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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by ADVegan, Nov 14, 2018.
Couple more shots from Cotopaxi Volcano:
Wow, the last post I made was in Cotopaxi Ecuador?! On August 13th? For shame!
Ok, a lot has happened since then... I'm now at Lake Titicaca on the Peru side, expect to cross to Bolivia tomorrow or the day after. Rachel is no longer with me on the trip, but I'll get to that later... First a quick summary.
Ecuador was a lot of fun for me. The relatively small size of the country made all the attractions just seem easier to get to. At one point we were looking at riding out to the coast which the maps were saying would be about a 7 hour ride from where we were in Quilotoa. The whole trip we had been shooting for 3-4 hour rides so this would be 2 days, but Rachel suggested we give it a shot and we did it in one day. After that our horizons expanded and we felt like we could cover a lot more distance in a day if we wanted/ needed to.
We zigzagged an inefficient route around Ecuador, stayed in Cuenca for almost two weeks to relax and then rode to Vilcabamba where we stayed at Izhcayluma. That wound up being one of our favorite spots and we kept extending and extending our stay.
All told we stayed in Ecuador for a little over a month. Cuenca was a favorite of ours, kind of a relaxed vibe while still being big enough to have everything you might need. I understood the appeal to retiree expats. We also met a lot of backpackers in hostels around Ecuador who we would keep running into in different cities. This was a new kind of experience for the trip and it really felt good to make some friends.
Here is me on a hike with one of those friends, amazing scenery! Weird aspect ration because I pulled it from our Instagram.. But you get the idea!
Jeeze, I now have a computer and I can see how these photos are showing up.. I will work on the formatting from here on out! (Maybe I'll fix that last post too)
After Ecuador, we rode to the tiny border with Peru. It was about 2 hours unpaved to get to the border where there was one Peruvian officer who threw up his hands when we walked in and said "no hay systema!" -- There is no system!--. So we we waited for a few hours, and I should note we didn't have any cash at all Ecuadorean, Peruvian, American dollars - nothing. And there was of course no ATM near this border. So we waited about 3 hours, and the sun was setting and eventually I rode 20 minutes into Peru to the nearby tiny town to get cash but there was no ATM there either. I rode back to the border where Rachel was waiting, but still "no hay systema". So I told the officer we're just going to ride an hour into Peru illegally in the dark and we'll come back in the morning. He said that was OK. I must have spoken with conviction. We got stopped by a police officer about 30 minutes into the ride to check our papers, which of course we didn't have as we were illegal immigrants. I pointed back towards the border and said "No hay systema!" and he let us pass. We went back the next day, and in 15 minutes got everything processed and we were on our way.
Rachel straight up not having a good time at the border:
Peru turned out to be a much bigger country than Ecuador. The rides were longer, with more "non-highlight" cities in between the highlights. This started taking a toll on Rachel, which in turn started taking a toll on me. A couple long ride days, we decided to have her take a bus instead of the bike. I don't think that she liked it much more. Northern Peru hit us kind of like a smack in the face. I try to avoid blanket statements, but here we go- the people are less friendly and welcoming compared to Ecuador and Colombia. The other drivers are the worst we've encountered on the trip so far. There was just an overall feeling of grinding it out instead of enjoying the trip.
Northern Peru has these tiny gnats which as it turns out also bite:
Met a motorcycle club at the Keulap Ruins:
By the time we were heading to Lima we decided we needed some time apart. Everyone always said "oh wow I could never do that with my wife" and I always thought "it's no big deal, we get along well." But I didn't realize just how taxing a trip like this would be on our relationship. Rachel has also been dealing with stomach and digestion issues, as well as stress and anxiety. Those things are likely very related, but it's kind of a chicken or the egg thing. All I know is that they both feed and fuel the other. Rachel took a bus to Lima and stayed in a hostel. I took two days to ride the PanAm down and stay in an Airbnb. The 6hr ride into Lima was my worst of the trip. On top of not really knowing what was going to happen with my relationship, I came down with a stomach flu and had a fever and exhaustion. There was a constant powerful side wind, I was freezing cold and shivering with all my gear on including the heated vest. I stopped for gas, drank a Redbull, and promptly fell asleep on the table I was sitting at for an hour until the attend woke me up and asked me to move the motorcycle. Probably good she did or I might still be sleeping there.
After we spent a few days apart, we met back up and Rachel determined she was done riding the motorcycle in South America. This was not an easy decision, and she really wanted to "finish" but I know that it was definitely the right choice. After the ride into Lima, I was about done myself but I figured I should at least see Machu Picchu so I decided I would ride there and then probably hightail it to Buenos Aires where I'm hoping to sell the bike (anyone interested!?) or ship it home to Seattle.
As for Rachel, she knew the least-healthy thing to do would be head back to Seattle and stay at her parent's while I continued riding not knowing how long that would be or what the hell was going to happen afterwards. So she booked a plane ticket back to Bali via NYC. She is in Bali now. We are still talking and my hope is that we both find some independence and eventually can work things out. This hasn't been easy and it really is not something I expected at all- even if it seems like a very plausible eventuality spending a year on the same motorcycle.
Things will take a positive turn in the next post, I promise! Coming soon.
Damn man. I have been following your three accounts on IG and noticed the lack of pics of the two of you together. Hope it works out the best way possible for both of you, whatever that might be.
All the best! Thanks for the update.
Thanks for the update....Thinking things will work out fine.
I'm betting 1/3 of your pictures are ending up on Instagram as they look very #yolo Instagramy.
Yea, well they were- we were open to monetizing the instagram or having it open doors to something else. Wound up with 10k followers and some fun opportunities. But in the end it kind of felt like a hustle and more work than benefit.
Rachel has the camera (and the photo skills) in Bali now, so from here on out it'll be selfies and phone pics of the bike!
Best wishes to both of you. I've enjoyed your RR immensely and you brought a refreshing perspective for documenting your travels here. Buenas suerte.
I rode out of Lima solo, with a lot more space on the bike and a new sheepskin pad. I had a small one that flew off somewhere in Mexico and I have been missing it ever since! It's not very vegan of me, but the vegan police will have to find me to come pull my card. Without it my ass lasts about an hour before I want to get off and shake things out, with it I can do two hours no problem.
This is leaving Lima- the luggage has gone on a serious diet since this photo was taken...
I rode down to Huacachina, a desert oasis town nestled in some giant sand dunes. The images of this town make it seem like it's really remote, but the city of Ica is actually just over one of the dunes. Still pretty cool even though it meant a very fine layer of sand in every article of clothing, piece of luggage and orifice.
Sunset over the dunes:
Picture of the Oasis (well my head.. oasis shown blurry behind me. What's really important here, right?)
Next stop was in Nazca, famous for their lines in the sand which are said to be over 2000 years old. I'm a bit skeptical on that, but have done zero research so I'm also full of shit. It just seems like... I mean it was super windy and they do get rain there. I guess it's a mystery:
I was heading to Cusco, and it took me a couple more days to get there. Along the way, during the rides I found myself stopping more often, playing with my drone here and there, and talking to anyone who had the patience for my Spanish. It's improving quickly now, but I'm still learning. What was this feeling? Finally I figured it out: pure unadulterated freedom. Freedom unlike any I'd ever experienced in my life. I didn't have to go to school or work the next week, I didn't have to know what I wanted for dinner, there were no projects I should be thinking about. I am only responsible for myself. One night I smoked a little weed and watched a movie and caught myself thinking "Well, you can't just smoke weed and watch movies all the time, Josh." And then, like the proverbial ton of bricks, it hit me: "Oh wait, yes I fucking CAN! I can do literally whatever I want! Haha this probably sounds so dumb, but man what an experience.
With my newfound freedom and the bike as nimble as ever, I motored along some winding epic roads into Cusco. At some points up to 15k ft elevation and 55F temps, and back down to 97F temps within an hour. This region of Peru is orders of magnitude more interesting, developed and beautiful than the northern half. All the backpackers and most tourists fly to Lima and then do a Southern loop to Cusco- in my opinion that's not a bad idea.
I stayed a couple nights in Cusco, decent city with lots of good restaurant options but as the main hub for Machu Picchu it's also swarming with tourists and all that they bring.
Next, I would set out to The Sacred Valley to see the iconic Machu Picchu, ride the best motorcycle road of my life so far (have video), and partake in an interesting ayauasca ceremony..
All in the next post!
(Eight reasons to visit Valle Sagrado, number 6 will melt your eyebrows!)
Thanks a lot for saying so! I plan to use it more as I continue the ride. We'll see if my plans come to fruition.
Keep up the great report. I have been following on here and IG since the beginning and have appreciated the transparency of the ups and downs. Hopefully some time apart will heal things, as it seemed yall were very much supportive of each other at the beginning of the trip. For the time being, i can only imagine the freedom of making decisions that only affect yourself, and enjoying a bike with half of the load as before!
Ok, I gotta get this thing caught up- I'm riding too fast, I actually just rode into Chile yesterday. But first let's take a trip back to the Sacred Valley near Cusco. **dream flashback music plays**
I first read about ayahuasca maybe 12 years ago in a fictional novel by my favorite author Tom Robbins. If you're not familiar, ayahuasca is a vine that grows in the jungle. It contains a compound called DMT which is incredibly psychoactive. Many people report profound visions and life-altering or life-clarifying realizations. After reading about it in the novel, I did a lot more research and always had the feeling "someday I'm going to give this a try" but I'm not going to fly down right this minute and find a shaman. The plant will find me, you know, when it's ready. Now it's become popular and there are fancy retreats you can do costing thousands of dollars, but I was looking for a little more authenticity and affordability. Oh, side note- if this sales pitch sounds interesting so far, the one caveat about ayahuasca is that there is often a lot of purging from various orifices.
We had a great yoga instructor in Ecuador and he gave me the name of a down-to-earth shaman in Pisac in the Sacred Valley about an hour from Cusco. When I arrived in Cusco, I messaged the shaman on Whatsapp (what a sentence, right?) and it turned out there was a ceremony on the full moon in two days. Perfect. I rode out to Pisac and got my first taste of riding in the valley, more on that to come but it was amazing. When I arrived we did a questionnaire about physical and mental health, our goals etc. On the way in I saw a sign for a different ceremony the following week called "yopo", so I asked what that was and the shaman's wife told me that it was also a jungle plant, 5X stronger than ayahuasca. But it was delivered in the same fashion as rapè. (Pronounced rah-pay) Ah, yes I had heard of rapè, it's a very fine tobacco powder that a shaman blows up your nose with a pipe. I have never done it because obviously that sounds terrible. This will become important later.
About 9pm, we all go out to a teepee in the back field. There are about 5 paying customers plus 8 people who are helping the ceremony and kind of just giving the impression that they do this very frequently. I'm the only one who doesn't speak Spanish. The shaman starts a long intro, and it begins to dawn on me through the language barrier that the ceremony will begin with rapè. After about 45min of intro (I understood at least 5min) the shaman's wife turns to me with a pipe and proceeds to violate my entire sinus system with tobacco powder, first the left nostril then the right. I had watched a couple others go before me, and afterwards they had kind of just spit loogies into their puke buckets. (oh yea, we all had a plastic bucket in front of us to vomit into) That nonchalant attitude was not my body's response. After I recovered from the initial pain behind my eyes, I immediately became VERY dizzy. It was like I had somehow managed to drink a half gallon of 100 proof vodka and stay conscious to only feel the physical symptoms. Actually, I've never felt that dizzy drinking- more like when you're a kid and you spin around a hundred times in the backyard. But with this, the feeling persisted instead of dissipating quickly.
The shaman's wife then says if anyone has to go to the bathroom, now's the time. I do. I should mention that the bathroom is back towards the house across a very rickety bridge over a stream. It's about 10ft long and maybe 6ft above the stream. I go to stand up in the teepee to leave, take two steps forward and then stagger two steps to the right. There's not a lot of room in the teepee, but I manage to get out the door without falling into someone. As soon as I get out the door I drop to a knee- "Fuck me, I was not prepared for this. This is just the warm up?! Why is everyone else acting like they just had a cigarette? I can't walk. You have to walk, let's go." I make it to the bathroom and it feels like I'm down in the head of a boat on choppy seas. I hold myself up with the wall, use the bathroom, and give myself another pep talk to get back to the teepee.
A couple of the helpers saw me leave the teepee and helped me across the bridge. (Very necessary) I get another hand back across the bridge and the moment I'm across I start puking. Once done, I make my way back to the teepee and lay down. The dizziness begins to subside very gradually. Everyone else seems very chill. It's about 10 or 10:30 now, and time to drink a cup of ayahuasca , I'm ready. I think. I drink the foul-tasting concoction and lie down. The shaman and the helpers are singing. The teepee is freezing cold and the first half of the ceremony is "without fire". I am fully bundled up in my puffy jacket and motorcycle liner, neck warmer and beanie and still shivering. But I'm excited- this has been in the back of my mind for 12 years, and here we are, tonight! I continue to wait for my visions and spirits whom I expect will tell me exactly what I need to do with my life in regards to my career, my marriage, my identity, as well as any lotto numbers and other trivial details. When consuming psychedelics, there is always a period of time post-ingestion where one thinks to one's self "you know what, these drugs were no good. It's not working." The known Universe often implodes shortly after that. As I lay in the teepee, I chided myself- "Josh, silly boy, this is AYAHUASCA! Not only is it going to work, you are about to get turned inside out mentally and physically!" But I never did. I just lay there. Freezing.
I think I drifted off to sleep, and an hour or two later activity was happening in the tent. I had some BAD energy. The shaman hadn't given me enough! He had bogus ayahuasca! I was stewing in my head. Maybe he could feel it, but the shaman turned to me with the most genuine smile I've ever seen on a person and said "beautiful hat!". I don't know why, but this completely changed my mentality. The hat I was wearing was decidedly NOT beautiful, favoring function over form and the absurdity of it all made me happy. OK, maybe I won't have any visions, but I'll just have a night in a teepee and be content. Then it became apparent that we were about to drink another cup of ayahuasca! How great, this one will by my spirit-bringer. I chugged the second cup with gusto, and lay back down.
About an hour later, the shaman's wife woke me up. (She was German and spoke English)
SW: "You're asleep aren't you? You don't feel anything do you?"
ME: "Well, no, not really and yes I tend to fall asleep very easily whenever I'm horizontal.."
SW: "I think you have a strong mind, that's why the rapè had such an impact. You know what I think you need?
ME: "Uh.. no"
ME: "Ahh, I thought you'd say that. Ok, fuck it I'm here. Is it hard on the stomach?" (I'd kinda mentally resigned myself to napping at this point)
SW: "You will vomit."
SW: "That is to me expected in an ayahuasca ceremony"
ME: "Oh, yea I know- it's just the way you said -
SW: "I strongly suggest you do it"
ME: "Yea, OK sure- as long as I don't have to do the rapè again."
SW: "You do, in the morning to finish the ceremony."
With that, she retrieved her pipe and filled it with yopo. I knew what was coming this time and it was still quite unpleasant. This time no dizziness but within 20 seconds I was violently puking into my bucket. I usually dislike vomiting and this wasn't really different but I had a good attitude. "Take it all, I'm not resisting!" I said to nobody in particular. "I chose this!" with the next round. Eventually, I had nothing left to give and the medicine recognized that. I lay down for my spirit instructions and fell fast asleep. I didn't have dreams, visions, spirit visitors or anything! I woke up about 7am. I think my body just said "Ok, Josh- we don't know what the hell you think you're doing out there, but after the rapè , 2 cups ayahuasca , and yopo we are shutting this shit down. We are seriously disappointed in you by the way."
I took another round of rapè at around 7:30 in the morning. It was the last thing I wanted to do after laying in a teepee all night but I couldn't see a good way out of it. Luckily there was nothing to vomit so I just pressed my forehead into the dirt really hard for about 30minutes until it felt safe to pick it back up. The helpers and shaman passed around some roasted corn and avocado sandwiches which were welcome. We did a circle of gratitude, I stumbled through with my broken Spanish thanking the helpers for tending the fire, helping me across the bridge, the shaman for his smile and energy, and jokingly thanked the shaman's wife for the rape.
Apparently, it's not all that uncommon for the first time or two to have an experience like that which is why some retreats have multiple ceremonies in the same week. That sounded too intense so I'm glad I just tried the one. Quite anticlimactic overall I have to say, but a decade of build-up can do that. I have given it some time and thought and I still don't know if I'll try it again. Actually, I think I will someday, but the next time the ayahuasca plant finds me I hope it leaves its other friends back in the jungle..
That sounds terrible! All of it. haha, good story though. Next time.... might be the breakthrough.
After that wonderful experience, I decided to stick to motorcycling and tourism. On my way out of Cusco, I stopped at an Incan ruins site (I got chastised by the security guard for calling it "ruinas" instead of and "archaeological monument"... OK, bro.) and bought a tourist pass that included about 10 sites, and several museums. I took the ticket as a challenge and set off to see all the sites I could. I think Incan ruins might be my favorite of all that I've seen throughout the Americas. Some of the pyramids in Mexico might come close, but there's just something about the cartoonish way the Incas cut their blocks.
Here is a small example in Ollantaytambo:
After staying a night in Ollantaytambo, I set off towards Machu Picchu. These days you have to buy tickets for s specific day and time of entry, so I decided going on my birthday would be fitting. The ride between Ollantay and Santa Teresa was the best motorcycle road I have ever ridden. It wound up a tight canyon, crested a ridge where I rode through a cloud and got soaked, and then dropped down the other side into a larger valley. After an hour ride in that valley, it was about 45 minutes of fun unpaved one-lane road along a windy river. I was going to take a different road back from MP, but after this ride I decided to return the same way.
Here is a video of the road:
This is on the other side of the valley, dropping down again:
I stayed in Santa Teresa, and planned to ride the motorcycle to a train station called Hidroelectrica. It's as close to MP as you can get in your own vehicle. and I had a roadside chat with a German guy on a KLR in the middle of nowhere who had given me the lowdown. From Hidroelectrica I would walk along the train tracks for two hours, then one hour up to MP. The morning of my birthday I woke up early to get started and looked out the window to torrential rains. Given the roads in the area I opted to take a mini-bus to the train station. It didn't stop raining the whole morning, but I bought a poncho and happily walked the two hours along the tracks, and then with a burst of energy made it up to the entrance of MP a couple hours earlier than my ticket. They were strict, but I used the "it's my birthday" card and they let me it. Eventually it cleared up enough to get some great views. I'm glad I did the other Inca sites before Machu Picchu because there is a reason it's so popular. It was swarming with tourists, (many in shock that their trip to Peru was being so inconvenienced by the rain) but still absolutely incredible. I hiked down and back along the tracks, took a taxi back to Santa Teresa, had dinner and a birthday beer and fell asleep exhausted!
When Rachel left, she took her laptop with her which we sort of had been sharing. I decided I wanted one, but they're expensive in Peru for what you get and plus they have Spanish keyboards. I looked into shipping one from the US, but I learned they open your package and assign a very high value and tax you at 30-40% for importing. So I posted on a couple online message boards to see if any Americans were flying to Cusco soon and would bring me a laptop for $100. Everyone told me what a horrendous idea it was, how stupid I was for asking, how stupid someone would be to agree to bring me a computer etc etc. Guess what I'm typing this on, haters? I waited in Cusco for my internet stranger (Isaiah) to arrive with my new laptop. I met him at the airport and hit the road South:
Isaiah and my new laptop!
I went out pretty late in Cusco on my final night, and after picking up the computer I set off for the Rainbow Mountain. There are apparently two, and I headed for the less touristy. I had quite a day, so I just described it in this video:
It was actually about 16k feet up, which combined with my late night the night before contributed to my breathing in that video! It started snowing these pellets very hard which covered the ground in about 5 minutes. I was the only one up there so watching the path disappear and lighting strike the surrounding hills while thunder rattled my teeth was a little unnerving.
While I waited for the bike to cool down, I talked with these brothers for awhile. They thought the bluetooth music in the helmet was about the coolest thing ever.
Glad you're back to posting. Looks like a great place.
Not surprised you found someone to bring you a laptop. Despite the assholes getting all the attention it really seems like most of us really like to just help each other out
One more video clip from the Sacred Valley- I was riding near the Moray Salt mines and saw a this dirt road winding towards a hilltop so I had to go check things out. It was windy and the drone was struggling a bit, but this was a really cool moment.
And here is a shot of the nearby Maras salt mines:
Next, I rode to the shores of Lake Titicaca an the town of Puno still on the Peruvian side of the border. The town itself is not an attraction, but many use it as a jumping off point to take boat tours out to some floating islands. Titicaca has a funny name and is the highest navigable lake in the world- but in my opinion if you didn't know those two things- it's just a big lake and not really exceptional. I think the pollution in Puno plus altitude affected me because I had a much harder time breathing here than other high altitude spots, I developed and cough and was blowing some alien-esque things out of my nose. TMI? I ended up buying a bottle of oxygen that was covered in Chinese writing. Something seems very wrong about that.
Me huffing my Lysol can:
I knew the Visa for Boliva was a pain in the ass for Americans, and I knew all the documents I needed but I let some people in Puno tell me I didn't actually need them. I rode to the border with the idea "if I actually do need these documents and photos, I'll print them there". A good idea, except I neglected to consider it was Sunday and everything was closed. So I had to spend the night at the border kicking myself for not trusting my own research.
The next day I rode into La Paz, Bolivia. The roads here really started to open up, and I thought "ahh, the 1190 finally makes sense!" as I easily motored along at 140kph.
Bolivia is currently in turmoil with protests throughout the country. I minored in political science, so I feel qualified to explain the political situation: 4 yrs ago their president Evo Morales held a vote to see if he could run for reelection even though he was at his term limits. The people said "hey man, you're OK and all, but we have rules for a reason and no you can't run for reelection." And then this year he said "Ah, fuck off- I'm running again." And then the people said "Ok, we don't really want to vote for you." And on election day they had an official app where it was tracking that there was the POSSIBILITY he was going to lose, so he shut down the app and said "I WON!" And now many people are upset.
I walked down to the protests and it was fairly peaceful where I was but they were lighting off M80s pretty frequently which always adds a bit of tension when you're in large, marching groups. I was sick of the altitude and ready to breathe again so I rode one long day to Uyuni which was the main reason for going to Bolivia in the first place.
Uyuni itself is a desolate little town and I unwittingly booked a room inside the train station which was called a "capsule". I had just ridden 7 hours through open spaces, and I arrive to be shown a room 6ft long by 3 ft wide.. Space is not a premium here guys, this ain't Tokyo! Luckily the manager saw my face (and my 6' 2" frame) and upgraded me to a suite for the same price. Really appreciate that. I went and talked to a Brit in town who does dirtbike tours out on the salt. We chatted for about 3 hours and he tried to get me to do is tour the following day, but it was just beyond my budget. I didn't want to take my bike out on the salt but he offered to help thoroughly wash it and blow it out with an air compressor afterwards so...
Riding around the salt was a blast even going slowly to minimize salt intrusion. I could see how ripping around on someone else's dirtbike would REALLY rock. If you go and have a little more money than I do, check out Nomad Adventures in Uyuni and talk to Robin.
From Uyuni, it was another long ride toward San Pedro de Atacama Chile. I didn't realize it, but the first 3 hrs to the border were unpaved. The normal road was hard packed and easy but there was constant construction and I would have to reroute into the deeper sand. Not my favorite, I need to learn some sand skills. I didn't drop the bike, but I had pretty much resigned myself to the inevitability. I also had my first very close call with a llama. There were tons of llamas and usually they are slow and predictable, but one just RAN right in front of me. First time I had seen one move at full speed. Luckily, I braked and swerved and decided to give them a little more respect moving forward. At Robin's shop in Uyuni I met a German on an Africa Twin who had his trip cut short by a Vicuna collision (similar to alpaca but smaller, faster and softer fur than alpaca. I'm told- I haven't touched one yet) so I know the animals can have a dramatic impact on the trip.
I probably saw three other cars in the 3 hours to the border. At the border I met a Chinese rider on a KLR he bought in Alaska. He spoke no English or Spanish and just used a translator device he had. I was weirdly proud of him and impressed!
The ride into Chile was remote and looked like Mars. When I finally came to the first town of Calama it was jarring. Apparently it's a mining twon so there is a lot of money, and Chile is more developed than Bolivia anyway but this was like an American town. The gas station had a full on minimart with a Pizza hut and 2 for $3 deals on Redbulls. I rode another hour to San Pedro de Atacama which is a dusty touristy town with dirt main streets and a lot of hippies. It was quaint in an over-run kind of way, but I was priced out of the real action. Definitely more expensive than I had gotten used to, and I was quickly itching to get back out of Chile. They are currently having their own set of protests and I met a couple Brazilian riders who said they had hit a few roadblocks over near the coast. It just didn't seem worth it to me, so after a couple rest days in the desert, I headed toward Argentina.
Leaving Atacama Desert en route to Argentina: