Day 196 – Chanalan, CL to Valpariso, CL

Day 196 – Chanalan, CL to Valpariso, CL      02/05/11       Mileage: 571

Alex had some things to do this morning so I hit the road south solo. I was on the gas to make miles and the weather and road were both working with me for a change. The road ran along the coast in a few spots and it could easily pass for the Pacific Coast Highway in California.

I’m still carrying the blue gallon jugs for gas that I bought from the little old lady in Bolivia…..the best 80 cents I ever spent.

Nightfall began to catch me as I turned off the Pan American for Valparaiso. The small road I was on ran along the coast and by what surely must be the Malibu of Chile with spectacular houses perched above the South Pacific.

I also caught a spectacular sunset before pulling into Valparaiso. I found a room and crashed soon after, worn out from the long day in the saddle…life is good…

Day 195 – San Pedro de Atacama, CL to Chanalan, CL

Day 195 – San Pedro de Atacama, CL to Chanalan, CL      03/04/11      Mileage: 455

Marshall and I were up relatively early to work on the bikes and Megan cooked a nice breakfast for us. I’m going to miss all of their home cooking, as our time together was almost over. They were heading back over the pass to Argentina and I was going to cross the Atacama Desert and bomb down the Chilean coast as time is running short to make it to Ushuaia before winter. Our last mile together was to the gas station in San Pedro where we parted ways.

Adios mi amigos, buen viaje…

As much as I enjoy going solo, traveling with them has been great and will miss their company immensely. So just like that I was on my own again and rolling south. Instead of taking the paved route up to Calama and then south, I decided to put my still fresh knobby tires to use and chose to cut straight across the Atacama Desert on the dirt.

When I tell you that I didn’t pass a single car or truck, I mean not even 1 for a hundred miles until I hit the pavement again.

Crossing the Tropic of Capicorn….   I crossed the Tropic of Cancer way back in Baja Mexico…almost 5 months ago.

Continuing south on the Pan American my next stop was the Mano del Desierto…and who should I see when I pull up…none other than Alex and his KLR! That would be the third time I’ve bumped into him in as many countries….first in Ollantaytambo back in Peru, then in the middle of the Bolivian Altiplano and now in northern Chile…crazy!

Alex, his KLR and the big mano…

After the photos with the Hand of the Desert, we rolled south down the Pan Am. The Atacama Desert of northern Chile is desolate…so desolate it makes the Altiplano seem like Ho Ho Kus (yes, that is a town in northern NJ!) They only thing that makes it not feel as remote is the well traveled paved road across it. There are also not many gas stations and we made the mistake of passing one by and I had to use the two spare gallons I was carrying…one for Alex and one for me. Luckily it was enough to carry us to Chanalan where we split a room and scored some Chinese food.

The Chinese restaurant had Bud, and I couldn’t pass up a little slice Americana…

Tomorrow it’s more super slab down the Pan Am to Valpariso…

Day 194 – San Pedro de Atacama, CL

Day 194 – San Pedro de Atacama, CL      03/03/11      Mileage: 0

Today was a work day, and after breakfast I spent almost all day sorting through pictures, writing and working on the blog. Tomorrow it’s back on the road south….

Megan and Marshall made a nice breakfast and we were joined by a nice guy from Austria…

San Pedro lives in the shadow of Volcano Licancabur…

Day 193 – Laguna Colorado, BO to San Pedro de Atacama, CL

Day 193 – Laguna Colorado, BO to San Pedro de Atacama, CL      03/02/11      Mileage: 90

It was a spectacular morning and the sun was warming the air fast. We broke camp after a good breakfast and headed south for Chile border.

Two vicuna’s roaming the Altiplano

Along the way we passed the hot springs near Laguna Chalviri…can’t pass that up! We parked the bikes, jumped into our swim trunks and found a great rustic natural pool for nice hot soak.

The cold air made it hard to get out of the water, but the road south to Chile beckons.

The high lakes of the Altiplano have of all things….lots of Flamingo’s….

Shortly after passing Laguna Verde, we came to the Bolivian border post. The official stamped us out but told us the aduana office was 20 kilometers back….crap! Luckily he was an agreeable (but grumpy) chap, and he agreed to take our import permits back to the aduana the next morning for us saving us the trip back.

That done, it was on to Chile…country number 15!

We were heading for San Pedro de Atacama where the Chile border post was located…some 40 minutes or so down pavement so smooth you could play pool on it. Megan seemed particularly thrilled at the sight of pavement…and it was nice change from mud and sand.

So after plunging 7,000 feet to the valley below, we arrived at the dusty town of San Pedro, smack in the middle of the Atacama desert…the driest on earth. The border formalities were straight forward and took about an hour…but they seemed particularly concerned about foreign fruit and vegetables. They didn’t ask about drugs, guns, alcohol or the dynamite I picked up in Potosi…but they rifled through all of our stuff in search any rogue lettuce or rhubarb…strange. Anyway, we found a room and promptly went in search of dinner and the requisite drinks to toast our successful crossing of the Bolivian Altiplano…a fitting way to end some memorable and epic riding.