continue south; its still early in the season and I think it'll only get colder the further south I get. I'm hearing reports that the pass near San Pedro to Argentina is closed again because of snow, and that is the most northerly pass, the ones further south could be worse. I may head over to Argentina from Santiago and ride north to find the sun again and warm my cold bones.

As I got closer to Valparaiso, the sun came out and the temperature rose. Looks like an interesting town; very "bohemian", lots of "artistic" graffiti and a drunk shouting abuse at a police van (who, sensibly, ignored him). An "Irish" bar, in name only. No Guinness, no Irish music and no craic; but an astonishing range of beers. Once the sun set, the wind rose and it got cold. South to Patagonia, or East to Argentina? I think I'll need a couple of days in Santiago to research and decide. I'm tired and a bit jaded at the moment. Chile hasn't been the best place for me so far; too expensive and, if I'm honest, a little bit boring. Probably more down to my frame of mind than the country itself. Overlanding on your own for a long time teaches you a lot about yourself; not always easy living in your own head for so long.

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