22 October, 2012

Day 108, 543km: Chile's mining Atacama

Today I didn't really have a destination. Being in a civilized country, I figured I'd just stop when I felt tired. Since I really felt like being back in Northern America, I thought I'd drive as I did there, without any plan and just figuring things out along the way. Central America, Bolivia, Peru on the other hand required a bit of planning, to make sure that I would simply end somewhere with hotels and gas stations.

Here I thought there was no need for that.

Arica's walking street
 So I took the road south, after running a few errands in downtown.

The early part of the day was mostly across valleys like the one above
 Along the way, I fueled-up with Octane 97. Great quality fuel, a well deserved treat for Bertha. She went across Bolivia and Peru -two countries well known for their shitty gas- without failing. I gave her a pat on the side, like own would pat a horse. Good job Bertha. I was genuinely proud of her.

I'm starting to have a good stock of these!
 After going across these valleys, the rest of the day consisted in long, boring straight lines across the desert. And the wind. God the wind. There was a constant strong wind coming from my right.

L'equipe des winners en effet
 This is where I stopped for lunch. Look at that, seriously. I think that's for local elections. The guy in the middle definitely looks like a crook. And the rest of the team, subtly Photoshoped in?  That's a brilliant piece of work. If they don't get elected with this, no-one will.

Hey there!
 Shortly after the town of Huara I passed the 30,000km landmark. According to Garmin we passed it more than a thousand kilometers before. There's always a 2-3% difference between the bike and the GPS. I would tend to trust the GPS more since well, it should know about distances. The bike on the other hand is (I assume) counting revolutions of the wheel and estimating the distance traveled, which varies with the tire pressure, weariness and size.

In any case, I have been on the road for more than 30,000km. My first plan was for 33,000km overall to make it to Rio de Janeiro. That was greatly underestimated.

A mining town reminding me of the USA
 Crossing little cities and villages, I was each time reminded of the USA. Modern cars, clean streets, all the brands we're used to seeing elsewhere ...

Crossing another salar, admittedly less impressive than Uyuni's 
 And I was back in the wind. It was so strong that I tried every position on the bike, to shelter myself from it. Standing upright was painful on the neck, trying to keep my head straight in this wind.

Told you it was windy! So I ended up with my head behind the bike's windshield, almost lying down on the bike, moto GP style. Since I was doing 100km/h it was probably a funny sight for the cars that passed me.

Maria Elena downtown, crazy activity on Saturday
 My destination was San Pedro de Atacama. Since it was almost night, I stopped in a town along the way, Maria Elena. The town has the name of my godmother so I thought it would be great.

Ok so it's a mining town
It was a very small mining town, apparently no very used to seeing tourists. The Saturday night fever was going on, with close to nobody in the streets. After circling the town for a while, I asked a police officer if there was any hotel. He offered to drive me to the hotel. I was surprised by his generosity and later understood why I couldn't have made it alone.

We first stopped at a restaurant, where the officer told me to wait outside. He came out with a woman, and drove her to her car nearby. From there, we all drove together to the hotel. That was a funny convoy, the lady first in her 4x4, the police officer, me and stray dogs following us.

Then in some backstreet was the "hotel". From the outside it looked like it was under construction and from the inside well, it was under construction. Whatever, I had a bed and hot shower. The kind of shower where you keep your flip-flops in but that was a relaxing night nonetheless.

So I can say I've been to and slept in a mining town in the Atacama, haha!


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