22 October, 2012

Day 107, 512km: Into Northern Chile

Today we parted ways with Julian. He continues north towards Peru, I head west towards Chile. The day started in Ururo, realizing that my rear brake is now stuck. I tried to set it free but haven't succeeded. I guess something must be blocking the brake mechanism. It doesn't affect driving though.

After this quick try-to-repair session, we headed to the gas station. I've red stories about people being denied gas in Bolivia, well this is the first time it happened to me. There was a policeman at the gas station, and the pump-man refused to sell me gas, pointing at the policeman. Unluckily for him, I wasn't in a good mood and told him I wouldn't move from the gas station until they gave me gas.
So I stayed there for a good 10 minutes, while Julian went to get gas elsewhere. Cars were pilling-up behind me and after a while the policeman came to me. I told him I didn't speak Spanish and I think I was able to communicate my intense hatred for him through the eyes.

They chatted a bit with the pump-man and after a while served me gas, Julian and I were good to go on our way north.

Great landscapes heading west from Ururo
We parted ways with Julian after 2 hours of a relatively boring road (Ururo-La Paz) and I headed west towards Chile. Now I have to say I have mixed feelings about Bolivia. The beauty of the country is majestic. The people are nice and helpful. The state of the infrastructures however (roads, electricity, gas, ATM) is pretty bad and the idea of "service" is restaurants, shops, hostels doesn't really exist. All that makes the country exhausting. You have to deserve Bolivia it seems. I'm generalizing of course, based on the week I spent in the Bolivian altiplano.

Nearing the border, elevation 4000m
I put the music back on and was back in my lonesome cowboy routine, cruising towards the border, enjoying the great views. Not many people on this road, frequented only by trucks. Strangely enough there were a lot of trucks coming from Chile but almost none going to Chile. Do they make a loop and head back via another route? That was strange.

An uninterrupted line of trucks for 10km
The Bolivia-Chile border is at two locations, depending on the direction of your travel. I passed the Chile->Bolivia checkpoint and there was an uninterrupted line of trucks, as pictured above. They weren't moving at all. I wonder how long they wait at this border. This really seems to be the lifeline of Bolivia. I guess fortunes are being made at this border.

Splendid sight
The border point was at 4500m of elevation. The poor border officials there were all wearing several layers, jackets, gloves. Some had a small electric heater but all seemed to be having a hard time. The buildings and process were excellent however. It took me just 40 minutes to complete all the paperwork and this includes an X-Ray of my luggage.

Majestic views of the Cerro Parinacota (if I got it right)
It felt really good to be in Chile. Polite border officials offering help and directions in English. Good roads, with signage and markings. It somehow felt like being back in Canada or USA.

Going down the Andes to the city of Arica
The customs official recommended me to stay in Arica, a seaside city. That meant going from 4500m to 0m, which would be an interesting ride for sure.

Scenic view with the village and mountain in the background
The general feeling of these first hours in Chile was to be back to civilization. Civilized drivers who give way to motorcycles, do not overtake each other like jackasses. That was greatly relaxing since I've been driving with jackasses since, well, Mexico (August).

Last 50km to Arica, the ocean smell is back, vegetation as well
So it's comfortable being here. Easy and relaxing. Arriving in the city, I was laughing at the idea that after all, I just love comfort.

Look at that! A sign with directions on it, amazing!
The small little details like having a sign explaining where each side of an intersection takes you makes life so much easier and more relaxing.
Even finding an hotel in Arica wasn't difficult.

Then I was off to bed, after a session of hotel room cooking and laundry.

Cheers,
Guillaume

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