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Old 04-02-2013, 01:06 PM   #406
RexBuck OP
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Mar 19 Antofagasta

When I start to head towards home on a trip away, I get kind of like a horse heading for the barn and get a bit more focused. I had decided to ship my bike to the States by air from Buenos Aires using the services of Dakar Motors who have a good reputation for shipping bikes for years.

My plan was to ship early in April which would give me a few days to visit my 98 year old Dad in California while I wait for my bike to arrive and be home mid-April.

Have had a number of discussions with Sandra at Dakar and because Argentina shuts down for 6 full days for Easter my choices are to arrive on the 3rd and ship on the 8th or 9th or, arrive on the 27th and ship on the 3rd. Decided on the latter which unfortunately robs a few more days out of my final schedual. The downside of that is (other than loosing trip time) is that I will hang around BsAs for 10 days. I guess there could be a worse city to be stuck in.

At this point rather than continue riding down the coast possibly as far as Santiago as Iíd hoped, Iíll be soon heading east which means todayís ride south to Antofagasta will be my last west coast riding.

Quite pretty with sand covered mountains soaring on the left and waves crashing on the right.






Further south there is a fair amount of mining. Many loading terminals doting the coast with almost all having a ship being loaded. Mountains are criss crossed with access roads wending their way up to operating or exploratory mines.

This mining requires a huge amount of electricity that used to be provided by natural gas fired generators with gas coming from Argentina. Apparently Argentina cut off gas to Chile so, they now use coal and fuel oil to fuel the generators. Passed one new plant with 6 sets of high voltage power lines heading into the desert.


However, the cities don't need as much of that expensive power. Given the lack of regular cloud cover, you see a lot of these nifty solar powered street lights in the region





The mountains disappear and the Atacama desert starts - pretty flat



Antofagasta is a good sized town. Kind of a weird hostel system here. Had identified a few places and one was called just 1127 . . . turns out that was the address. No sign, just a number. Didn't even look like a hostel Ring the buzzer and ask if they are a hostel . . . yes we are. But, we are full. Holy cow, no sign and they are full. The guy referred me to a place a few blocks away called Casa Velasquez . . . same thing. Just a number. Get inside, and nice place. Pretty empty so gave me a big room - $50 and thatís the cheapest place Iíve had in Chile yet.


Had a hard time finding a restaurant. Couple of Sushi places . . . I don't mind Sushi (it's in the seafood category) but when the Sushi Maker isn't Japanese, I draw the line. Plus they didn't serve beer . . .

Finally found a Resto-Pub and the girl hands me a menu.

So after a careful review, I ordered one something

"We don't have that."

Ok, well how about this then?

"Nope, don't have that either. In fact, we don't have anything on the menu."

OK, do you have anything to eat?

"Oh yes"

Good, bring me some.

Thank God it was meat and . . . on a square plate. Quite tasty too.







This was the beer I had. Fooled me at first also.





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Old 04-02-2013, 02:08 PM   #407
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Mar 20 San Pedro de Atacama

Fairly short 300km ride to San Pedro de Atacama. Steadily rising desert past a number of mines. This one was huge Ė drove along one side of this for 10 km. Huge piles of overburden. Would have like to see down in the pits particularly the big one in the background.






Lots of old abandoned pits and lots of new mines being started.

A number of new dump trucks and shovels along the road. Man those things are big they take everything they can off. This dump truckís axels stuck out at least 6íon each side of that trailer.






They are using a 13 axle rig to pull the loader and 14 axles for the dump truck. The front axles (maybe more) on the trailers are at least 8 wheels across and appear to be steerable. Saw a number of these rigs on the side of the road Ė must just haul at night.





Then saw one being pulled up a dirt road to a mine. Looks like they hooked two trucks on the front to get up the slight incline.





Iím guessing Finning/Caterpillar doing a gangbuster business here supplying new mines and replacing equipment in existing mines.



Flat and straight





Finally see the Andes through the sand and dust blowing around. Nice Ė time for some altitude





Ahh, this is nice





Interesting salt covered formations






Had checked to see what sort of accommodation is in San Pedro. Quite a few places available but seem really expensive. Get here and all the streets are dirt, completely lined with hotels, hostels, restaurants and money changers. Itís tough to find a Chilean here other than those working in businesses. Have not seen so many non-Latin Americans since the Galopogos. And, my hunch was right . . . HOLY BATMAN EXPENSIVE! This is the ultimate tourist place Ė Iíll be happy to move on.


Some sundry observations about Chile.

This time zone thing in Chile is getting hard to get used to. They are on Daylight Savings time and they donít go off it for a month or so. Puts them the same as Argentina which is on the East Coast of South America. Still dark at 7 in the morning but doesnít get dark until close to 8 at night. Iím usually up early so get a lot of morning dark

The little part of Chile Iíve seen appears much more Westernized than elsewhere in Latin American that Iíve traveled. Drivers are courteous, roads are excellent, middle class houses seem decent and prices are high.

But, like the rest of South America Iíve seen they do have a love affair with those friggin mee mah blah de blah alarm systems for their cars. However, Chileans taken to a new high and have figured out how to raise the volume and make them more sensitive. More than once Iíve had to listen to a chorus of two or three of these things. Even the owners seem to ignore them as they take forever to turn off. Why bother? Sorry, that sounded almost like a rant

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Old 04-02-2013, 02:31 PM   #408
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Very interesting landscapes RB. Not at all how I had pictured it. Tough decision to make on the shipping front. I hope you enjoy the final portion of your journey. We have all enjoyed following you along, with mucho envy. Travel safe
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Old 04-02-2013, 05:37 PM   #409
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Originally Posted by Jick Magger View Post
Very interesting landscapes RB. Not at all how I had pictured it. Tough decision to make on the shipping front. I hope you enjoy the final portion of your journey. We have all enjoyed following you along, with mucho envy. Travel safe
Thanks Jick. I'm really happy you and all the others tagged along.

Very little of what I have experienced on this trip has been close to what my vision was. Almost always the experience has been better than what I expected.
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Old 04-03-2013, 07:44 PM   #410
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Great stuff, RB

Continue to travel with you vicariously, Stevo, as do a growing number from around here. Stay safe on the return journey - Jick, the Italian, GregBob and all the rest of us will buy the beers to celebrate your safe return.
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Old 04-04-2013, 03:12 AM   #411
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BA to CA

Hi Stevo

Great job on your RR. Love the photos. Glad to see you made it through Bolivia without having to buy a lunch for some radar carrying bandits like I did.

Brave food choices. I'm too fussy. I am trying to put on weight now that i'm back home in Shediac. I lost 25 pounds in SA

Hope you are now in CA

Looking forward to hearing about your trip back.

Ride Safe

Kedgi

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Old 04-04-2013, 11:35 AM   #412
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Continue to travel with you vicariously, Stevo, as do a growing number from around here. Stay safe on the return journey - Jick, the Italian, GregBob and all the rest of us will buy the beers to celebrate your safe return.
Thanks Buddy, and howdy to all the other Vernon Riff Raff. Look forward to hearing about your trip too. Did you say beers? No, I couldn't. Well, I could but I won't. Ok Ok, I will . . . just tell me when.
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Old 04-04-2013, 11:45 AM   #413
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Hi Stevo

Great job on your RR. Love the photos. Glad to see you made it through Bolivia without having to buy a lunch for some radar carrying bandits like I did.

Brave food choices. I'm too fussy. I am trying to put on weight now that i'm back home in Shediac. I lost 25 pounds in SA

Hope you are now in CA

Looking forward to hearing about your trip back.

Ride Safe

Kedgi

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Glad you liked em Dee White.

And you can't really afford to lose 25#. When I was in Arica, I wandered by this place that was advertising a KedgiBurger . . . was curious how they came up with that name

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Old 04-04-2013, 12:37 PM   #414
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Thanks Buddy, and howdy to all the other Vernon Riff Raff. Look forward to hearing about your trip too. Did you say beers? No, I couldn't. Well, I could but I won't. Ok Ok, I will . . . just tell me when.
Bring your wallet. I'm just about out of gas trying to keep the economy going while you galavant all over the Americas
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Old 04-04-2013, 02:53 PM   #415
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Bring your wallet. I'm just about out of gas trying to keep the economy going while you galavant all over the Americas
Well, we galavanters appreciate your effort but after trying to stimulate the Latin American economies . . . we need you to stop reading this stuff and get back to work

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Old 04-04-2013, 03:09 PM   #416
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Mar 21 Jammin the Jama - to Argentina

Off to Argentina. Seems like too brief of a visit to Chile Ė so much I missed seeing Ė like most of it. No different than Bolivia though.

Will be entering Argentina through the Paso de Jama, one of the many high altitude crossings between the two countries where the peaks of the Andes range forms the rough border.

First order of business before I leave San Pedro is to find the gas station. This has to be one of the most disjointed towns Iíve ever seen. On the one hand it is full of hotels, hostels and restaurants with some of the most consistently highest prices Iíve seen, more YUPPIEs, Birkenstocks and Tilley Hats than you can shake a stick at while on the other hand, they donít bother to pave the roads (the highway is paved up to both town boundries) and they hide their gas station at the end of a dead end road. Itís not just a dead end road off the highway either, down a side road then off the side road on another road but turn off on yet another road before you get to the police station then follow that road to its end.

Since we are on strange . . . strangely, the Aduana and Migracion for Chile are in San Pedro de Atacama . . . 160 km from the border. After standing behind a busload in the Migracion line, everything for the exit stuff went fast. Was getting ready to leave and 3 guys from Washington pull up. They werenít even going to stop but saw me and pulled over. Nice guys Ė 2 of them did this trip 50 years ago. One of the guys, Keith, owns Sound BMW in Seattle.

On the road. Immediately start climbing (San Pedro is already at 8000 ft) in the desert and pass this volcano, the first of many



Tons of trucks on the road Ė mostly car carriers taking cars to Argentina and coming back empty. A number of Propane trucks also bringing propane from Argentina and returning empty.

Then start to notice the desert sand is turning into volcanic gravel and rocks Ė very surreal Ė almost moon-like. These pictures don't capture the feeling of openness









Started getting cold. Leveled out around 15,800 feet and the temp ranged between 3 and 0C. Couldn't get a pic at 0deg so 0.5 will have to do



Even had a kinda brackish lake up there



I thought it was quite stunning country, very beautiful.

Finally dropped down to 14,000 feet or so and it warmed up to 5 and 6. You can tell you are getting lower because plants are starting to grow again.





Came to the border. Pretty straight forward. I was told by a couple of people to pay the ďReciprocity FeeĒ or tax online before I get to the border. So I was ready to go. Of course, I already exited from Chile 160 km ago so, just have to deal with the Argentina Aduana and Migraciůn at the same counter in the same building which was slick. Scan the receipt for the fee and stamp the passport. Guy fills out a form for my bike and done.

As I was walking out, the three guys from Washington showed up. Told them where to go and tell them the proceedure including scanning the tax form Ė blank looks "what tax form". Ah crap, I feel really bad. It didnít even cross my mind to mention it to them back at San Pedro Ė I was just thinking about the exit stuff from Chile.

Told them I have a friend who didnít get his fee paid. But, he talks a lot, did his impression of an air traffic controller and likely talked the ear off one of the ladies in Migracion. She apparently relented just to get him to shut up, went online and helped him get it. Hope they were able to figure out a way to get it done without having to go all the way back to San Pedro.

Even came across a few small salars Ė nowhere near the stature of Uyuni in Bolivia but neat nonetheless.



Even some commercial salt production



Just past this salar, a guy flags me down with a little moto on the side of the road. Wanted some gas. Big guy. His buddy was trying to stay out of the way across the road. Big guy too. Have a whole bunch of junk laying under their little 150 bike including a giant siphon hose. Just seemed weird. Why would you have two big guys crammed on this little, tiny putt putt bike and they just happened to have a whole bunch of tools and 6-8' of a 3/4" hose? Probably should have helped them but my Spidy Sense was tingling so I said no and let the clutch out.

After the salar, it started getting a little hilly Ė reminded me of Wyoming and Colorado.





After that little canyon had a nice little curvy road across this valley.




And up the hill




Then come around the corner to this.





Just finish up that set and see some cool hillsides so, pull over to the other side of the road to take a pic and see this below me. (Study these pics for a moment)





Lot of fun except for the empty car carriers roaring around the switchbacks in my lane Ė a few sphincter clenchers. Those guys were going up the hill on the Chile side loaded with cars at about 40 kph Ė coming back empty and it looked like they were all trying to qualify for the Le Mans or something.

Then more cool formations








Once out of the mountains, flat, windy and straight. Iím going about 30kph over the speed limit and being passed like Iím standing still. Have to put my big sprocket back on

Was going to stop in Purnamarca but decided to push on to Salta. Arrive at 6 with lots of daylight left. Hostel was La Casona de Linda Ė nice place, good internet and good parking across the street Ė great price at 130 pesos Ė about $25.

Group of half dozen or so large bikes around me coming into town. Iíve seen more large bikes since I got into Argentina than Iíve seen in most of Latin America. Particularly big bikes with local plates on them. Mostly BMWs.


Figured I had a day to burn so decided to stay another night and put the larger sprocket on my bike, get some laundry done and figure out how I will get to Buenos Aires.

I had a slightly smaller front sprocket to help make the pretty tall first gear a bit more manageable when going slow. It in essence drops all my gears down one gear. Now doing a lot of highway speeds and Iím feeling Iím really ringing my engineís neck with the higher speeds Ė particularly in Chile and now Argentina. First time on this whole trip Iíve had to add oil to the engine. Carried that thing everyone thought was a fire extinguisher full of oil and never needed a drop.

Had a great dinner of Argentine beef Ė Milanesa and a friggin wine bottle full of beer. Both were very good. Quilmes Stout - #1 Argentina selection.




Second night went to a restaurant about a block from the other and decided to have Parrillada and another of their wine bottles of beer. They brought around this little hibachi which had a whole bunch of stuff on it sizzling away. Cool! I dive in. Quite enjoying the meat and attacked another piece to quickly discover it was liver. OK, letís try some sausage. First one was dark and as I suspected was like blood sausage . . . not any better than the English version. The white sausage was good. Couldnít figure out why the pineapple ring wasnít cooking. Soon to discover it was a spiral of small intestines. Hmm, tried it and decided to skip that one too. The meat on the other hand was terrific. Beer was good but the one last night was better.




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Old 04-05-2013, 03:23 AM   #417
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Great ride report - thanks for giving my early morning a ray of sunshine. Looking forward to your report on how things play out in Buenos Aires
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Old 04-05-2013, 07:33 AM   #418
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+1
Hope you get to see Bryce and others while there, too.
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Old 04-05-2013, 01:26 PM   #419
Kedgi
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Glad you liked em Dee White.

And you can't really afford to lose 25#. When I was in Arica, I wandered by this place that was advertising a KedgiBurger . . . was curious how they came up with that name

That's funny, that's the only restaurant I went to in Arica.

Hurry up and get home so I can invite you to ride around Mexico with me for a few months next winter, as long as you promise not to corrupt, young impressionable me that is.

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Old 04-06-2013, 09:13 AM   #420
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Great ride report - thanks for giving my early morning a ray of sunshine. Looking forward to your report on how things play out in Buenos Aires
Thanks for that glad you enjoyed.

Wow, a ray of sunshine . . . I've never really been associated with that term before.
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