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Day 77 - Lomas to La Joya
Woke up in Lomas with no real desire to dawdle. A rooster started crowing around 3:30AM and I was awake (I thought incontrovertibly) by 5AM, but I managed to get back to sleep until the alarm went off. Packed quickly and had our stuff loaded on the bikes by around 8:20AM… but the woman who owned the hospedaje was nowhere in sight. And she had Kay's passport, which she was holding as security against the room. Another family was leaving at the same time as we were getting ready, and the woman knew where the owner of the hospedaje was (apparently she owns a shop, too, a couple of blocks away) and showed Kay where to go find her. A few minutes later, Kay comes back and says "she's coming," and a few minutes after that, she shows up, grabs Kay's passport from somewhere inside and waits for us to ride off. It's around 8:40 when we hit the road, and just before 9AM when we return to the Pan Americana.
We were both hoping to make some good progress today. We've had so many delays lately, and I was paranoid about my tire (which had deflated to around 26 PSI when we checked it before we left this morning - had to add more air) so I just wanted to push on. We were hoping to get as far as Ariquipa, and then make for Bolivia tomorrow.
Rode hard in the AM on the long, flat, straight desert roads, but after an hour or so, the road changed. There were hills, and then mountain spurs, coming right out to the coast. It was back to riding up, down and sideways on twisty mountain roads. Granted, the landscape was still spectacular - desert mountains on our left and the South Pacific (yes, we're far enough south that it's the South Pacific now!) on our right. The road surface took a turn for the worse, with bumpy, holey tread - almost like they'd stripped the top of the road surface off and we were riding on the part that's under the smooth asphalt. It was wreaking havoc on my mental state, as the tires felt weird on this road surface, and I was still paranoid about my rear tire. The last thing I wanted was to change the tube and deal with a flat yet again.
Whilst I was busy focusing on my tire, Kay led the way and hit a bump that caused the spare tire he's carrying to shift *just* so, and bounce off the top of his taillight cover. Hard enough to knock it off, and cause it to shatter in the roadway. I heard a "I need to pull over" and panicked a bit, because Kay never needs to pull over… and he explained what happened. The light was still intact, but the red plastic cover over the light was lying in the roadway in far too many pieces to do us any good. So now we had to find a new taillight cover for Kay, or possibly swap out his taillight assembly.
Not too long after this, we rolled into a town with me in the lead again (as I had asked Kay to keep an eye on my rear tire while I was riding) and I spotted a shop that had what looked like moto lights, turn signals, etc. I had my fingers crossed that they'd have a taillight, and told Kay we should turn around and check it out. We did, but unfortunately the only taillight cover they had looked like it was designed for a scooter - it was smaller and there was no way to make it fit on Kay's taillight assembly. So on we rode.
Twisty seaside road
Dachary views the sea
Stopped for lunch at a restaurant/hostel, and had a meal that was barely edible. Kay ended up with breaded, fried chicken, pounded thin, but the breading was QUITE salty and Kay could only eat about half of the chicken. I had carne that was also breaded, which always sounds good but rarely turns out good in practice. I managed to eat all of mine, but only because we'd had no breakfast and no dinner last night, and I knew I needed something to eat. Then we popped next door to buy some bottled water, as we've both been having trouble with our intestines and we thought maybe we should give the filter a break and buy water today. I was extra happy that it was cold water - tastes real good in the hot Peruvian desert.
Back into the desert. We rode along the coast through more amazing landscape, following the sea and the mountainy bits, and roll into Camana shortly after 3PM. I figure that Camana is probably 3 hours from Arequipa, and as long as we're fast, we can make it before dark. But Camana is a bigger town, although nowhere near as big as Arequipa, so I suggest we should look here for a new taillight cover for Kay. Arequipa is virtually guaranteed to have something, but it looks quite big on my map, and I don't fancy riding around a big city looking for a moto shop hoping to get lucky. So we stop and ask a cop in Camana if she can recommend a moto repair shop, and she tells us to take a left, ride two blocks, and take a right.
We do, and we end up at a repair shop that is currently servicing a couple of moto taxis. Kay asks about a taillight, and the guy immediately dismisses him. "No, we don't have that. You'll have to go to Lima for that." He clearly didn't realize that we were no longer running the stock BMW taillight (I think the one they put into the bike in Colombia was a Yamaha assembly, although it might have been even more generic than that) but Kay explained that it doesn't have to be BMW, that it doesn't have to look pretty - he's just looking for a new taillight assembly.
The guy goes back into the shop, and comes out a minute later with one of the small taillight covers we'd seen at the moto shop earlier today. It's not big enough to fit into the assembly properly, but he indicates that shouldn't be a problem. All we need is a couple of long screws and we can rig something up. So he sends Kay off to a ferreteria (hardware store/shop which is also occasionally a workshop) and a kid who has been hanging out nearby on a bicycle offers to ride over and show Kay how to get there. So I stay with the bikes and chat with the locals in my very poor Spanish, and Kay walks off after the kid on the bicycle in search of a screw.
Sadly, Kay returns a few minutes later after having visited about five hardware stalls, sans screws. No luck. The guy sends Kay off to another ferreteria, and the kid on the bike leads the way - and four places later, still no screws that will work. Eventually, the guy hops in one of the moto-taxis that he's repairing, motions for Kay to get in the back, and they ride off in search of screws. This time they find them, and return a few minutes later. The guy wanted long, pointy screws that he could use to "drill" new holes in the taillight assembly to hold on the smaller taillight cover. A few more minutes of work, and viola! Slightly smaller, but still functional, taillight cover. Kay is psyched because it's small enough that it doesn't protrude out far enough for the tire to hit anymore, so there's no way the tire can take this taillight cover out, too. Hopefully. Cost? 5 soles, or not quite $2 US, even with all the running around to find screws.
Our Fixit men
Back on the road, and it's 4:30 - definitely no time to get all the way to Arequipa.
Clouds? in the Desert?!
One of the locals I was chatting with said it was 2.5 hours to Arequipa, so if we pushed it, we *might* roll in at 7… but sunset was scheduled for 6:18PM, so even with the best case scenario, we wouldn't make it into Arequipa without riding after dark. So we discuss our options while we ride along, and discover something.
Kay mentions camping. Camping is always an option in the back of my mind if we get stranded somewhere between towns, and I actually enjoy camping - there are times when I'd much rather have been in our tent than in some of the annoying hotels where we've stayed. But camping here would involve riding out across the desert itself to get far enough off the road to camp safely (without drawing attention) and the sand is deep. I have ZERO desire to ride through deep sand to find a camping spot, particularly if I'm not stranded for some reason. I'd deal if I had to, but if it's not essential, I'd rather not ride in sand. I just don't have the skill to deal with it.
This starts a massive argument, and we both get unhappy. Kay suggests that we strike out on one of the roads that is crossing the sand, if I'm not willing to ride on the sand itself - but I look at the roads we're passing and I think they're all covered in sand. I haven't seen a decent road heading off the Pan Americana since the road we took to Lomas. I try to explain that I have no problem with dirt, but the dirt roads we're likely to encounter out here in the middle of the desert are probably covered in sand. Hell, even the paved road is covered in sand in stretches. So I'm not willing to take that chance unless I have to.
Kay is disappointed, and we go back and forth over what I would find acceptable. I can tell he believes we'll never camp on this trip, and I'd be disappointed if that were true, but I'm not willing to ride beyond my skill level just to accommodate him. And he's upset that he thinks we'll never camp, because when we left, we'd planned to camp all the time. So more arguing ensues, and we're both unhappy, and it's getting later.
I point out that I'm not willing to forego dinner tonight - I didn't eat dinner last night, nor breakfast this morning, and I need food. Camping would involve skipping dinner, because we'd have to camp in the middle of the desert to do it safely. No restaurants there. Kay says we could stop to get food first, but it's already well after 5PM, and I don't believe there's time to stop and have dinner, and then look for light. I point out that if we want to camp, we have to lose more daylight - we'd have to stop and get dinner by 4:45PM in order to have any remote chance of camping, so we'd lose an hour to an hour and a half of riding time every night if we camped. And I'm feeling very crunched about the schedule, so this doesn't make me happy.
In the end, nothing is resolved and we're both unhappy. Just at sunset, we roll into a tiny town that isn't even on my map - La Joya. We see a single hospedaje sign, and we stop to check it out. Kay goes in to look at it, and comes back to tell me that none of the rooms have toilet seats and am I willing to deal with that? I ask if we have a choice, and we have another argument - about what I'd rather do - ride in the dark to Arequipa and look for a place that would have toilet seats, or stay here and deal with the no toilet seats. More arguing. I say that at least we should check out the rest of the town to see if there's a second hospedaje that might have better rooms.
So we ride down the road, but there's nothing. Except I see a block of lights a bit further down the road, so we ride there. Nothing. But at this point, I recognize something on my map and see another block of lights down the road, so ask if we can ride there. We do, and there's nothing. At this point, the town that had the hospedaje is probably 10-15 minutes behind us and it's full dark. Kay asks if I want to go back and stay in the place with no toilet seats, or ride in the dark to Arequipa. It seems like a no brainer to me. I ask again "Do we have a choice?" thinking it's obvious that we should go back and stay in the hospedaje.
But Kay and I are arguing in circles, and neither of us is communicating well with the other, so we end up sitting on the side of the road in the dark, yelling at each other in the headsets, unable to agree on a decision because we're both unhappy and the answers I give Kay aren't sufficient for him. Eventually I just start saying "Whatever you want to do" and refuse to participate in the conversation any further. Frustrated, Kay decides to turn around and head back to the hospedaje, which I thought was the obvious choice all along. We're both still unhappy.
Kay's note: definitely communications issues, but I think a lot of the problems towards the end of the day weren't so much a failure to agree on a decision, as much as me trying to figure out which option was least disagreeable to her but failing to get an answer. We still disagree about the details of how and what was actually going down. At the core of this is a recurring communication problem we've got to get resolved.
Back to the hospedaje, and they have secure parking for the bikes, so we ride around through the alley and pull into the building. The only thing I bother to bring up to the room from the bikes is my bag of cords for charging stuff, because we need to charge the headsets. Normally, I bring up my tank bag and both panniers, but I don't feel like dealing with anything after our arguments. After taking one look at the room, I resign myself to a miserable night and don't bother to bring my toiletries, or my laptop, or clean clothes - any of the stuff I usually bring. Kay asks about it but I tell him I just don't feel like dealing, which is true.
Up the hotel room, and I take off my motorcycle gear and lay in bed. Kay asks if I'm not coming out for food, and I confirm, because again I don't feel like dealing with anything. I'm still upset from our arguments and not happy about the poor quality of the hospedaje (a bed in the room and a single chair, dead bugs on the floor, no toilet seat in the bathroom, no shower curtain, funny smell, etc.) So Kay goes out to find food, and brings back food for both of us. I feel bad for arguing with him, and am grateful he takes care of me even when I'm being difficult. I am very lucky to be traveling with this man, and I want to spend the rest of my life with him.
So a night that could have been miserable took a slight turn for the better. Kay watched Law and Order SVU on the TV (English, with Spanish subtitles) and I read. Eventually we snuggled and talked about the arguments and what started it in the first place - the whole camping thing. Still nothing is resolved, but at least we have a conversation instead of an argument. I still don't like the hospedaje, but we'll be moving on in the morning so I don't have to like it. I just need sleep. Tomorrow is a fresh start.
I suspect that this response was triggered by the picture of dachary at the faux-marble balcony. Honestly we didn't think it'd be even close to our price range. We only stopped there because most everything along the road looked crappy with no hope of safe parking and that looked not-crappy with a good hope of it.
Neither of us is capable of getting a good night's sleep on the side of the road on most all of the roads we've been on, and if we set up the tent we want to do it where we're not going to have to deal with curious people passing by talking loudly and ****ing with the bikes. We want a decent chance at a decent night's rest so that we'll have a good next day.
There were some questions about hotels and how we end up with the ones we do on ADVRider and Dachary and I both responded. You can see the details on this page, but really, we're not that picky. We want somewhere that doesn't look like it'll have roaches crawling out of the walls, with secure parking for the bikes, and some food within walking distance.
Day 78 - La Joya to Puno Peru
Pulled out of the hotel and around the corner to the restaurant where I got the food last night. Only problem? Unlike last night, this morning there were freaking flies everywhere. Didn't realize this until we were sat and ordered though… so we endured. Fortunately we'd stumbled across the name of a breakfast meal that involves eggs: a cubana. Dachary ordered it at lunch one day thinking it was going to be a Cuban (the sandwich) but it's two fried eggs over rice, with fried plantains. This morning the plantains were probably actually bananas, and they were just warm, not really fried, so it turned out Dachary didn't mind them. Unfortunately, she didn't have much appetite, and the flies weren't helping. We both kind-of regretted stopping, but my tummy did not.
I've been fighting off diarrhea with occasional painful stomach twangs, and I think the rice helped a little.
(Dachary's note: after like an hour of riding, we make it into Arequipa. Turns out it's a good thing we didn't make it here last night, as this town is FREAKING HUGE. It's the biggest town I've seen in Peru outside of Lima. We would not have enjoyed navigating it in the dark last night trying to find a hotel or hostel with parking for the bikes. We do stop and get gas when we find a gas station that has 95 octane, and we both use the bathroom - we're both having tummy troubles with diarrhea. So we take some immodium and set off again.
A few wrong turns, stop to ask a cop for directions, spot a sign pointing to the town we want, and we end up on a road that's not on Kay's GPS. But my map indicates that it's the main paved route between Arequipa and Puno. Along the way, we spot a couple of adventure riders heading in the opposite direction, but we're riding uphill in heavy traffic going like 10KPH which requires heavy concentration with endless clutch/brake, so we can't even wave, let alone stop and try to talk to them. Bummer.)
On we go, up into the mountains. It's starting to get chilly. There's a drip here and there. Doesn't seem like it's actually going to rain but neither of us will mind the extra warmth of having the rain liners in, or the pee break. There's a big bush we could stand behind and put rain liners in our pants too but I figure it's probably overkill. I think Dachary felt the same.
Putting on the rain liners
Up, up, up, over four thousand meters up into the clouds. Literally. We've been rained on, and now we can't see jack shit. The fog/cloud cover is so thick that we can barely see each other or the road. Soon, there's a break in the rain, and we're both really chilled. We find a big pull-off on the right, decide that by the time anyone is close enough to see anything they'll be gone into the mist three seconds later, so it's about as good as it's going to get for privacy to take off our pants and put on those rain liners too. While we're there the cloud blows away and we find ourselves in a gorgeous plain.
In the middle of a cloud
In the middle of a cloud
We decide to take the altitude sickness pills, because Dachary is feeling dizzy and extremely short of breath just from putting in the pants liners. She was wobbling on the way back to the bike from coming up a small embankment from a pee. We grab the pills and, oh lets see… dizziness, drowsiness, queeziness… wonderful. These pills have the potential to give us all the symptoms we're taking them to avoid. Thinking it a bad idea to roll those dice just before getting onto the bikes we put them away to try in the evening.
While i'm digging in that pannier I decide to swap to my Held Warm-n-Dry gloves, because even with the heated grips my fingertips have been cold. The second my hand slides into them I feel 100 times better. So nice…
Dachary's not doing so well though. We're being careful to make sure she takes it really easy, but she lost a lot of body heat and energy whilst standing in a cloud putting in the pants liners. I lost some energy, but I definitely gained heat. She requests that we stop at the next decent looking restaurant. It's lunch time anyways and I can't agree more. I'm hoping for some soup, which they try and give us every meal, and we so rarely want in the heat.
But first. Hail! Vicious little high-velocity hail stones. We were both yelling "ow!… ow!" over the headsets. It was hurting me enough that I was convinced if they were any bigger than the bb's they were I would have been covered in bruises, and the BMW fabric is about twice as thick as the Rev'It so Dachary was feeling it even more. When it swaps to heavy rain Dachary comments "I never thought getting rained on would be such a relief."
Soon the rain passes too and we find a restaurant and pull in. The waitress is wearing about four layers, including a winter coat. We get soup. It's awesome. We get fish. It's not. We weren't quite sure what we were getting for the main course. She never mentioned "pescado" and used lots of new words to us. We just asked her to give us whichever option she recommended. It actually wasn't bad, but Dachary's not fish fan, and neither of us were in the mood for it. Plus the rice was weird. But, it was warming. Dachary didn't eat her fish or rice, just the soup. So that makes two meals today she didn't finish (she didn't finish breakfast) and that's probable contributing to her chill and dizziness/weakness.
Heading back out from lunch, we grabbed our electrics. We're at 4,500 meters at this point and even though it's technically summer it is cold. Her Gerbing is still acting up, but my Aerostitch is still working, and the fleece side is doing double duty and keeping me warmer even when it's off. Still don't like it, but even if it did break it'd be useful.
Only a smidge more rain, and I'm practically falling asleep on the bike. Whenever I pull my left hand off the handlebars I feel pins and needles all up and down the arm. It's not from pinched blood supply. As far as I can tell, it's the altitude. It's not affecting me nearly as much as Dachary, but it's definitely having an effect and I'm noticing that things are taking more effort whenever we're off the bike. When I ride I'm focusing on filling my lungs with deep constant breaths.
At one point Dachary says "Are those snow capped mountains behind us?" to which I respond "Holy shit!"
Dachary's getting chilled, but we're closing in on Puno. Before we get there though we go through Juliaca and discover that they only seem to have 84 Gasohol. We should be able to make it to Puno…. We do! We head for downtown looking for a place to stay and find one, but nowhere to put the bikes. I didn't think he'd have one but i went in mostly to get directions to somewhere else that would. He directs me around the corner. It's a nice looking place, but there's a padlock on the door. The man from the first place shows up whilst I'm pondering why a hotel would be padlocked. He directs me to it's sister hotel. I thank him, put on my helmet, and while I'm making a U-turn a guy walks up and starts removing the padlock. "o…k…" I go talk to him. He tells me yes, go to the one down the street a few blocks. That we should follow him. Then he puts the padlock back on. So confused…
We follow. We get to a street with hotels but he's disappeared. Did he mean one of these? Where did he go? He's jogged like 5 blocks leading us here so we want to give his hotel a shot. He deserves it. But he's gone. Just as we're about to check out one of the ones here he figures out how we got confused by his directions, finds us, and leads us to his hotel.
Not bad, very secure parking. Typical price for a big city, and, unexpectedly, internet! There are claims of hot water… there were claims last night too….
Dachary is freezing. Undresses, and hops under the covers until she's warm. I start the photos uploading.
She warms up a bit and we wander out for food. Find a place called Pizza and Pasta just off the town square. They have a wood fired stove. It's made the front room sooooooo warm and cozy. I get a medium pizza (small). Dachary gets Lasagna. They put tomato sauce on the pizza! Jackpot! Food comes. We both decide that it has the appropriate component parts, and isn't how we'd make it, but we don't mind it either. By the end we've both decided that there's something odd about the flavor and while it was a nice reminder of home, we don't want to finish either of our dishes. But we've enjoyed sitting in a warm room, and eating familiar food, so we're happy when we head back to the hotel.
So, if you're in Puno, and craving a warm room, in a nice restaurant, with decent food. Go to the square and look down the side streets for a wooden sign with gold lettering that says "Pizza & Pasta". If nothing else, you'll be warm.
Don't order the chocolate cake though. It's very dry.
In Lomas, Peru, the hotel gorgon kept your PASSPORT as security?
How common is that?
I would have regarded the confistcation of a guest's passport second only to armed holdup.
Surely this is exceptional?
Day 79 - Puno Peru to La Paz Bolivia
(as per usual all conversations are in spanish)
There was a piece of paper on the front desk last night promising breakfast from 6-9. I asked the lady about it and she said it was on the second floor. So, we headed out of our rooms in the morning, wandered the corridors until we found a totally abandoned set of tables and chairs.
I went down to the desk and asked if the restaurant was open. "Yes, but there are no employees." … They must have a different definition of "open" than I do. So, we go out the front door and one of the guys points to the restaurant across the street saying that they do breakfast.
Inside we find a white guy with a motorcycle helmet in the chair beside him. A few minutes later I lean over and say "desculpe senor. Usted habla Ingles?" "Yes"
Turns out he flew to Bolivia, bought a 250cc Honda trail bike, mounted some kind of tackle box looking thing to the back of it, and got himself the largest backpack I've seen that wasn't for hiking. It was nearly three feet square by one foot deep and he was on his way up to the US. Only two problems: 1) when he left Bolivia they told him he'd have to have the bike back in like 30 days (maybe it was 90) since it was registered there. 2) he didn't actually have a motorcycle license in the US. I don't think this will cause any problems in the countries before the border, but he's just going to have to cross his fingers and hope the US border guys don't notice.
Also, he's from western Massachusetts, about two hours from Boston and two towns over from one of the places I used to live. Small world. We gave him a brain-dump on Central America and using Girag to cross the Darian Gap. Somehow he'd manage to totally miss that option.
He kept checking his watch while we talked. He was obviously interested in the conversation but had to go. I'm not sure if he was meeting up with some other riders or what but I kept thinking… "Man, you gotta loose that thing." I also kept thinking about how much his back is going to be hurting carrying that pack around every day. I hope he finds another solution soon.
When we'd woken up earlier Dachary's head was killing her. The altitude sickness has been hitting her hard and it's always worse in the night because your breathing slows down. So, we took it very easy and made sure Dachary didn't push herself at all, which meant getting to breakfast and out of the room a bit slow.
When I went to put my pannier on my bike i leaned it in towards the bike, as per usual, to get the top pucks in place, but didn't realize that my bike was atypically vertical, so as I'm pushing, the bike slowly goes up… and over. I'm standing there holding the pannier so i don't crush my toes watching it heading over and *bam* into Dachary's, which proceeds to fall over too. My helmet was on the mirror stalk which whacked into the ground and as per BMW design the thing broke off (****ers). Dachary's left pannier has a nice long gouge down it now too.
So, we pick them up, which is ****ing exhausting at this altitude, and I take each of them out over the bumpy muddy parking area to the street where we pull out our second spare mirror stalk mount and replace it. We now have no spares. Dachary suggested that we should have grabbed some at BMW Lima, which would have been a good idea, but as they didn't even have the spark plugs for our bikes I'm doubtful they'd have that.
Breathing heavy, practically sweating even though the days high is only supposed to be 50 F we make our way out of the city stopping to get 84 Gasohol with a liberal dose of octane booster. There was nothing better in town, or in the town before it.
Sticker? What Sticker
As we ride we debate which border crossing to take. We were planning on taking the road straight down into Bolivia, but I'd heard that that border might not have an Aduana (not sure if this is correct or not) and this morning Adrian mentioned that he'd crossed by Copacabana and that they had full services, but that it also meant a ferry ride. So, better safe than sorry, and wanting to be able to claim that we'd been to Copacabana (still not sure if it's THE Copacabana) we went that way, and crossed our fingers that the ferry ride wouldn't be a big deal.
Suddenly, there was a chain across the road and … wtf?! Is this the border? We're not to Copacabana yet… Yup. The border.
Take your passport and the little piece of paper they gave you when you came into the country and go to the Policia Judicial. They'll take the paper and stamp something (not sure if it was in the passport or not). Then go to Migrations, and they stamp you out. Then go to customs, "hey, there's a bunch of stickers on the bookshelf here…" "I have a sticker too. Is it OK if I put it here?" "yes yes" I run out, and return to do just that while he's finishing paperwork. I think we're done, and a couple of adventure riders show up. We later learn that they're Emrah and Sheknees (probably totally misspelled that). A couple of Turkish DJ's who've been living in Canada and are DJ'ing their way across the Americas.
I'm just about to greet them when the guy from the Policia National waves me over to his office. No clue what this is about… They ask for license (they seem to prefer the international one for some reason) then ask to see my insurance. Not thinking I say. "I don't have any insurance." Much talking, some of which I get. Some I don't. Apparently this is a problem. "But they told me at the border that it wasn't necessary" more talking, apparently this is an infraction. "What if you had of gotten in an accident?" "Ok. Where is the insurance person. I'll go buy some." "No you can't buy it here." Eventually, he pulls out a ticket pad and points to the infraction saying that it's s/. 150. Pulls out some official looking booklet at points to something that I don't bother to attempt to understand because even if it is true there's nothing I can do at this point, and if it isn't my Spanish isn't good enough to read it in a timely manner or pick out the subtleties to know that it's not right.
Infraction infraction. They said I don't need it. Infraction infraction. "See I put your plate number here, and your name here, and…" he's pointing to all the little spaces on the infraction. "Ok. Infraction. If infraction I pay infraction." "No no." "No?" See, I make the infraction pad go away… No more infraction. I know exactly where this is headed at this point. He does me a favor and I do him a favor. No infraction needed. See? Yeah, **** that. I do not pay bribes unless absolutely necessary, and at this point. It isn't. I go from mildly dumb gringo to extremely dumb gringo. "Ok. No infraction. I go?" "No. Infraction…" many words, eventually the magic "monies" is uttered. "Ok. I pay infraction." Kind of a pause, that's kind-of what they wan't but not quite. "You give me infraction. I pay infraction." "No no. No Infraction." "I'm sorry I don't understand." Repeat. Repeat… One of them tries calling his english speaking friend, who appears to have no interest in playing translator….
"Are those your friends?" one of them asks, pointing to the adventure riders who'd just come up. "No. I don't know them." No Way I want to get any other adventure riders in this pile of crap. One guy who's wearing no uniform, but has been there attempting to help (the cop) this whole time goes out and pulls in one of them. They talk, and the guy turns to me and says "ok. They wan't your insurance, but you're going to have to lie because we don't have any ether. " He turns to helper guy and confirms "insurance right?" then back to me, "Just act like you understand and go get something from your home insurance company in English tell them it's international"
"Oh yes! Of course. THAT! I'll go get it…" Nods of understanding and bright ideas and I get up and go out to do just that. It's a good idea. I start digging for the US insurance coverage sheet, which has been put away for months, send Dachary looking for hers… dig dig. Dig dig. Eventually the cop gets bored of waiting and motions me to come back. I do. I bring along the SURA insurance from Colombia. I tell him that I didn't get SURA in Peru because they told me I didn't need it, but I have this… He looks at it. Decides it's no good for Peru. "Yes." I say, "It's good for everywhere." I intentionally avoid saying "international" in spanish and say "everywhere" with wide sweeping hand motions, to emphasize what a stupidly confused gringo I am. "No no. Not for Peru" Confused look on my face… "What? No…" I start scrutinizing my form. "Yes, is international. It doesn't say it's just for the US anywhere on here." Repeat, repeat. I'm not paying enough attention and I start getting a little frustrated. Stop myself, make a prayer hand motion and say "I'm really sorry. It's international, but if it's an infraction I'll pay the infraction."
Back to square one. Cop is not happy. This bribe is taking way too long and is far too frustrating. Another cop steps in taps on his watch and the cop's all "in a minute…." He tries again. I maintain the loop of stupidity. Someone calls in the other adventure rider. She's been briefed by her husband and me when we were each out there. She comes in, asks me if the insurance paper is for just my bike. I say it is. She tells the guy that yes, this is international insurance for his bike.
He caves. I don't think he necessarily believed her. I think he was just sick of dealing. But that's just my bike. I go back out. Dachary doesn't have a coverage sheet like i do but she has the insurance card from Progressive. So, I take that back and the "helper" guy is at the door, looks at it, ponders it… I tell him it's different insurance companies, pointing to the logo's… so hers is different. I think he's gotten the message to say ****-it, and we're free.
I go back to the bikes, start shoving things back in panniers, and another rider shows up, but this one from the Bolivia side of things. Emrah and I walk up to the guy and he's pissed. Turns out the Bolivian customs guy has been ****ing with him for days now. He bought his bike somewhere in Peru (I think) and when he comes to Bolivia they tell him the paper's missing a Notarization of some sort and he needs to get it in La Paz (Bolivia) before they'll let the bike in. But it's a Saturday and all the Notaries are closed, so he stays in La Paz until Monday (without the bike being legal), gets the notarization, comes back, and "Oh, you need to get it notarized in Peru too…" so he checks out of Bolivian Imigration, in to Peru, gets the notarization, checks out of Peru, goes back to Bolivia, and now the guy is bitching that he was in bolivia for three days illegally. It's not clear to me if he did the immigration into Bolivia, but not the bike, or he did neither, but one assumes he wasn't so stupid as to not do the immigration. Anyways, the guy won't let him in and the biker has become his own worst enemy by getting pissy with the customs man for jerking him around like this.
There's no doubt he has a right to be pissy, but you absolutely do not get pissy with customs or immigration people. They are, for all suits and purposes, gods. He rides off back into Peru in a huff, hoping that the other border crossing will let him through. Honestly I don't know why he didn't try that days ago, and while I hate bribes, there are times when it's simply the best way to deal with the situation, and had he been able to keep his temper he could have said to the guy "Is there some sort of fine I can pay?" wink wink….
After that the DJs offer for us to have lunch with them. "Under normal circumstances we totally would, but we want to get out of here before something goes wrong. We'll see you in Bolivia." Cards are exchanged, and we're gone.
In Bolivia Dachary handles the border crossing stuff and I make nice with a local cop standing nearby and try and determine if insurance is required or not. I fail, and later we fail again with the customs guy. They all try to assure us that we really should have it, but that we have to go to La Paz to get it. Logically if it's obligatory we can't drive to La Paz, but logic and borders are frequently not good bedfellows.
Inside it's pretty typical border stuff, except that US Citizens need to pay $135 US each for a Visa which is good for five years, regardless of how many days they give you to stay in the current visit. The guy there tried to get $1 per visa application form from Dachary, but she didn't have any $1 bills and somehow the requirement disappeared. We suspect he just wanted a couple bucks for his pocket. When it came time to pay for the visa itself he inspected every bill and rejected any that had tiny rips or other signs of wear. So, make sure you've got crisp bills fresh from the ATM.
Sheknees and I end up chatting away while Dachary and Emrah are handling the paperwork. But time is moving, and as they inform us, we've just lost an hour. Damn…
Smiling at the border
I suspect that THE Copacabana is the one in Brazil but just in case…
We say our goodbyes, pack the papers away, and ride. This morning was chilly. The border was warm. Now it's back to chilly, and for some reason it appears that we're riding through Italian wine country. We've just got rain liners in but it's not too bad. Oh look it's the town with the ferry "I wonder what we… oh." Lined up along the shore are three "ferries" which are large flat boats with one open end, a bunch of loose planks, none of which are nailed down, with lots of holes to stick your foot through, and an outboard motor. 20 Bob per bike (about $3 US) and two minutes and one Jeepish thing later and we're headed for the far shore. Backing off was interesting. One of us would guide the other while they tried to keep the bike on planks and not step in holes.
On the ferry we found out that the guy in the Jeepish thing had been to Ushuaia, and we chatted about that, the weather down there, police corruption, insurance, and things like that. It was nice, and we were happy to have been able to communicate as much as we did.
Waiting to go
Chatting on the ferry
Just off the boat
Tired, just off the boat
A smudge of rain
Once again, we're off… Ride ride, pass some hotels thinking "nah, we should make it to La Paz before dark." Massive, ****ing storm on the horizon. Huge, black, lightning and part of it is between us and La Paz. ****. Warm gear. Quick roadside pee. And on we ride. The storm is amazing. More lightning strikes than I think either of us have ever seen in a storm. We'd both like to stop and take pictures before we're actually under it, but it's getting darker, from the storm and the setting sun….
It's dark. It's raining, we're on the outskirts of La Paz and all we can ****ing find is Dentists, Pharmacies, and Welders. I swear to god. We ride. We get behind slow things, and ONCE attempt to pass, but almost get squshed owing to an oncoming driver with no lights…. hmm… slow works. Yeah… Slow is good. More oncoming cars without lights confirm this. We can't see for crap because of the dark and the rain on our visors. People don't use lights, driving is somewhat crazy in Bolivia, and we don't want to die.
Eventually, we see a hotel sign. We pull over. 200 Bob? Sure. I have no idea what that works out to be but I know it's not too bad (it's about $30 US). I'll take it. Oh look nice room too. But damn. Third floor? I go out to tell Dachary and…hey! The DJs are pulling in. I walk up, tell them the price and that they have secure parking. They decide to attempt to talk them down because that's more than they want to pay.
Much loading of gear up stairs (the elevator is broken). Totally exhausted and panting hard by the process. I go back down, and we wait for the other guys to finish so we can all be lead to the parking. Dachary informs me that she's started coughing (another serious symptom of altitude sickness), is feeling dizzy, and would i mind terribly taking care of her bike. Of course not. I tell her how to find the room.
Eventually the security guard decides I don't have to wait for them and leads me around the block to the place. I pull one bike in, then the other. On the way back he starts asking some stuff I don't get then utters another magic word "tip" or, the spanish equivalent which I'm blanking on at the moment. "Oh. Tip! I have no money. My girlfriend has it all." "Back at the hotel then." I make no response because, oh look, it's Sheknees coming around to park her bike. Sorry dude, you're going to have to go unlock the door for her….
He asked for a tip from them too it turns out. When they asked him where they could find food (i'd already pointed out to them what he'd told me earlier) he told them he'd tell them if they paid his tip. We're all agreement. We don't mind tipping for someone who actually does something. But when you don't do jack shit besides walk around a corner and unlock a door, and you're already being paid to do that… no. No tip.
They start bringing up their stuff and ask us if we'd like to go get food with them. We say we'd love to but Dachary is feeling ill so I'm just going to bring some food back. I run off, come back with food, and they're about to head out. Noting the loveseats in the area between rooms we say "Hey, we were thinking about maybe eating out here if you'd like to join us." So, they run off, come back, and we all eat out there, until about 10:30 exchanging stories of low speed drops and other travel anecdotes. Somewhere along the way we discover that they met Joe and Vern in Peru!
We had a great time chatting with them, and are now proudly sporting their stickers on our panniers. The food, and sitting still, seemed to help Dachary a little, but I'm still pretty concerned. The altitude is hitting her way harder than I'm comfortable with and it's getting worse not better.
Day 80 - La Paz to Villa Loza-Tolar Bolivia
We're both exhausted, but wake up a bit before the alarm and Dachary has a *splitting* headache. The kind where you have to tell people to talk more quietly because it hurts too much to hear them at normal volumes.
When she does get up to go to the bathroom it's both exhausting and dizzymaking and the cough is making an appearance. She doesn't have a cold. It's the altitude. The plan was to go to to Potosi and then to the Salar de Uyuni, but Potosi is at least another 300 meters higher, and that's enough to require more acclimatization, when she's obviously not made any progress on acclimatizing to 3,800 meters even though we've been at this altitude for two days now.
She wants to go though. She knows that the thing I've most been looking forward to on this trip is riding around the dirt roads of Bolivia near the Salar. When people asked me what I was looking forward to seeing, I'd say The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. But, to do that with Dachary in this state would not only be stupid, and dangerous for her, I would feel horrible about having put her through it.
The idea of trying to ride a bumpy dirt road, with a headache that bad… nevermind the volume of the bikes or the bouncing of your head with the extra weight of the helmet. That would be agony. Add in the fact that she keeps getting dizzy from walking across the room. No. No, this is not right.
I try and convince her that we need to just head for lower altitudes via the most direct means possible. She feels horrible. She doesn't want me to miss the one thing I've most been looking forward to. I tell her she's far more important and I won't regret skipping it for a moment. Plus, the Salar I've dreamed of, and the surrounding landscape, was during the dry season. I'd do it in the wet because I'm here, and how often do you get the chance, but I'm not a big fan of riding in mud, and I suspect that the roads are going to be half mud, half wet sand, half who knows what… A lot of work, for two people who are getting exhausted by minimal amounts of effort, who are ready for bed half-way through the day…
Just imagine, you're weaker to begin with (best case scenario), and then you go on muddy roads. You're pretty much guaranteed to drop the bike in the sloppy bits, then you pick it up and you just want to stand there for ten minutes from the exertion, then repeat… Except, for Dachary, throw in the dizziness, occasional coughing, and a headache somewhere between bad and splitting.
Eventually she agrees, and we head south. But, before we can do that, we have to address the fact that the lock on one of her Trax cases has decided it won't unlock. This particular lock has always hated me, and I could never get it open. When Dachary tried to use my key last night but it broke off in the lock, fortunately leaving a stub that we extracted with the Leatherman. This morning, it doesn't want to work with hers either and we don't have another spare, and this key also undoes the locks that attach it to the bike so we're kinda concerned. I vote for giving it a careful attempt, and then removing the lock (easy to do when it's open). We could pry it open but it'd surely **** something up.
Eventually she does get it open, removing the lock works, but makes it unable to lock (obviously). So she sets about trying to fix the lock, and realizes it's the tab that the lock turns into a hole, not the locking mechanism itself. She bends the tab the right way and voilla. Fixed lock.
We say goodbye to the DJ's outside of the hotel, and while we do I notice that I have mild pins-and-needles in both arms from just standing there. Altitude's not happy with me. Forty minutes later we've made it through two miles of traffic and, with the help of a local, one blue string lane divider (don't ask), and dodged three oncoming busses in our lane. We decide that even though there are a couple things we'd like to pick up in a town the size of La Paz the traffic is insane, the drivers swap lanes relentlessly, and we want to get out of here as fast as possible.
Side note: no-one in La Paz appears to own a car. Instead there are Nissan Caravan's filled with seats that ride around, with a person whose job it is to yell the destinations out the window to anyone within hearing range, or just in the off chance that there will be someone in hearing range. If someone likes the destination they run up, and the yeller handles the door and the luggage. There are approximately four of these vehicles for every human in La Paz. They constantly block the right lane and foul the left as they pull in and out of it.
After a while you build up a few rules for dealing with cities with no signage. If everyone is suddenly going right. You go right too. If you suddenly cross a major road heading in the right general direction, you take it. If it crosses a road that's even more major you might want to take that too unless it's going in the opposite direction you need. Things like that. Somehow we end up on the right road heading south out of La Paz.
We make it like 70 kilometers from La Paz and stop for lunch at the first place we see, which is notable in that it took like three small towns before we found somewhere to eat. There was nothing. It was weird. Anyway. We don't think this is even a town. It's just a place with two hotels that both have restaurants in them. We go in, and get a delicious lunch of roast beef ribs preceded by corn soup, and followed by bananas in a little yogurt. It's the "menu de dia" and it was all delicious and exactly what we needed. Turns out the guy speaks a little English, and we ask him if he knows of any towns along our way that might also have hotels. "No. None" he says. He used to travel that road a bunch and doesn't remember any hotels along the way.
The problem here is that we could probably find something at the border (he agrees) but the border is on top of a mountain, and we want to go up in altitude for the least possible time, and definitely don't want to spend a night there. Especially since we're guessing it might be close to 5,000 meters. We don't want to camp in Bolivia because it's quite chilly at this altitude. How chilly? We drove through an area with clumps of snow still clinging to the shadow side of little grass tufts. Nights would be damp and very uncomfortable. Our gear doesn't do sub-freezing temperatures well.
So, Dachary suggest we call it a day early so that she can do some work that's almost late for one of her clients, I can change my tire, and we can rest. It's a good idea, and much as I really want to not stop so early, it's the logical decision. Especially in light of the timings for the ride that the guy has given us (Riding down the mountains in the dark is bad).
So we go across the street to the other hotel. Room is 100 Bob (about $15) but mediocre at best. Come back, ask the guy about a room at this hotel. Turns out he's not just the waiter, he's the receptionist for the hotel, but he's full up. When Dachary goes to pay later he tells her that if the place across the street doesn't have any rooms to come back and he'll see if they can "fix up" a room for us. We don't think it was anything funky, we think he was just being helpful and probably had a room that wasn't currently in a state for people.
So, across the street, pull the bikes in to an inner brick courtyard and set to changing my rear tire. It really was a good idea, because we almost never stop early. But I fear how tired this'll make me. It goes pretty well though. We're getting fairly good at it, and the tire has about 12,000 miles on it, so one good squeeze with the BeadBreaker on each side, plus some squeezing with the hands is all it needs to loosen it up, but when we pull out the tube we both think… "oh shit"
Kay's tireless bike
Finally putting on a new rear
Inner tube weirdness
All those little bits? We feared they were bits of the tube, but no, they're bits of the tire's carcass. We're not sure where exactly they came from, but I suspect it had something to do with the day a couple months ago when I unknowingly rode with the pressure at 25(ish) instead of the normal 33. Probably heat build up and such… But the little pieces flake off the tube with a little pressure, so Dachary sets to giving the tube a manicure while I start putting the new tire on.
Tired from the change
Tire on, tube cleaned, tube in, a bunch of pulling with the tire irons, hook up the CyclePump, add a little goop to the side that's going to need to come up the farthest to set the bead and….. holy shit. We've done this four times now and have never had the bead set so perfectly. Maybe it's that this time it's a Metzler Tourance tire and the other tires were Michellin Anakees. Usually it takes a lot of time and sometimes a bit of luck to get it the same distance from the rim the whole way around, but this time it slides into place perfectly, and we barely needed to over-inflate the tube to do it. (Note: three days later and the tube's still doing fine)
New vs. old.
I must say the BeadBreakr and CyclePump are two of the best purchases we made for this trip. I can't recommend them highly enough.
We get the tire back on and just as we're checking the chain tension the rain that has been threatening starts up. Light drops at first, but we know the real stuff is not far behind. Adjust Adjust! Tweak tweak! Wrench Wrench! Pack Pack! As we're pulling our panniers up the stairs and into the rooms the real rain starts in.
Back in the room Dachary avoids work, and we read for a bit. Then down to dinner, a little more avoidance, and eventually I coerce her into doing it by withholding sex. Seriously. But, you can't blame her. Would you want to write newsletters about house buying and mortgages while you were on a trip like this? Ugh. It is so sad that she's had to carry around a book about home buying this whole time.
It should be noted, that Dachary is not-so-secretly hoping that one more evening at altitude will be enough to acclimatize her so that we can go do the Salar. She really doesn't want to let me down. I don't believe for a minute that her symptoms will have subsided by then to the point where she's up for that, but she's a stubborn one. And, I love her.
Day 81 - Villa Loza-Tolar, Bolivia to Arica, Chile
Dachary didn't wake up with a splitting headache, which was good, but she was completely winded by walking across the street to get breakfast, which was bad. Went back to the room and the double whammy of street crossing and food digestion made Dachary need to lie down for a few minutes. I know, this sounds totally freaking pathetic, but you just can't get your head around the effects of oxygen deprivation until you've experienced it.
Advice to anyone wanting to do the Salar de Uyuni: unless you've been at "very high" altitude you can't know if you'll be ****ed (like Dachary) or merely exhausted (like me). Get up to 3,800 meters a minimum of three day before you hit the dirt. My recommendation is five in case you have trouble with it. Remember that if you get headaches from altitude sickness pills won't help. You'll just have to suffer, or drop altitude. The problem is, that there's no quick way down from Bolivia. There's plenty more details about dealing with altitude sickness on Wikipedia.
Anyway, we hit the road, and it was beautiful. One of my favorite rides of the trip. It reminded me a lot of the western United States, and about how the more I experience on this trip, the more it makes me appreciate what we have back home. So many times I've thought, "We've got this in the US!" But riding the US can be so hit or miss. You can really have a lame trip with all our fast but boring highways, and our overpopulated back roads. I'm thinking of doing the Trans-Eastern and Trans-American trail someday, maybe with some diversions through Monument National Park and the Grand Canyon…. ANYWAY… must stop getting sidetracked…
Looking back at Dach
What do they store in these?
Bolivian Alto Plano
Bolivian Alto Plano
Bolivian Alto Plano
Bolivian Alto Plano
Bolivian Alto Plano
Bolivian Alto Plano
Bolivian Alto Plano
Bolivian Alto Plano
Bolivian Alto Plano
Bolivian Alto Plano
Bolivian Alto Plano
Sorry to bombard you with photos, but it was just so amazing. Especially when the snow-capped peaks started sliding into view one after the other.
The riding was beautiful all the way to the border, well… the first border. There are two you see, and they've set them up for maximum confusion. Heading west, when you get the Bolivian border you need to ride past the staffed Aduana (customs) shack and the empty Migrations (immigrations) buildings. Then ride past the big building where the huge line of trucks ends. That building holds the other Bolivian Migrations (immigrations only) and Chilean Aduana (exit only). I have no idea where the Chilean exit immigrations is.
You then leave Bolivia having gotten nothing stamped out of the country, enter Chile illegally, drive about a mile or so into the country until you find the other border. Go to the Blue Bolivian Migrations building across from the brick Chilean building (with the bathrooms). Then go back to the yellow / green buildings for the Bolovian Aduana (with the paper they gave you at immigrations) then back to the Chilean brick building to Immigrations, fill out the form, give it back, then to the Aduana (same building) where they will check your VIN and start filling out paperwork while you go next door to the SAP (or something like that) where they will have you fill out another form, then have you open up your panniers to make sure you're not brining in contraband cheese, food, or ancient artifacts (not kidding, it was on the sign), then back to waiting for the Aduana.
We found this out by going to the Bolivian Aduana and being told to go away and drive fifteen minutes up the road. That sounded **** up so we asked and got confirmation, but shortly before fifteen minutes we found the Chilean border and figured they were smoking crack because we need to check out of Bolivia before we enter Chile. Turned around, went to the Big building in Bolivia asked a guy with official garb if the Bolivian Aduana was in there, was told yes (duplicate office I figured) went in… no, it's not there. Man's an idiot. Went back to the little building I was at first, told her I really needed to stamp out. She said **** it, stamped me out, then sent me to make a photocopy of it (1 Bob for 2 copies) kept the original and sent me away. I went back to the big building four Migrations only to find that it's immigration only and that I should **** off and go to Chile. There was a Chilean Aduana in the building but I figured it a really bad idea to attempt to check into Chile before leaving Bolivia. So, we went to Chile and everything there was a pretty straightforward even if it did involve a bunch of back and forth, and me watching the bike fall over… it was tired.
Side note: Happy-Trails panniers are holding up spectacularly.
Other Side note: not a single money changer in sight.
The Bolivian border is next to a huge snow capped Volcano that shoots up another 2,000 meters or so above the border. Gorgeous. The Chilean one has a Volcano just around the corner. It also had rain… damn rain. Up, up, more up… Oh hey, this is pretty. It looks like the rain's done… pretty dirt… a Customs checkpoint… Is that for us? I'm sure it's for the Truckers pulling over there, but us too?? We sit in sight of the customs guys for a while hoping to get a nod to come in or go on… they never look up. We say **** it and very slowly drive off. No yelling….
The road is sometimes paved and sometimes dirt. We're around 4,500 meters now and really hoping it'll stop dropping, but it kept going up for a while. As soon as it does start dropping we are reminded of what happens at tall mountain ranges: the clouds come from one side and train-wreck into it while the other side has blue skies.
The edge of the cloud
There was an area at 4,398 meters where we got a break in the clouds and stopped to pee in this idyllic little valley with a small river on one side and llamas chomping whatever llamas chomp on the hill opposite it.
A break in the clouds
Llamas being llamas
A river runs through it...
But then we entered the full-on train-wreck. Visibility was technically about twenty feet, but at that distance you couldn't really tell what it was you are looking it, as evidenced by me riding over a llama. At least, I think it was a llama. There was a dark splotch in the middle of the road. I thought it was just going to be a pothole, but then, instead of going down into it, I went up over it, with a vibratey feeling over something slick. I swear I saw a few milliseconds of ribs before, or as, my front tire hit it.
I'm pretty sure it was baby llama roadkill.
We rode on at about 50kph until we got stuck behind a semi going about 20kph and were not nearly suicidal enough to attempt to pass it. Far too many times we'd be watching to the side of it and all of a sudden there were headlights from an oncoming semi RIGHT THERE! The visibility was so bad in the fog, and the road was so twisty, that there simply was no chance to pass.
I was very thankful for two things: 1) my Aerostitch Kanetsu kept me warm 2) my Denali headlights meant that oncoming vehicles had a much better chance of seeing me. They don't do jack for cutting through fog, but they make you much more confident about your chances of not becoming a pancake.
Dachary didn't need the latter since she was in back, although I'm know she would have liked a pair of her own, but she really did need a heated jacket, because it was freaking cold at that altitude and the train-wreck of clouds we were riding through meant we were soaked and had what little heat we had get sucked out of us as quickly as possible. Alas, with no functional Gerbing, she suffered through the cold, feeling worse and worse and eventually catching the shivers.
I would have taken pictures, there was even a picture taking pulloff with a camera icon on a sign, to which Dachary commented "What are we supposed to take a picture of?" because there was only one thing to be seen: cloud guts. So yeah, I didn't feel like soaking my camera to give you a picture of solid gray.
We drove down, and down, and down, and down…. at about 1,500 meters it started getting warm (yeah, that's over two vertical miles down) but Dachary was still shivering. I felt terrible, but there was nothing we could do. Stopping earlier would have only made the cold last longer. We just had to keep going until we made our way back to the warm embrace of a Sea Level desert.
Back to the desert
Back to the desert
At one point we were riding along the edge of a valley with a dried river bed, but the river obviously returned because they had taken pains to make sure the road dipped down to the level of the river bed when it was forced to cross to the other side. The idea being that the river would just run over the road at that point instead of having to build a bridge that would withstand being pummeled by all the boulders the river was obviously keen to throw around.
A dip in the road
Ready to go
When we got there we had to remove our heated gear (well, mine was), Dachary's thermal leggins, and switch back to summer gloves. It was weird. Suddenly we felt so much lighter and freer. We left in the rain liners though. We may have dropped down into the desert, but deserts aren't always particularly warm. It ways probably 65 F when we got there, and Dachary said she still felt cold.
We continued on, past tasty looking restaurants we really wanted to stop at, and into Arica, past gas stations we really wanted to fill up, and on into the guts of the city because we had Zero Chilean Pesos, although I've still got peso coins from every other Peso using country we've been through. I've still got coins from every country actually. No-one wants them. Soon we're just driving around asking people, until we ask a guy who says "right around that corner." Excellent! Oh, wait. No left turning during every useful hour of the day. **** it. It's safe. Turn. Pull over. Totally miss the ATM but see a money changer… Damn we can't park here "Watch me!" says Dachary. "Um, there's a cop walking towards us." I say. "Let's see what he does"… He comes up, and I ask him where we should go to park. He tells me I made an illegal turn. I act confused. He tells me to watch where I'm going. That he could write me a ticket for that. "Sorry" I say. He gives me stern looks and Stern finger pointing. Then, when I ask again, tells me where to park, confirms I have to take three lefts to get there, and lets me go.
I take three lefts, and pull up behind a car about to abandon its spot. Dachary goes to find the ATM, and the Money Changer whilst I take the Leatherman to my GPS mount which has been all floppy today.
"How much was I supposed to get out?", she comes back and asks. 150,000 ($300 US) since we're going to be here for a while. "Ooops…" she goes back to the ATM.
We then proceed to drive around in circles (literally) trying to find a hotel. Get bad directions twice. Never find any hotel we tried to. Then stumble across another hotel. Go in, ask about parking (the hardest thing to get in Arica). Yes! Internet too?! Holy shit. "How do I get to the parking?"
It's just on the back side of the hotel on the other side of the block. Easy. Down.. right… no, wait, that's one way… right… right…left…right…. right er… **** the road is one way up to us not down… ok right, right, up up up… er no ****… left left… can't left… can't left… can't left…. can't left…. ****ing A… left… left… and we're back where we were the last time… It's been at least ten minutes. We're sure the girl who's supposed to be waiting to open the gate for us is gone, We can SEE the gate, we just can't…. "Oh **** this. I'm overheating. I'm ****ing tired. It's been black out for an hour. " ILLEGAL RIGHT TURN. The girl is a saint, and is still there. The gate opens, and we unload our shit through the back door almost directly into the room on the ground floor… oh what a sweet and rare joy… a ground floor room.
Dachary falls onto the bed. I'll let her describe her state.
(Dachary's note: between being cold for days with no heated gear (the highs in Bolivia were in the high 40s, low 50s, with lows… colder. And riding at speed.) and the altitude sickness, I was absolutely knackered when we hit the hotel in Arica. The ceiling was crawling. The drapes were waving. I was dizzy and felt sort of out-of-body. I tried getting up at one point to go to the bathroom, and was considering going outside with Kay at that point, but it was quickly evident that the only place I should go was right back to bed. I do not recommend altitude sickness in conjunction with being too cold for days.
Also? No heat in hotels anywhere in Latin America. Even the expensive ones. Maybe in resorts, I dunno? So those cold Bolivian nights, the only choice was to bundle up under blankets and never get really warm again. I seriously recommend having fully functional heated gear when going to altitude, or at least good thermal gear, which I lack. I left the Rev'It Sand thermal layer at home because I was using the heated gear… and now I really wish I had it, since my heated jacket isn't working. I am dreading Ushuaia with no heated gear and no thermal layer. I simply have to figure something out before then.)
I go out to find food since she's incapable of moving from the bed. Oh look, a pizza / taco / empanada place next door. I go back in. "Hey, there's a place RIGHT there with pizzas, tacos, empanadas… I could grab a pizza or we could go together. It couldn't be closer" She stands up, decides it was a bad idea, and sends me off.
I go in. "I need food to go." "Oh… food TO GO" she says significantly to the cook and then gives me some not entirely negative but not positive response either. I try another tact…. "What food do you have to go?" she lists things, including pizza. "How big is the big pizza?" "It's not. It's a personal pizza." **** that noise. We've seen "personal" pizzas in Latin America. "Ok. How about tacos?" "Yes." "Ok. I'd like tacos for two." "Ok. Go wait upstairs." "O…k…"
I go up. I take up one of the few tables in the nice seating area up there. A waitress shows up and hands me a menu. "Not necessary. I spoke downstairs and ordered food to go." Somewhat confused she retreats. I sit for a few minutes. A nice man from a couple tables over makes sure I wasn't eating there. "No. Thank-you." The waitress returns. "Tacos?" "Yes, to go." She disappears. She comes back and starts speaking foreign words to me. I don't understand. Eventually she switches to English that's slightly better than my Spanish. "You come downstairs?" "Sure" We go down. We go to the lady I gave my order to. The waitress talks to her. The waitress is annoyed. The woman says "oh, to go". as in "Oh, I didn't realize they wanted the food to go." I really, really, wish my Spanish was good enough to give her a verbal "WTF?!", but it isn't. So I confirm what I think the situation is. "Ok, you have NO food to go." The waitress shakes her head apologetically and says no. The woman I gave the order to sits there like an idiot.
I walk out… I walk about five blocks to the McDonalds I saw. I know they will still be open (it's late). I know what to order. I know what it'll taste like, and I know it'll be fast.
I'm right on all but one. The fast. Holy ****ing shit. Slowest McDonalds on the planet.
I take the food back. It's ****ING DELICIOUS. It's not like it tastes any different than any other McDonalds, but it's just so deliriously good. A wonderful taste of home. And, the fries… we've had so many crap fries. It's just so nice to have good McDonalds fries.
Note: if you need a hotel in Arica with secure parking we used the Hotel Plaza Colon, which I would recommend, and they charged me less than the rate sheet on the wall, but it was still a typical big-city price. In the parking area behind the hotel the GPS said S 18 28.743 W 070 19.205 Which should be right between two streets.
Day 82 - Arica to Quillagua Chile
Did I mention we lost another hour when we came into Chile? That's two hours lost in less than 48. We woke up at 9 Chilean time. 7 our time, which is when we normally have the alarm set. Breakfast was included with the room, but we thought we were too late to get it. McDonalds. McDonalds works. Not the most spectacular breakfast offerings but not bad either. I head out and discover that Chileans have no appreciation for breakfast, if McDonalds is any indication.
Main menu item? Two small croissants (cold) and a cup of coffee. Alternately there is a ham and cheese sandwich (with coffee), and, of course, a small hamburger (with coffee). This was not good. I ordered four ham and cheese sandwich meals with orange juice because, judging by the picture and the croissants, they weren't going to be big. Then, in case they sucked, I ordered two yogurts, which I discovered has a weird pronunciation that I'm still having trouble getting my mouth around.
Back to the hotel room I inform Dachary of the sadness that is Chilean McDonalds breakfast and we open the sandwiches. They've taken hamburger buns (the cheap ones) turned them inside out and toasted them. Then inserted a cold piece of ham and cheese. It was the most pathetic excuse for a sandwich I've ever seen.
They call this "breakfast"
The yogurt parfait thing was exactly the same as in the US (way too sweet) but better than the sandwiches. Also, no hash-browns! And, still the worlds slowest McDonalds even though there was only one other customer.
Side note: the tables all have a metal loop under them with a caribener attached so that you can easily clip your bag to the table while you eat. I guess at some point in the past they've had trouble with people snatching bags from tables and running off while the owners are somewhat trapped trying to get their legs out from under the table.
Dachary finishes off some of her work and I get a post uploaded. We were too exhausted to do much of anything last night. Then just before the noon check-out we manage to get all our shit together and out the door. Not bad considering we woke up at 9, had breakfast and Dachary had work to do.
In the parking lot we discover Dachary's bike needs a bit more air in the tires since our altitude has changed so dramatically, address that with the CyclePump (so loving that thing) and head out. Before going back into the desert we stop by a massive hardware store we saw (Think Home Depot) for new padlocks. I've lost one somewhere along the way and the other one is getting a bit ornery. I could fix the latter with some WD-40, which we have, but I still need another lock for the other pannier, because the built-in locks on the Happy-Trails panniers are as bad as the built-in ones on the Trax cases. Only one is working for reasons I can't explain, and they get obstructed by the contents of the cases.
Anyway, in ask for padlocks, see only one choice… that can't be right.. get an employee who leads me to a locked case of padlocks. Right… I buy a four pack, which is more expensive than two two packs back gives me one key for everything. Then it's back to the desert, via a road that circumnavigates it from the north which Dachary found on Google maps. One wrong turn later and we're free of it's grip.
Ride on kemosabe
Ride on kemosabe
Desert. Desert. More desert.
New rule: in Chile, you get gas when you see it, because the distances between stations can be pretty big and many of the towns on the map don't have gas. Some towns, on the other hand consist entirely of one gas station as far as we can tell.
We stop for lunch at a sandwich shop by a customs checkpoint that doesn't seem to apply to us. Where we notice a couple adventure bikes that appear to be from Brazil, the riders probably off in one of the restaurants and sandwich shops. I voted for the one with the nice, shaded chairs in the breeze where we we're served a spectacular steak and cheese sandwich. So far the sandwiches have been crap, but this was just a simple baguette-like bread, with some cheese, and some sliced beef. It was great.
Eventually the riders come out from a restaurant across the street and I walk up to the first one as he approaches the bike sitting in front of us. I ask him where he's from, "Brazil" he says and puts on a glove. "And where are you going?" "Brazil" he says and puts on the other glove. "We rode down from Boston." he nods and gives me the distinct impression he doesn't give a shit… right then. "Adios" I say as he's starting to mount his bike. His companion has just walked by and shown zero interest even though there are two fully loaded adventure bikes next to his.
I walk back to Dachary and notice something. He and his friend may have been riding BMW R1150's but his jacket said "HOG (Harley Owners Group)", and while I hate to generalize, Harley folk and adventure riders rarely seem to see eye to eye in the US. There are exceptions of course, but...
We ride on, until around six clock we pull over at a gas station and decide that we should get rid of the shite Peruvian gasohol we've got in our cans and replace it with real gas. The logic being that real gas gets us more mileage, and when you've run out you want as much extra mileage as you can get. Unfortunately neither of us can figure out the God Damn Mother ****ing Piece Of Shit Safety Valve on the cans. The icon says to turn it around the neck in one direction to unlock it. You do, but it has no effect. You turn farther and it just breaks some spring. There's only a teeny hole in the spout which looks like a breather hole, and I've no clue how any real amount of gas is supposed fit through it. **** it. I've spent twenty minutes in the past ****ing with this thing and I don't give a shit any more. I take out the leatherman and attack it with the blade, drilling a hole through the neck of the spout where there should have been a hole in the first place.
I finally get this working, and Dachary, who has been holding off from attacking hers in case mine no longer closes properly, discovers the secret to making it work. You have to push down, hard, on the turney piece in addition to turning, but there's zero indication of that anywhere on the thing. If I have pulled the neck out and put the damn thing back in in the pour position I WANT gas to escape. I don't need a ****ing safety feature to protect me from gas escaping. That's the whole point of putting the spout on pointing that way. ****ers. At least it's not one of those stupid ones with the Mushroom end for California's rules. Those things leak constantly and the end is obnoxious.
We end up getting in a tiff over what to do next. Eat and stay (at the decent looking hotel), eat and ride, ride and cross fingers. Dachary doesn't want to be the one responsible for us staying even though neither of us want to skip eating, and she doesn't want to eat and then ride since we'd not ride for long. She gets upset and decides we're going to skip eating and ride…. unfortunately this means we may end up with no food tonight because it's a crap shoot if any of the towns will have a restaurant, and even more of a crap shoot if they'll have a hotel.
I'm fine with just camping, but I'm concerned about missing dinner and she's not talking much. We ride for nearly two hours and sunset's coming soon. We come to a customs building where everyone has to stop, not just busses and trucks. We sit around trying to figure out if we're really required to stop, but then normal cars are stopping and doing shit so we grab our customs papers, and with the help of an employee figure to take them to the window, get them stamped and ride out to the gate where they check that we've got something to show we've been inspected (they checked other people's trucks but ignored us) and ask if that thing over there is a restaurant. It is. We go. It says open. We get off the bikes. It isn't.
There's another one next door. It actually is open. We order and while waiting for food I wander off in search of a hidey-camp spot because the sun will have set and it may be full dark by the time we are done eating.
One abandoned complex with a concrete wall we can drive through and a no-entry sign. Across the street is a mud-brick building with two and a half walls left. It's off the main road about 200 feet and we could probably set up camp behind it. Then, there's a road behind the concrete no-entry wall…. hmm… it curves around back, down a hill, past an obstruction that'd stop a car but not a moto, and into a big open field with trees and a river. Yeah baby. Hills on two sides and only visible by the back of some shacks at the top of the hill. Coming down here is not doable in a car, which no-one has, and no-one seems to have motos here either, so it's actual work on foot, and not a wander over out of curiosity thing.
I inform Dachary of the choices. Neither of us like the abandoned concrete structure, and there are dogs who keep running in there and being all barky and guardy.
We eat our delicious pork quickly, and pull out, and down the hill. It's nigh-perfect. We set up camp and dig a hole for… "waste" as full dark comes in. The stars are incredible. Neither of us is Bad-ass Boy-Scout enough to dig a depression in the sandy ground for our hips so it's a little hard but… We leave the tent-fly off for a while and make love under the stars, then watch an episode of Torchwood before falling asleep.
Well, Dachary falls asleep. I lay awake for a while, not yet in the mindset of being comfortable hidey-camping and worrying about annoying someone by being here, just enough to keep me awake, but not enough to actually consider taking action.
Side note for those of you who say don't bring camping gear, here's exactly why you should. Sometimes there's no hotel, and you don't want to ride hours in the dark to the next "town" that probably won't have one anyway. Chile, by the way is as full of excellent camping spots as Peru was. In Chile especially there are lots of hard packed dirt roads leading off of Route 5 that seem to go nowhere. Just pull off on one of those, drive a half a mile, or more, from the road, and set up your tent. Sometimes they curve around behind mounds that'd hide you too, but mostly your tent would be visible but not worth the effort. That's actually our plan for nights when we don't specifically need a hotel for some reason like getting posts up to you guys, or doing laundry, or things like that.
Day 83 - Quillagua to Chanaral
We still haven't gotten the hang of Chile time. Set the alarm for 7am, which is when we've been waking up, and it was barely light - sunrise apparently isn't until 7:33AM. We hit snooze once and then the need to pee drove me out of the tent to our hole. My intestines seemed unhappy and threatened to make me use the hole for something else, but apparently I haven't degenerated to a complete savage yet as I found myself unable to poo squatting over a hole in broad view in full daylight.
Packing up the tent was slow, as it's been a while since we camped and we were both dragging. Also, my body was still under the impression that it was 5AM, and I'm a poor early riser, so I was grumping at poor Kay. I feel bad about it but I couldn't seem to stop myself. Got the bikes loaded up, and I was grumpy and tummy achy and asked Kay to take my bike up the hill past the metal blockade thingy for me. I drove it to the bottom, but then I walked up the hill - I didn't want to deal with the tightness of the space and the sandy bit right where we had to plant our wheels. Kay apparently enjoyed it, though, as he said it was a nice little diversion to start the day.
Because my tummy was unhappy, we skipped breakfast and hit the road. It was around 8:40AM when we pulled out from our hidey-camp spot, which is better than most of the hotels but slow for us for camping.
About 45 minutes later, Kay announces that the abandoned city he wanted to check out was just 68KM ahead. We'd be there shortly if we wanted to stop. One of the sort of compromises we'd made since we skipped the Salar de Uyuni and were a bit earlier than planned heading south that we'd stop and see a couple of other things he'd wanted to check out but didn't think we had time for. The abandoned town was on the list, and it sounded cool to me, too, so we agreed to look for it.
From Route 5, we took the exit for Maria Elena, because we *really* needed gas by then. The city sign said we'd find gas and food there, and I was thinking breakfast might not go amiss, now, too, since I'd been awake and riding for a while. So we headed to Maria Elena, found a gas station upon immediately arriving on the edge of town, and then turned around and headed south down B-180 toward Pedro de Valdivia - an abandoned mining town Kay read about in another ride report. We were under the impression that there were two towns - one that had been abandoned, and one that was currently serving the mine from a new location a few kilometers down.
Down the road toward a sign for Mina Pedro, but that wasn't the right turn off - it's the actual working mine. There's a gate across the road and a guy in a shack coming out to see why two motos are coming up. So back to the road and then south some more, around some twists in the road, past a random tree in the desert (huge effing tree - we had no idea how or why it was there) and then along side a town that looked fully functional from afar. As we got closer, we could see that the roofs were missing from many of the buildings, and we didn't see any people moving around the town, although it looked fine otherwise.
The road ran along the side of the town, although all of the access roads were blocked by a 3-4 foot high pile of dirt. In fact, the entire perimeter was blocked off by this tall pile of unpacked dirt. The road led to the entrance of another working mine, which also had a gate across the road and a guy in a shack coming out to see why the two motos were pulling up. So we turned around again, and ended up behind a mining truck that was heading out of the mine, which drove slowly with us behind them - I assume they were waiting to see what we would do. We took the right that heads back toward Route 5 (and past the town on that side) and waited for the mining truck to pull out of site.
Then, to the problem of getting inside the place. But look! Next to that gate blocking the road (and declaring it a national monument) there's a bit of a gap. Maybe our motos can go through there! Kay goes to investigate, as he's the wider of us (and more willing to cram his bike in sticky spots) and is able to make it through, so I follow. And down the main road of the abandoned town we ride.
You didn't see this either
It's completely surreal to ride around this place. Aside from the fact that the road is dirt, and the doors and windows to many of the houses are hanging wide open, the place doesn't seem abandoned. You expect to see people walking out of the buildings or going around the town any minute. Maybe they're all at an important town meeting and will be returning shortly. It's like they've just stepped out, except for the minor details that tell a different tale. A random boot lying in the street. Missing roofs. A fine coating of dust and dirt over everything.
Kay has seen pictures from the school and he wants to find that, so we peer down all of the cross-streets that we pass looking for large buildings. Tons of houses, a few shops, what looks like a big church up on the hill… and forward, what's that? A building that might be a school! We ride past and see a playground, and then turn right and look for a place off the main cross-streets to park our bikes in case someone is patrolling here. We take a right by a pretty peach building, and discover that it's the town theater. There, we park, turn off our bikes and take off our helmets.
As soon as we pull our earplugs, we hear something - a radio. Not far away, from what appears to be a gazebo sitting in a park across from the empty theater, is the sound of a radio. It alternates between local talk radio and random music, but it's clearly a modern station - not some sort of canned noise. "Are you sure this place is abandoned?" I ask Kay, who shakes his head - it's supposed to be, but neither of us can explain the radio.
I wonder if some vagrants have taken up here and are hanging out in the gazebo with a radio. If that's the case, they probably aren't in a position to complain about us being there, but we are trespassing and I'm spooked by the sound. Kay wanders around and takes some pictures of the main square, and I follow but my interest is half-hearted because now I'm worried about getting caught here.
Is there someone over there?!
We check out the town square, and then a building that I take to be a school because it's in a fenced compound that contains a playground. It may be *a* school, but it's not the one that Kay saw pictures from that has him really interested.
Next, we explore the theater. Kay wants to get inside of it, and I think I remember seeing an open door on the side we passed when we rode in. We walk around the building, trying a few doors, and eventually we find one that opens into a darkened, well-preserved theater. The seats were wooden and folded upright, and covered in a thick layer of dirt or dust. The stage, too - everything was covered in the stuff. It was floating in the air. There were tracks on the floor; mud or dirt had come in and someone had been there since it happened. It was an odd combination of well-preserved with just enough decay to be creepy and surreal.
Then I noticed an odd detail. "When was this place abandoned?" I ask Kay. He doesn't know. I ask if he's looked at the banner behind him, as he's currently on the stage taking pictures out toward the auditorium… and he turns around to see the banner on the stage, which has dates reading from 1996 to 2010. We look at each other. 2010? Last year? Surely this place can't have been abandoned just last year. The layer of dirt is far too thick for just a year. And the air of emptiness surrounding the place is far too pervasive for months or even a year of silence. It's a mystery.
I've since done some research and can't find a decisive date for when Pedro de Valdivia was abandoned. Apparently Chile ran it "until recently" and was perhaps operating it as a national monument for a while. The best I can piece it together, the mine may have been run as a mine by Chile until 1995-ish, at which point it was abandoned and turned into a national monument site. Which might have been active until 2010? I'm not sure about the banner that read "1996 to 2010." And it's driving me crazy that I can't find the details. Inquiring minds want to know!
Anyway, we wandered around the empty town for a while. We poked into houses and found legacies and scraps from the people who lived there. Kay found an auditorium and checked it out, while I wandered off alone and checked out a few more of the houses and a shop. Eventually we met up again at the main square and headed out of town after like an hour and a half of exploring. Kay agreed at that point that the psychological effect of the radio playing was creeping him out a bit, too, and we headed off. There was plenty more to see, but we were ready to move on.
The people who lived here
Is it stone or wood?
You didn't see this
More photos in our Chile set on Flickr.
Kay's note: apparently back in July the radio wasn't playing. Dachary and I agreed that it was the best deterrent they could have put in place. You know you're there without permission, but there's this sound of voices and music that keeps you on your toes. It might obscure the sound of some guard coming to check on the place. We both thought that we could sleep there if it wasn't for the radio, but there's no way we could do it with it on. Also, we never did find the school things I was looking for, but judging by Panomoto's pictures from the town there was way more to explore.
Back on the road, and it was lunch time and I still hadn't had breakfast. Hunter needs food badly! (Or rider, as the case may be.) Unfortunately, out here in the middle of the desert, towns are few and far between. 70km later, we stumbled across a gas station in Carmen Alto, and I decided we should stop and get gas. Whilst there, we asked the gas station guy if the restaurant next door was open (it was) and if it was good (it was). So off to the restaurant.
When we sat down, I was looking at the map trying to think about how far we might get today when I realized… I had a blind spot. I couldn't read any of the town names properly. When I looked right at them, I could only see some of the letters - others were obscured by the "blind spot" in my eye. I tried closing one eye, and then the other, and thought I determined that it was the left eye that was having trouble. I mentioned it to Kay and waited for it to pass, we ordered food, and I stared at the map some more.
Eventually I realized that it wasn't passing - it was getting worse. Kay commented that since I had trouble putting the left contact in this morning (it burned in my left eye painfully, in spite of repeatedly removing it and dousing it liberally in contact solution, until eventually it calmed down) it might be a problem with the contact. He said that if it were him, he'd remove it immediately. I didn't see how that could be possible as they were a fresh pair of contacts that I just put in yesterday, but it was really freaking me out at that point that I had a big blind spot that seemed to be getting worse. We were literally in the middle of the desert. The nearest sizable town was 100km away, and I was riding a moto. I needed to be able to see.
So I took the contacts out, hoping it would subside. It didn't. It continued to get worse. I tried closing one eye, and then the other, to see if I could figure out which eye was having trouble… and then I got really freaked out. Because either eye seemed to function fine when it was just the one eye. But when I tried using both eyes at the same time (you know, like a normal two-eyed person) I got a massive blind spot. So I interpreted this to mean it was a neurological problem - somewhere between my eyes and my brain, the signal was getting messed up. It wasn't the eyes. Here I was in a strange country and I was having a neurological problem. Oh crap.
I decided that there was nothing I could do about it at the moment, and to just chill and see if it was any better after lunch. Right around then, food came. I stopped paying attention to it and started eating. Lunch was surprisingly tasty, and I realized halfway through eating it that I could see! Like normally! I waited a few minutes more to be sure, looked around some more, closed various eyes and generally tested things, and then I told Kay "I can see again." It was a huge relief to both of us, as I think neither of us had a clue what to do if it didn't fix itself.
We agreed that I should wear my glasses for the rest of the day, since we didn't know what caused the problem in the first place and didn't want to set it off again. I hate wearing them in the helmet, as they don't fit perfectly and I have to keep pushing them up my nose. Also, I hate wearing them on warm days because the pads of the glasses make my nose sweat. Alas, riding through the desert counts as a "warm" day and I had to deal because I was so relieved to see properly again that the other concerns seemed far more minor than usual.
Smiling Dach with GLASSES
After the oddly dramatic lunch, back to the gas station for the bathroom and then on the road again!
I think there's a dog under that
Some point along the way, we cross the Tropic of Capricorn. Kay goes back to take a picture because now that we know what it means (thanks to our educational lesson at the Equator!) it seems cooler and Kay wants a shot of it.
Tropic of Capricorn
We passed Antofagasta, and Kay commented that another thing he wanted to see was down the road past the city. Apparently there's a giant hand sticking out of the desert - some artist sculpted it in the middle of nowhere off of Route 5. Since we'd be passing it anyway, Kay wanted to stop and get pictures, and I had no particular place to be, so when we saw the sign for it, we stopped.
It's not obvious where you're meant to drive out to the hand. There are several paths across the desert leading to it, and none of them seem particularly official. Then there are a few side paths between the main paths from the road where cars have apparently made their own routes. We rode up one of them, with just one car ahead of us, thinking we'd be able to snap our photos and be on our way.
The car in front of us was a black Tracker. There were something like 5 or 6 adults, and one baby. And apparently EVERYONE had to be in a picture with the baby in front of the hand. When we pulled up, they'd just moved their vehicle - they'd been taking pictures of their Tracker in front of the hand while they were driving up. Then they moved it, and started taking pictures of themselves. Four or five pictures of a person with the baby. Then the person changed places with someone else, handing the baby off like some twisted mascot, and got their own pictures. Oh, wait, lets get two people in here. Oh, no, two other people. Oh, wait, you wanted a picture with the baby, too? Then for some reason the first two wanted to go back and get *more* pictures with the baby.
It was a total cluster****. Every time we thought they were done, they changed positions and took more pictures. We must have been waiting for ten or fifteen minutes when I started getting annoyed, started my bike and drove around behind the hand so I could position myself to swoop in for the shot.
Two other people in a silver car had been there before us, and while the Tracker people were packing up, they walked over quickly and took their pictures. They were done in under 2 minutes. Kay ran over and took a picture of them together, which they appreciated, and they were walking off before the Tracker people were all piled into their car and ready to go. In the meantime, two more cars full of people had pulled up, and we were determined that they wouldn't steal our spot in the queue.
As soon as the Tracker was started up, even before the people from the silver car got back in to leave, I started pulling forward to park my bike in front of the statue. At the same time, one of the women from the new carloads started walking up to the statue. **** that, I thought - I've been here forever and you just got here - you didn't have to deal with the stupid Tracker people at all - so I kept pulling my bike up. Kay was pulling his up, too. And the stupid woman didn't even blink to see us pulling up - she just continued walking over to get her shot in front of the hand.
She couldn't wait her turn
We got off the bikes and waited while her car of people took pictures of her with our bikes in front of the hand. And then we swooped in before other people could get into the shot, because we wanted to get in and out. We were sick of waiting for pictures of us in front of this stupid statue, already. So Kay snaps a few quick pictures of me, we swap spots and I snap a few pics of him, and then the car of people offers to snap a pic of us together. Yay! So it's done.
Kay at the hand
Dachary at the Hand
Us at the hand
I go back to my bike and start to pull off, and both cars full of people are walking toward the hand (apparently they're together) and asking Kay to take a picture of them. "Just a minute," he says in Spanish "we'll move the bikes." "No, it's no problem," they say and take pictures of them in front of our bikes in front of the hand statue. So weird. Then I go move my bike, and Kay follows, and we see them taking more pictures behind us, without the bikes. I have no idea what that was about, but it was weird. It's been over a half hour since we pulled off to get a quick picture of the hand. That took way too long!
Kay's note: I really wanted to get some better pics, but after waiting that long for the stupid baby people I couldn't justify being a disrespectful ass myself and spending the time to compose some better shots.
Back on the road for more riding, riding, riding. The plus side of the change in time here in Chile is that there's far more usable daylight. Sunset is after 8PM, so we can ride forever. Normally we'd stop at 6pm - on the flat, straight Chilean roads, we can cover 200km between 6pm and 8pm. I decide we should push for a town 200km down the road - Chanaral. It'll be pushing it, but if we don't run into any trouble, we should get there around 7:30 or 8. Hopefully we can find a hotel to park the bikes before it gets too dark, grab some food and crash.
The final push to Chanaral is harder than I expected. Shortly after 6pm, it starts getting *cool* in the desert, even though there are still more hours of sun. At highway speeds, the cool is cool. I zip up my vents, and my arms are still cold. I wonder if I'm getting sick, or if the altitude sickness was masking a cold from being cold and wet so much in Bolivia. By the time we pull into Chanaral at 7:30pm, I'm ready to crash.
Kay's note: Dachary desperately needed to do laundry and we needed net to try and communicate with the folks at Revzilla to arrange to get a replacement for her electrics. Crossing the Andes Again would suck without them and Joe commented that both times he's been to Usuaia before the mountain at the bottom has been covered in snow, plus there's a freaking glacier north of it so… cold is in the cards and the electrics are a requirement.
We ride down the road until we see a sign for a hosteria, so we turn off and head over to it. From a distance, it looked industrial and lame, but up front, it actually looked quite nice. We parked and Kay went inside to check out the prices, and I was examining my bike. We'd smelled something burning a couple of times when we stopped for gas today, but I can't remember when we noticed it was my bike. But when we stopped for the night, I got down and looked at my bash plate and saw that it was covered in oil and gunk. Kay's wasn't.
When he came back out to tell me the prices, I mentioned it to him and he got down and looked. Everything along the underside of my bike was covered in oil, from my side stand to my rear shock. We assumed that BMW Lima had failed to tighten the sump plug properly, and decided to deal with it when we'd parked the bikes. We briefly discussed the room price (it was way expensive, but apparently Kay was ready to drop - his shoulder had been bothering him for a while as we'd been fighting the wind for the last slog to Chanaral, and as I discovered when I checked our mileage, we did 400 miles today even with the long stop at the abandoned town, the hand of the desert, lunch panicking, etc.) and decided to stay here in spite of the price. I wasn't feeling good, either, and they had a restaurant, and internet, and breakfast was included, so we went with it.
So we unload our stuff and park the bikes, and Kay brings out the tools and we grab the spare oil. He tries to tighten my sump plug, but it won't budge. It's tight tight. Kay thinks maybe BMW Lima over-tightened it, now, while I worry that it's the gasket. Either way, there's nothing we can do about it here. So I check my oil, which is low, and add some oil. It takes around 200ml. We've been debating about whether or not to go to BMW in Santiago, as we need to change our oil, but we could do that ourselves and don't really need the dealer for that. But now, with my bike leaking oil, it's decided for us - we're heading to Santiago.
Wrap that up, back to the room and then to the restaurant for dinner. Dinner is surprisingly tasty, albeit expensive, but we discover that the internet we've been promised doesn't work. Even though this is a damned expensive place, the wi-fi connects but the internet doesn't do anything. They tell us we can use the computer at a second desk in the side room, but we can't update the blog or do anything significant from there. It's just enough to let me check my email, as I've sent off a note to the guys at RevZilla to find out if they can help me get a new Gerbing controller for my jacket before we hit Ushuaia. I've got a reply from Anthony at RevZilla, and I do a few work things before we head back to the room.
Where I tackle a PILE of laundry. Every article of clothing that I'm carrying is dirty except for one single shirt that I don't like and usually keep as a spare, my thermal underwear, and a single pair of thin liner socks that I don't like very much. All of my underwear, socks, and shirts are dirty. I normally try to wash frequently so I don't have to do as much, because bending over the sink for laundry hurts my back after a while, but it's been so cold and wet that I haven't done laundry since Peru. There's just no chance it would have dried in Puno or Bolivia. Too cold and wet. So I wash everything I own, with a couple of breaks, which takes FAR too long and then I'm completely pooped. Completely. Painfully. Kay works on writing up a day while I wash, as we've fallen behind, and then he squeezes my laundry for me, which he does far better than I am.
We'd talked about watching an episode of something before bed, but it's almost midnight and I'm utterly pooped. So with no real downtime, we pass out.
Day 84 - Chanaral to Vallenar
One of the nice things about the expensive hostel where we stayed was that breakfast was included. So we went out shortly after 8AM to grab breakfast, and sat down in the restaurant. The server from the night before poked his head out, said "Desayuno?" and when we indicated yes, gabbled some Spanish at us. We assumed he was getting a menu… so we sat and waited and read our books on our various devices. (I'm reading on my iPhone and Kay is reading on his iPad, because we ran out of paper books a long time ago.)
40 minutes later, I look up from my book, realize how long has passed, and say to Kay "maybe he was saying that we need to go in there for breakfast?" "Surely not," Kay answers "that's where he went last night to get food. Isn't that the kitchen?"
We sit for a few minutes longer, and then go up to the doors where the guy vanished only to see that there's an entire room full of tables inside, which you can't see because curtains are closed on the windows all the way around the room. And there's a buffet set out with coffee, tea, juice, bread, lunch meat, cheese and yogurt. So after a really long wait we had a lame breakfast of lunch meat sandwich and yogurt. Was a disappointment, because I saw breakfast on the menu we'd been given the night before and was really looking forward to yummy eggs and stuff. Yet another sign that Chile just doesn't do breakfast.
By the time we finished breakfast, it was close to 10AM and I still wanted to get some work done. I'm writing a three-part series of articles about the trip for a motorcycle retailer based in the US, and I wanted to edit the draft I'd written of Part 2 and get it sent off while we had net. Sharing about the trip is something I really enjoy (as opposed to some of the writing I do, which is sometimes about stuff that just doesn't get me excited - writing about mortgages, corporate newsletters, etc.) so Kay encouraged me to do it and said he didn't mind waiting. So I did, and then borrowed the public computer in the lobby to send it off to my client.
While I was on the computer, I checked my email and saw that I'd gotten a note from RevZilla. I'd emailed Anthony from RevZilla the other day to ask if there's any way to get me a new Gerbing controller for my jacket, as I do NOT fancy trying to get to Ushuaia with no heated gear and no thermal layer. Anthony and the Patrick at RevZilla *really* came through for me.
There was an email from Anthony saying that if I could get them a solid address, they'd get me a controller out ASAP. They were out of dual controllers (which is what I currently have) but I'm only running the jacket anyway so I don't really *need* a dual; I'd just bought one with the idea that someday I might add some other piece of heated gear. So I told him we were in Chile, and asked if they could find a place to send it for me as I was headed to Santiago to get my bike serviced, but didn't have a reliable net connection to do the legwork on finding a shipping address. I basically said to send it wherever it'll go through and tell me where to pick it up.
Of course all of this took time, so by the time I finished using the net on the borrowed computer and we got the bikes loaded up, it was noon. The second time on the trip we've stayed until check-out, and both were in Chile. The time difference in Chile is really wreaking havoc! Because it's light until after 8PM, we ride later and don't have as much time at night to do the writing/posting. So it falls to the morning, which makes us late getting out. You'd think it'd be a win-win to have all this extra light, but it causes surprising difficulties.
Anyway, out on the bikes and then back into town to the gas station because we have no idea when we'll see gas again, and also we want to buy water. We're still having intermittent problems with diarrhea, and it's hard to narrow down the cause, so we've been buying bottled water instead of pumping with our filter just to be safe. Chile has civilized gas stations like we're accustomed to in the United States, with mini-marts that have cold drinks, including big bottles of water. We haven't seen a mini mart at a gas station since… Colombia? And then only a few gas stations had them in the big cities.
At the gas station, I watch a flopped dog while Kay goes to get water. I miss our dogs at home, and flop dog reminds me a bit of my dog. (Looks nothing alike, really, but something similar about the way he was flopped.) When Kay comes out, flop dog wakes up and woofs under his breath at us - the deep, guttural kind that isn't really a full-throated bark, but more of an "I'm not sure about this. Why are you staring at me? Why are you wearing those weird things?"
We fill up our Camelbaks and get ready to head out, and flop dog suddenly stands up when he sees us get on our bikes. We back them up without starting them, and he walks over to watch the process. Kay starts his bike, and then I start mine, and flop dog comes to life, running along side our bikes until we get to the road, and then crossing the road to run along side us.
We've encountered a lot of dogs that like to chase and bark aggressively at motorcycles on this trip. Formerly-flop-dog was the first dog that just ran along side us - no aggression, not even chasing us - just keeping pace with us in a rather curious and endearing manner. It was a totally stupid, silly random encounter with a local dog, but it got my day off to a good start.
Riding along the Chilean cost some more was beautiful. We contemplated camping on the beach, even though we said we wouldn't do that again, as all of our stuff ended up covered in mist and wet the last time we did it. But the beaches and ocean was just so beautiful, particularly with the desert on one side and the ocean on the other, that we were willing to reconsider.
Nothing much happened for a while. It was a long ride down the coast, and then back into the desert, without many cities. I was struck anew with how lucky I am to be on a trip like this, and to be sharing it with Kay - how beautiful the landscape was, and how glorious it is to be touring the Americas on a motorcycle. So much better than by car or any other means of transport I can imagine.
I was a bit paranoid about the oil leak, though. We'd put about 200ml in the bike the night before, and I was worried about the rate at which the oil was leaking. Would the bike be ok running so hard until I checked the oil at the next gas stop? Was that smell just the smell of road construction, or oil hitting my exhaust pipes? I had to resist the urge to ask Kay to stop so I could check my oil a half dozen times. I kept reminding myself that we'd gotten off to a late start, anyway, and I wanted to get some miles under my belt for the day before we thought about stopping.
It's leaking from those nuts
The oil's getting everywhere
Eventually we got to Copiapo, where I suggested to Kay that we stop and look for a place to have lunch as it was going to be hundreds of kilometers until the next town. It was around 2PM, which is normally a bit late for lunch, but we'd gotten off to such a late start that I would have felt guilty stopping any sooner. We rode along and finally spotted a hostel with a restaurant inside, and pulled in. As we were stopping, we saw that it had a sign for wi-fi, too - great, as I wanted to check my email and see if I had anything from RevZilla about the Gerbing controller that needed attention.
Parked the bikes, went inside, ordered and asked about wi-fi. They had it, and gave us the password willingly! Good, because the prices were expensive. So I connected my iPhone to the network to check my email, and sure enough - there was a note from RevZilla. Anthony from RevZilla had gone above and beyond and had copied someone from Gerbing on my question about diagnosing the problem - I asked if there was any way for me to check from my end if it was the controller or jacket that wasn't working. Patrick, also from RevZilla, had found the mailing address for the BMW dealer in Santiago and asked me if it was ok to send the package there.
Yes, and thanks!
A bit later, I got another note from Patrick asking me about my liner size. I sent a reply, and got a final note saying that both a controller and a liner were on the way, and I should notify BMW because there may be customs fees and I should tell them not to turn the shipment away. Sent a couple of quick emails off to BMW telling them that our bikes would need serviced, and also that I would be receiving a package there.
I owe a HUGE thanks to Anthony and Patrick and all the other guys at RevZilla! They helped me to get my Rev'It boot problem resolved back in the very beginning of the trip (they spent time helping me find a new pair of boots, and took care of shipping my old ones back to Rev'It for a warranty repair, etc. since I wasn't able to deal with it myself from the road) and now they've gone above and beyond to help me get my electrics sorted out before I head back into the cold. Patrick did all of the legwork to find a place to ship it, and Anthony went above and beyond to copy Gerbing and look into diagnosing the problem for me.
These guys are bikers who "get" and care about their customers, they have a great, user-friendly website and they make great videos to share information and help people make informed buying decisions. I've been a RevZilla fan since I bought my first piece of gear from them (my old Rev'It! pants that I crashed in on my first day out on my old bike, which I had to replace - my crash shredded the pants, but the pants saved my knees, so I'm an ATGATT girl for life) and I can't recommend them highly enough.
Anthony is here on ADV and takes the time to answer questions about purchasing decisions here, and the guys in the store/warehouse will be happy to help you if you call in with questions. I've also had prompt replies to emails. Seriously can't speak highly enough about these guys, and I'm not sure the remaining cold parts of the trip would have been possible without their help!
So after all of the emailing with RevZilla and the BMW dealer in Santiago, it's after 4PM by the time we leave "lunch." I feel kinda bad because we've lost so much of the day, but the electrics (or lack thereof) were really a problem for me in Bolivia, as I don't have the thermal layer of my Sand jacket with me (didn't think I'd need it with the electric jacket) and it's just too cold to be riding without a thermal layer at all. So while it took a lot of time out of the day, Kay and I agreed that it was time well spent and we're both relieved to hopefully have the problem resolved.
Luckily, the sun doesn't set until after 8PM in Chile (did I mention the love-hate thing with the time zone here?) so even though we were leaving town after 4PM, there was plenty of light left. Back on the road, and riding through the Atacama desert. It's still so surreal to be in these places I've only read about before. The Atacama *is* super dry, and Kay said he was getting kind of tired of desert at this point, but I still think desert landscape is desolate and beautiful.
As we're riding along, I hear an "Oh, shit!" from Kay, followed immediately by a "Guess what I just lost? The bite valve to my Camelbak!"
We've both been having bite valve problems for a while. I guess the Camelbak just wasn't build to withstand three months of constant daily use. My bite valve has been leaking since Nicaragua, and Kay's has been randomly popping off since Colombia, I think.
My first thought is "Oh, shit, we'll never find a new bite valve to buy down here, so we've gotta stop and find it!" So I yell to Kay that I'm pulling over, and ask if he just now lost it or if he just noticed it. He said he did just lose it, as it started spraying water all over his leg when it popped off, so I park the bike on the shoulder and start walking back down the road, scanning for it. It's a small blue piece of plastic in the middle of the Atacama desert, but I know Kay needs water and I'm not willing to give up without at least looking for it.
"Ok, I'll ride back to that sign post and start looking from that end," Kay says over the headset, and I continue walking back down the road, looking for it. I'm not sure I can spot it, but I'm willing to walk up and down for a while looking, as I really am convinced we wouldn't find a Camelbak bite valve anywhere down here in South America. Kay rides back and starts riding his bike slowly toward me, looking for it, but I can hear in his voice that he doesn't think he'll find it.
When I've walked about half a mile from my bike, he starts urging me to turn back and let him walk back to look for it from here. I refuse. Of the two of us, I'm always the one who can find things - Kay can't even find his keys in his pocket sometimes - so I think I have the better chance of spotting it. I'm better at spotting signs, and just about anything else that requires concentrated looking. I'm also determined, and Kay sounds frustrated - I think he'd do a half-hearted search and then declare that he can't find it, but I'm not willing to accept failure just yet. So I refuse to turn around and go back to my bike, and keep walking.
This goes on for a few more minutes, with Kay urging me to turn back and saying he'll take over from here, and me refusing to turn around and looking more for the bite valve. I have no idea where it might be, whether it's on the road or the shoulder, and spotting a small blue piece of plastic is a long-shot… but I'm stubborn. I figure I can walk a bit further - probably to the sign where Kay started searching from his bike - and then turn around and start looking at the shoulder or the other side of the road. But it's hot, and I am in the middle of the desert wearing full gear, and I'm starting to get hot. I unzip my jacket and wish I could take my helmet off, but Kay's way behind me and we're using the headsets to communicate, so I can't. So I just drink some water and keep walking.
Just when Kay has almost worn me down to the point of turning around, and letting him take up the search, I catch a glimpse of something blue out of the corner of my eye. There it is! The Camelbak bite valve, in the middle of the left lane! A quick glance in both directions to see if anyone is coming, and then I dash the remaining yards down the road and grab the bite valve. Victory! It has required me to walk probably 3/4 of a mile from my bike (which is actually not far given the speeds we were going when Kay reported that it had popped off) and I've gotten all hot and sweaty in the desert… but I found Kay's bite valve! I found a small blue piece of plastic in the desert!
The sense of accomplishment I felt was ridiculously overblown, but I was proud of myself. For once, my stubbornness was vindicated. I still believe Kay wouldn't have found it - he'd already ridden his bike past that stretch twice looking for it - but my determination and refusal to accept failure paid off. I return the bite valve to him and walk back down the road to my bike. He says "I'd give you a ride, but…" he can't, because both of us have our camping crap piled across our passenger seats. The walk back to my bike is equally long and sweaty in the desert, but my victory buoys me.
Not for very long, though. About 10-15 minutes after we get back on the bikes, I start feeling nauseous. It comes in waves, and a couple of times I think I might need to pull over and rip my helmet off to barf. I suspect I've overexerted myself in the dry heat of the Atacama desert, and I may have the beginnings of a mild case of heat stroke. There's fatigue, nausea and intermittent dizziness. But I don't mention this to Kay, because I know he'll just worry, and there's no place for us to stop - we're in the middle of the desert.
So I keep my eye on Vallenar, which is the next town big enough that there might be a hotel. And the nausea comes and goes, and to add insult to injury, my intestines are threatening me, too. After another 100 kilometers, it's close to 6PM when we near Vallenar, but I know I'm done for the day. The idea of riding on to the next town, or camping in the desert without the comfort of a bed and a bathroom, is just too daunting.
I ask Kay if we can please look for a hotel in this town instead of going on, and explain that I'm feeling nauseous and my tummy is bothering me. He agrees readily - he doesn't ask me to push myself when my health is involved - and we turn into the town to look for a hotel. We drive around aimlessly for a few minutes and take a couple of turns that look like they're not going to get us anywhere near a hotel, and then we find "city centro" which is usually good for having a hotel. I spot a sign for a hotel down a side street, but it's one way, so we have to go around.
While we're driving, we pass a hosteria (like a hotel but with fewer rooms, usually) and park so Kay can go check it out. My bike drips some oil onto the exhaust pipes, which turns to smelly smoke, and I worry about my bike. Kay goes in to check the place out. He comes back out a few minutes later with the news that "this hotel is absurdly expensive." It was just over $150 US, in some random town in the middle of the desert. He saw nothing to indicate why it might have been so expensive, but we're definitely not paying that, so we ride on to the next place I saw a sign for.
It takes a couple of false starts because of the maze of one-way streets, but eventually we find the next hotel and Kay goes to check it out. While I'm standing with our bikes, a woman comes up and starts trying to chat with me. I'm still wearing my helmet and earplugs, and don't speak Spanish very well anyway, but it's nearly impossible for me to understand with the earplugs and helmet on. And I'm too hot and feeling sick to want to bother with taking the helmet off to have a conversation I probably can't understand anyway with a woman in the street. I try to my "no entiendo" routine and she's very persistent, so I resort to switching to English "I'm sorry, I can't understand you, I'm wearing earplugs" and tap my helmet. I really should learn how to say "I'm wearing earplugs" in Spanish.
Eventually, she gives up and goes away, just as Kay comes out to announce "this hotel is ludicrously expensive. How badly do you want a hotel tonight?" The price was over 100,000 pesos (over $200 US) which is far out of our price range.
"Pretty badly," I answer, as I'm feeling like I just want to drop. I definitely don't have it in me to ride to the next town, which is 200km away and it's already 6:30PM, and I don't think I have it in me to find food, go out into the desert and camp. I just want to lie down someplace soft. So Kay says "We're going to have to pay for it, then. They recommended another place around the corner, but it's over $70." We normally never pay that much for a hotel - we try to pay less than half that - but I was really not feeling well. So I said "let's go check it out."
More difficulty navigating the one-way streets, but eventually we find it. Kay goes in to check it out, and returns with good news. The room is nice, there's parking for the bikes, and the internet works! I sent him in with my iPhone so he could ask for the password and *make sure* the internet works before we took a room. So many times, we've been told "Yes, we have internet," only to discover that the network isn't working right now, or the password that the front desk has is wrong, or that the internet is non-functional in some other way… and we really needed to catch up on the blog, research the route into Santiago for the BMW dealer, etc. So I feel bad that I made him ask for the password to check the net before we took a room, but I really didn't want to stay in another overpriced place that didn't even have net.
Got the bikes around to the parking and discovered that the hotel was actually quite nice. There was a locked courtyard for our bikes, and the rooms were on the ground floor! Score! Took our bags in and the room was nice, too - there was a big bed, and two couches where we could sit and work on our posts. If we had to pay too much for a room, at least the place was decent, and it included breakfast.
Kay showered and started photos uploading, as we had a ton (over 60 photos from just a few days!) and then we headed out for dinner. We were in town center, surrounded by commerce… but no restaurants. We found two cafes that served coffee and snack-type things, three panderias that had bread and yummy pastry things, but only one restaurant. When we spotted the restaurant, we started to go inside, but Kay commented that it was too dark inside (they hadn't turned on lights yet and it was after sunset) so we continued on.
Walked a few more blocks and still no restaurants. So we headed back to the one we'd seen, and went inside. Asked for a menu, which they didn't have, and when we asked what they have to eat, the waitress seemed helpless and asked a guy who had been at the bar to come and deal with us. He named one dish (I forget what it was, but we didn't want it), we asked what else, he thought for a moment then named another dish that we didn't want… but he seemed quite reluctant to keep talking to us. Getting another dish was like pulling teeth. So after a couple, we decided to give up and look elsewhere for food, even though we'd had no luck finding other restaurants.
Eventually, we spotted a Chinese restaurant, which we almost didn't see until we were past it. "Do you want Chinese?" I asked Kay. "Who cares? It's a restaurant!" So we go inside, get actual menus and prompt service. Order a couple of "Chinese" dishes, and when they come out, they're actually quite tasty. And Kay even spots a Chinese man working in the kitchen! Score! The one thing we've observed about Chinese restaurants on this trip (and in general) is that the food is usually just something else dressed up as Chinese and marked up in price. This food actually tasted good, and the price was reasonable, so this Chinese restaurant proved a surprisingly decent find.
After we left the restaurant, I wanted to go back to the panderia where I'd seen the tasty pastry before, but it was closed. So then I was going to just settle for getting a Diet Coke somewhere, because I was thirsty and really enjoying that I'm back in a country that has Diet Coke, but everything was closed except the Farmacias. We go in one and find soap (our room lacked it and we lost our old spare bar) and stand in a random line. And wait. Nothing happens. Wait more. A woman to our left cuts in front of us in line. More waiting… and then the cashier calls a number.
WTF? Numbers to check out? I assumed that the numbers are for helping people who have questions, but you can't even check out without a number, and we've been standing here for 10 minutes. Eff that. We put back our stuff and walk across the street to the other farmacia, and find the same bar of soap but nothing to drink. More waiting in line, but this time we knew to get a number. Haha, bitches! 75 is our number! Get your own damn number! And then we have soap, but still no diet coke.
So now it's back to looking for a store where I can buy Diet Coke. We walked for blocks and blocks, and didn't see anything. Kay wanted to give up, but is willing to indulge me and I said "let's just walk to the end of that block and then I'll give up." Luckily, that block happened to contain a supermarket!
Kay's note: every time i see a Panderia I always wish they sold pandas too. Maybe even just little panda shaped cookies…
Unluckily, the supermarket was the supermarket from hell. Every single person in Vallenar was shopping there at the same time. We had to wait behind what felt like 20 people in the "10 items or less line" and after we'd waited for 15 minutes, Kay said "Do you really want a Diet Coke this much?"
Yes, I did. I didn't feel good and I wanted a Diet Coke. So we waited longer, and by the time we got out of the supermarket and back to the room, it was nearly 10:30. Friggin late. And we still had posts that needed writing and uploading.
Sadly, we were up till 1AM dealing with the web stuff. I was upset at being up so late, but it needed to be done and I was glad we'd finished it. Still no down time, though, which disappointed me because I'd been feeling sick… but the trip takes priority.
Kay's Note: what Dachary hasn't mentioned is that when we got water an the gas station I accidentally bought water with carbonation. We cracked one bottle open before we realized it but the girl let me exchange the other two. Not wanting to waste water I put it in mine. For the rest of the morning my Camelbak was pressurized. I suspect that's what caused the bite valve to pop off today, but it has popped off with normal water too. Every time I bit down on the bite valve that morning water would go spewing into my mouth way faster than normal. So. No carbonated beverages in your Camelbak folks.
Day 85 - Vallenar to Catapilco Chile
There was net, so, as per usual, we left later than we intended. Everything takes longer when there's a net connection we're free to use.
Breakfast, included in the room, was probably the lamest yet in Chile. We go to the "Comedor" which was just a normal room with tables set up in it, each one with a saran wrapped plate of sliced ham and cheese, and a couple common tables with hot water (for instant coffee or tea), a pan of cold scrambled eggs, and a thing of yogurt by each place setting.
One table was already occupied by about 7,000 ants, who were very grateful for the ham and cheese. We went with the table farthest from them as we don't like eating with "their kind".
The oil is still leaking, but the flow seems to be pretty slow overnight, so we head back into the Chilean desert, only this time it was somewhat chilly. All vents done up and contemplating, but not actually going for, the rain liners. Lunch rolls around and we're all "MUST EAAAAT!" We pull into the first restaurant we see. It's totally closed but without any signs indicating that. Bitches. We ride on and see a big "RESTAURANTE" sign. Yes, but wait, there are like four… big one that knows how to market and promotes its great view and fish, or the small one in front of us.
We go for the one in front of us. The Restaurant Brisa Marina. We order a cheese empanada each, as well as a normal lunch plate. We discover that the empanadas are deep fried. Then we discover that they've got a light flaky crust. Then we discover they're ****ing delicious and regret ordering normal meals too, because we could have just eaten heavenly deep fried empanadas. (They're especially good with the included salsa, which is just the right combination of fresh with an undertone of spicy.) Sitting in the warm sun by the ocean, eating these delicious things, is wonderful for morale.
Bash plate? or Oil Pan?
Well lubed Shock
Back on the road and through more desert, until it's time to stop for gas. When we see towns that are big enough to have gas, we always stop, even if our tanks aren't empty, because we might be about to undertake a 170-mile stretch that has no gas stations (the longest stretch so far in Chile where we haven't seen gas).
So we're filling up at a gas station on the outskirts of La Serena when a white guy with crazy hair walks up wearing a RevIt Cayenne Pro Jacket and speaking English. He's got a KTM parked in a spot that was obscured by a pickup truck when we came in. Holy shit. "We'll come around as soon as we've filled up." I say, and then we do.
Beto and his girlfriend Tracey are riding two up from Colombia to Ushuaia, and then possibly around the world afterwards. They're trying to figure a route that doesn't involve a carnet, which seems odd to me, but hey, if it's possible it saves a bunch of money. Unfortunately they'll have to skip most of Africa.
Beto and Tracey
His KTM's been holding up better than our BMWs but one has to wonder what a KTM rider does when their bike needs fixin' on the road. It's as modern and specialized a bike as ours, but with BMW there's at least one dealer in almost every country (except Argentina for some reason).
There was a curious moment when someone mentioned his jacket and I pointed out that it was the Cayenne Pro, "…the precursor to the Rev'It Defender", and he was all "But I just bought it new." I'd apparently just popped some small bubble… oops. "It's a great coat" I said, "I was considering it before I got this one one closeout. Plus it's like $400 cheaper than the Defender " I guessed. Turns out it's $150 cheaper. I must have been thinking of the new Klim jacket… anyway…
We have a nice chat for a while, and then hit the road knowing we can't make Santiago by nightfall, but figuring "Hey, we'll just camp tonight." The plan is to eat around six, then avail ourselves of the first good camping spot we see. Unfortunately, immediately after La Serena the road becomes a toll road with speed limits of 120kph, a divider, and an increasing population density which results in people starting to put fences up around everything. Mother ****er.
We eat at a gas station / truck stop thing where we see a couple bikers we'd passed earlier, one of whom was riding a local cruiser and forced Dachary to slam on the brakes or get squished a while back. They made no move to talk to us. We returned the favor. We discuss the situation with the fences. We still want to camp, we're just worried it's going to be hard.
(Dachary's note: by the time we get to the service station, we've been on the toll road for around two hours and the 120KPH speed limit is wreaking havoc with me. It's around 75MPH, and we haven't ridden that fast since leaving the US. So there's the mental difficulty of going that fast, when we've gotten used to going so much slower for so long. Also? My lack of laminar lip is really hurting me with speeds this high.
I had the lip when we were riding interstate in the US, and the lip funnels the air up and over my helmet. But without the lip, my Z-Technik windscreen blows the air directly at eye level. So it pushes back on my helmet, pushing it against my forhead, and the wind also catches the peak of my helmet and pulls my neck up. I try to crouch down behind the windscreen, which helps, but by the time we get to the gas station, I'm fatigued and headachy, and my back, shoulders and neck ache from the wind. I just want a break. We normally wouldn't stop for so long, and I wasn't planning to eat at 5pm or eat at a gas station, but I wanted to sit down for a bit and I honestly could have been happy stopping for the night there.)
Back on the road shortly after 6, I spend the next half hour counting how many good places I see to pull off and camp either where we wouldn't be seen or where we're far enough from the road it wouldn't matter. It seems to be about four per half hour. So, we're ok but concerned it may decrease as we get closer to Santiago. "At 7:30 we'll take the first *good* place we see. Ok?" Dachary agrees. Just after 7:30 Dachary asks "why don't we try this exit." I'm not convinced it will work out, but what the hell. We go…. hmm, no, not looking good. We pull over to turn around and i notice a dirt road to the left with a sign that says "Cemetery" … people don't generally visit cemeteries at night, and sunset is not even 40 minutes away…. We go in. There's an archway leading into a large rectangular courtyard with a dirt road leading to an archway in the far side, through which is the actual cemetery, but between the archways is just one short, tree-lined, dirt road with slightly overgrown open space on each side…
We think this'll do just fine.
We set up…no not there… over… hmm prickers…hmm.. horse poo… err… here. Yes. We set up the tent. We move the bikes. Hmmm it still seems pretty light out. Check the GPS to see what time sunset is. "Oops. Sunset's at 8:40". We're not sure when we got the extra 40 minutes but, whatever. I snap some pics, Dachary settles in for the night, and I wander off to find somewhere to poo….The ground is nigh-impossible to dig a hole in but, "oh, that'll work".
Sunset through trees
Admiring the sunset
We hear car sounds. No biggie, there's a road just down the… A car drives through the first archway. Dachary is pantsless in her sleeping bag. I have my pants around my knees and am shitting in a hole.
Fortunately the hole I've chosen is behind their line of sight. I wipe quickly, try to pull up my pants before standing up, then shove the toilet paper up under my rain liner (it's slightly chill so I'm wearing that) and the trowel up my sleeve. I'm thinking the only way I could get more disrespectful is to actually shit on their family plot, so walking around holding a roll of toilet paper in plain view is probably not the best choice.
By the time I get to the tent they've gotten out of their car and gone into the actual graveyard. I climb into the tent, but leave my feet hanging out the door (shoes can't come in) in case they come over to discuss how bad we are. For the next ten minutes we whisper to each other. We're working under the belief that humans don't like confrontation, or the unknown. By hiding in the tent we'll be as non-offensive as possible (no big gringos wandering around their graveyard), and we'll make it require the most effort if they do think about confronting us.
I peer through the air vent… "Nope. Still in there." … "Nope. Still in there" eventually I see them come out: Mom, Dad, Auntie M. They climb into their car turn around and leave.
We wonder if they'll call the cops. I'm voting they won't.
I go back to my hole to get some extra wipes.
Dachary starts unraveling the headphones for some Torchwood. I get out the iPad, check what's currently loaded, turn around and…. she is sound asleep.
It's still early, like 8pm, but she's bushed. I read for a while until well after full dark then join her. No cops, and the neighbors are quiet.
Day 86 - Catapilco to Santiago
Waking up in the tent this morning was a lot easier than last time. Falling asleep early (like 8:30PM early) made waking up at 7AM a much easier task. I didn't grump at Kay, and because I was paranoid about someone finding us in the cemetery and getting upset, we were quite efficient at packing up. We were on the road around 8AM, where it was chilly and misty. I don't think I was fully awake yet when we hit the first tunnel, which was LONG. Longest tunnel we've been in on the trip. But it was well-lit, so go Chile. You've got your shit together.
Lots of tolls this morning. Three or four toll booths in the 150km coming south into Santiago. We seem to have left the desert and come into the mountains, and the mist and mountains in the early morning sun were quite beautiful. Alas, Kay's camera, which he uses to take pictures while we ride, was completely dead, so we have no pics. But we'll have to make it a point to ride early more often, because aside from the cold, it was beautiful.
Rode until we got to a gas station, where we stopped for gas, a bathroom and gas station breakfast. Yes, that's right, my friends - gas station hot dogs for breakfast. It's a time-honored tradition from Mexico that we've been forced to abandon for most of the trip, as most of the places we've been don't have mini-marts in gas stations. But Chile is now the land of infrastructure surprisingly similar to the United States, so we have gas station hot dogs for breakfast. And pay to use the bathroom, but my bum prefers actual toilets to holes in the ground for my morning business, so I'm just happy we found one.
While we're at the gas station, a crazy woman gets annoyed at us for sitting on "her" bench and eating our hot dogs. She starts flinging the benches around, literally, and then sweeping up with a broom and a dust pan as though we've gotten the place dirty, glaring at us all the while. But she's not an employee of the gas station. We're amused when she goes to glare at a trucker who is backing up and whose truck is going "beep, beep, beep" as he reverses. She walks over to his truck and stands glaring at him, hands on hips. Kay and I ponder going back to the benches to see if it's enough to tempt her to return and glare at us more, but opt to move on toward Santiago.
With surprisingly little fanfare, we hit Santiago around 10AM. Traffic is well-behaved; there's no lane-splitting, the merging is civilized and people are going at or BELOW the speed limit. Chile has surprised us for its adherence to traffic laws. It is unlike the rest of Latin America. Chileans actually *stop* for stop signs at railroad tracks, they mostly obey speed limits and stop lights, and drive in a very civilized manner. We've gotten into some bad habits in the rest of Latin America and it's nice to be back where people drive so sedately - especially when trying to navigate an enormous city with crap GPS maps.
We make it as far as the city center before realizing we've missed our turn and then turn around and head back out. Luckily, the turn we missed the first time is actually marked in a way we can recognize on the way back out (into town, it's marked only with the neighborhood name; going out of town, it has the road name marked, which is what we're looking for) so we get the right turn. The rest of the directions are surprisingly easy to follow. We pass the BMW dealer and look for a place to turn around, as it's a divided road, but at the last second, Kay spots the motorrad service area, which is down the street and across the road. We turn in and park in the service reception area.
Alas, this time pulling up to a BMW dealer is not like being visiting princes welcomed from afar. This time, Kay says it's like "being a valued customer." We take off our helmets, and no-one comes to greet us or instruct us to bring our bikes around to the back. We go inside and ask the pretty receptionist if she speaks English, which she does, lucky for us. So we tell her we've emailed because we're traveling from Boston, we have two bikes that need service (one of which has an oil leak), and we've also got a package coming there. She asks for our paperwork so she can put us in the system and start work orders for us.
No, this is not like the other BMW dealers we've visited.
We get the paperwork, she goes off to make copies, and we sit down while she puts us in the system. Then she asks if we want coffee or water - the sole allusion to the BMW generosity and focus on taking care of customers that we've encountered in our prior visits. While she's putting us in the computer, I ask Kay to get the dealer's address from the bike, as this is the address where my package is being shipped. I want to make sure the address is right.
He gets it and brings it back. We ask, and she says "No, this address is the one down the street." (there are apparently three locations). Kay asks if she can call to see if the package has arrived, and she does. No package there, but she calls another place. No package there, either, but Claudia, the person who receives the packages, knows to send her an email if our package arrives, so they're expecting it. So at least there's that.
She does the intake on our bikes, and we say we can stay until they've had a chance to look at the bikes and diagnose them. She says that's fine, and asks if we have email in case she needs to communicate with us. We tell her we do, but that we don't know if we'll have internet because we don't know where we're staying. Can she recommend someone? She can, but the local neighborhood is quite expensive, so the hotel she can recommend is $120 per night. We'd have to go quite far into Santiago to get a cheaper hotel.
So Kay pulls out our South America book, which we haven't used in ages, to try to find the name of a place we might stay for cheaper in Santiago. Much staring at the book and flipping pages. While we're trying to decipher the giant section on Santiago, some techs come out and look at our bikes. The sprockets need to be changed, which we'd asked them to check, so Kay goes and pulls out the spare sprockets he's been carrying around in his panniers. They confirm that the brake pads are still good, which I find hard to believe because my bike is STILL using the stock brake pads and they have almost 18,000 miles on them. Well done, BMW?
Time for a new sprocket
After a quick look under my engine, the tech confirms that the problem with the oil leaking is just a gasket that needs to be replaced. We're not sure exactly where or what gasket, but it sounds simple, so I'm relieved. Much better than some of the horrible scenarios that I've been imagining. Hopefully the labor isn't that expensive, as I can't imagine the gasket being expensive.
Kay's note: It's the gasket around the gearbox, at least I *think* it's called the gearbox. I know what it is, just not what it's called. There's a big cup-like piece of metal that screws onto the left side of the engine and covers a bunch of gears. Around the edge of that is a big-ass gasket. That's what has gone. Drain the oil, remove a bunch of screws, remove the piece, replace the gasket, put the piece back on, screw, screw, screw, and voilla. Should be quick and easy, although whoever does it will be covered in oil.
So my bike is diagnosed, which means we can leave. Do they know when our bikes will be ready? Tomorrow afternoon, late. 3PM maybe? This is not ideal, but we're waiting for my package from RevZilla to arrive in Santiago, anyway, so I guess I shouldn't complain. So we find a hotel in the book that looks like it might be in our price range, and ask if she can call us a cab. She explains that if she calls a cab it'll take 30 minutes to come, as there aren't any in this area, but we can just hail one in the street and it'll be much faster. So I suggest we haul our luggage out to the street so we're ready, and Kay goes out to hail a cab.
We try. And try. And try. In well over 20 minutes, I see three empty cabs - one didn't stop, one stopped but told Kay he couldn't take us where we wanted to go, and one went by while Kay was talking to the cab which ended up unable to take us. So after 20+ minutes, we go back inside and ask her to call us a cab.
In the meantime, Kay has noticed a moto shop next door. I've been wanting to buy chain lube for ages to lube my chain manually, since the Loobman is doing what I consider to be a sub-par job. Kay's front tire is also getting quite low, and I'm concerned about it for the dirt to Ushuaia, so I suggest he check there for a tire. He's annoyed that I don't go check there for chain lube. We frustrate each other, and he goes to check for a tire (which they didn't have in stock at the BMW dealer).
While he's there, I stand by our stuff and guard it. Now that it's been moved outside, we must apparently stand in the sun and make sure no-one steals it. I'd rather be in the shade, and Kay snipes that this is why he wanted to leave it inside. So I stand there and work on a sunburn while Kay is checking for a tire/chain lube. And while I'm there, a manger-type-guy from the BMW service center comes out and I see him watching the road. A minute later, a cab comes by. He crosses the street and hails it. I see him gesturing to the cab to go down the street and turn around, and the cab does. So I surmise that he's just gotten us a cab, and Kay is still in the shop talking to the guy about chain lube and tires. I run in and tell Kay that the guy has hailed us a cab, and he's annoyed because he's in the middle of a conversation. I ask for the book that has the address of the hostel where we want to go, and take it out to the street, prepared to see if the cabbie can get us there.
The manager guy who has hailed the cab walks back looking pleased with himself, and tells me he's gotten us a cab (in Spanish - apparently the only English-speaker here is the receptionist). I thank him, and he starts to walk inside, where the receptionist pops her head out and says "two minutes." She's just called for a cab. They argue a minute as he tells her he just got one, and she tells him she's called one. So Kay and I aren't the only ones having communication difficulties today.
In the meantime, the cab pulls up. I take the book and try to show the driver where we want to go. He seems confused and starts asking questions in Spanish. I flip the pages to the map of the neighborhood, and indicate which number I want on the map. While I'm doing this, the receptionist comes out and gives him the name of a Metro station. Apparently that's supposed to help him find the place. There is much back-and-forth and he looks at the map for a while and I'm not convinced he actually knows where it is, but eventually he says he can get us there. Luckily, Kay has appeared from the shop next door, so we load up the luggage and start our drive across the city. (Yes to chain lube, no to tires, although the guy at the shop found one for him a few blocks away. But now we're in a cab trying to find a hotel so we have no chance to go look for it.)
It's a LONG drive across the city. It goes on for what seems like forever, and I keep looking for roads that are on our map but none of the names match the map. After a $15 cab ride, we've apparently found the place. Kay goes up to the door and asks the cab driver not to unload our stuff just yet… which is good, because there are no vacancies. But the guy at the hostel calls another place, confirms that they have a room, comes out and gives the cab driver directions and sends us on our way again. Yay!
We go another mile or two around several more corners and end up at another hostel. Kay runs inside and comes out a minute later with the thumbs up. Yay! We start unloading the stuff from the cab - after a $20 cab ride. With another $20 to get back to the BMW dealer tomorrow, and this hostel being more expensive than the last one, it's cost us more than $100 - we might as well have gone with the hotel that BMW would have recommended and saved ourself the hassle. But the hostel has wi-fi and they speak English, so it's not all bad.
Haul our stuff up to the third floor, and we're optimistic about the services available here… so Kay runs down to see if they have a laundry service. They do!! We haven't had our laundry done since Colombia - we wash it in sinks when possible but you can only do so much with Dr. Brommer's in a sink. Our clothes had gotten to the point that they weren't really getting clean anymore when we washed them, so we were psyched about a laundry service. She brought us a laundry basket and we filled it up with our clothes… and then pondered washing the gear.
The bikes wouldn't be done until 3PM tomorrow. We might have to be here another day anyway to wait for my package from RevZilla. And check-out time here is 11AM, so we wouldn't know until after checkout (and a $20 cab ride back to BMW) whether the package will arrive tomorrow or Friday. So we make an executive decision to stay two nights, and have them wash our motorcycle gear, which gives it time to dry properly. While we don't care about the dirt and the grime, it's getting stinky again, and we're not fans of that. So laundering them is a nice treat.
Kay's note: I was fairly confident we'd have to stay here two days anyway because of the package, which made the pricey cab ride here totally worth it. We checked on the net when we got here and, yup, it just left the US. So, it's unlikely we'll see it tomorrow. It's shipping USPS international guaranteed which is actually USPS handing it off to FedEx because USPS can't do jack once it leaves the United States. But, I'm thinking the USPS didn't really feel motivated to get it to FedEx quickly, so now FedEx will have to hustle to meet the guarantee. But, that's OK. FedEx understands words like "motivated" and "hustle".
We take off as many clothes as we can to send down to laundry. I'm lamenting again that I only brought two bras, which means I can only send one down to be laundered (it won't be done until tomorrow morning). We both decide to go commando so we can send all of our underwear to be washed, and we find our least-worn shirts so we can get the ones that we wear most often washed. Yay laundry!
By then we're effing hungry so we head out looking for lunch. We walk down the street to a restaurant that the staff recommended, and go inside, in spite of the slightly high prices. It turns out to be a fancy, fine-dining restaurant, and I feel out of place with my unwashed hair and unflattering tank top. But I order a Kobe beef steak, which is DELICIOUS, and Kay orders his first of the trip. We splurge but it's totally worth it. The meal is wonderful.
The first alcohol of the trip
Kay's note: I had a total brain fart when looking at the prices on the menu outside and thought everything was about 1/2 as much as it was. I would have voted to go on if I had of thought straight, but yeah, really tasty, and yeah, nice to splurge on good food for once.
Out to explore the city. Santiago is by far the nicest city we've encountered on our trip. Chile in general, and Santiago with it, is effing expensive. (We're spending $70+ per day on gas some days, and the hotels we've been staying in when we stay in hotels are $60-70 per night - far above our price range, and one reason we've been keen on camping here in Chile.) But Santiago is a city that clearly has money, as it's NICE. The buildings are nice. The streets are clean. The traffic is well-behaved. And the city actually seems like it might be worth exploring. Since our first impulse is usually to get far from cities as fast as possible, it's a big plus in Santiago's favor.
We each pick a direction, which proves to be rather lame (and hot) and I realize I haven't put any suntan lotion on, and don't want to court another second-degree sunburn. So we start to head back to the hotel, but then I spot some artisan tent things and remember that the lady at the hostel said there's an artisan craft area this way, so we poke around the neighborhood a bit. I spot a frozen yogurt stall, which sounds delicious, so Kay and I each get one (mine wins). Then we find some stalls that have a few cute things for us to bring back for friends, which hopefully won't get broken in our panniers.
Kay's note: They give you a chocolate or vanilla base and you pick one, two, or three different fruits to have blended in with it, plus sugar or some artificial sweetener. Great idea.
Bull under a china shop
Santiago Street Art
Done, and back to our hotel for the afternoon. We've got posts to write to catch up our blog and ADV, and it's hot out, anyway. Maybe we'll try one of the pizza places we passed for dinner. We've been pushing hard lately because I'm worried about the timeframe, but it'll be nice to have a day off tomorrow. Hopefully my package from RevZilla comes so we can head out on Friday and be ready to tackle the crossing to Argentina and the final country on our trip!
Kay's note: bad headache. I think I'm dehydrated. I go to take a shower, because I'm done with my post. Warm water is awesome. I come out, and there on the floor is my pants, my underwear, and my shirt…. wait a minute… my underwear?! I'd intended to go commando, apparently got sidetracked before removing them for the laundry, and then not noticed for the rest of the afternoon. I guess it just goes to show how comfortable Ex-Officio underwear is.
I have to say how much I appreciate the minutiae that you build into your travelog!
I'm sitting here in SE Queensland, listening to the rain lash and wail against the windows, knowing that I am going to lead a club run in the morning
(Ulysses Club "Sunshine Coast"!)
I know that when we rock up at the Ettamogah Pub - our starting and finishing point for our rides - there will be some that whinge about the wind and rain to be anticipated on Mt Glorious.
Yep: That'll happen! But I'll just relate to them Kay's vicissitudes about being nearly sprung taking a dump in a Chilean cemetary..
After that, the terrors of mountain rain, wind, flying branches, washaways should all fall into place....
Keep up the good writing I say! Much appreciated.
Day 87 - Santiago, Chile
[QUICK NOTE]Our net connection is too bad to upload photos today, but we're five days behind so we wanted to post anyway to keep people updated. We'll go back later and edit the posts to add our photos, and also make a separate post of the photos when we get a faster net connection. Apologies for all the words and no photos![END NOTE]
As we always find on a "day off," there's a certain pleasure to waking up and knowing you don't have to make any miles today. The only reason we set the alarm at all was to make sure we didn't miss breakfast, which was included with the hotel. Leisurely got up, read a bit, went down to breakfast (which was surprisingly lame) and generally enjoyed being lazy. Went out afterward to get me some Diet Coke, because I'm *really* enjoying being in a country where I can find it again, and then back to the room to be lazy.
Honestly I forget what we did in the morning. We were killing time until our laundry came, and then I think we planned to go out and see some of the city. There was a park nearby that our hotel had told us about; you could take a tram to the top of a hill and see the city all spread out, and the mountains surrounding it. That sounded nice.
At around 1PM, Kay went downstairs to check on our laundry. He returned victorious! Everything was dry; they'd hung our moto gear to dry since we'd told them it couldn't be run through a drier, and we were thrilled to have clean clothes. It was glorious for all of 30 seconds, until I started separating things.
Turns out, I was missing a sock.
It sounds trivial, I know. Socks go missing all the time. But these are tall Smartwool socks that work great under my motorcycle boots, and they're quite expensive in the US ($26+ per pair). I had three pairs with me, and with a missing sock, I'd be down to two pairs. That simply wasn't cool. At any given time, since my waterproof boots are no longer waterproof, I might have a dirty pair and a wet pair, which gives me one extra pair to play with. With only two pairs, I envisioned a world of eternally wet socks. Plus I was upset that I have so few possessions on this trip, and I'm so careful with them, and the *second* I let something out of my hands, it goes missing.
Needless to say I was not pleased. I asked Kay to go back down and ask them about it, because I knew I was overly upset and didn't want to be a bitch to them. He returned saying that they were very sorry, but they had no idea what might have happened. They showed him where they had hung the clothes, and Kay had been there when they took them off the hangars and they didn't seem to think there was any way it could have gone missing. It had just vanished.
That left me in a funk. Again, I know it sounds like such a small thing, but I've been so careful with my stuff, and I have so few clothes - it's the one thing I always wish I had more of. And I was not optimistic about finding a pair of socks to replace them. We were in a huge city, but our $20 cab ride from the day before discouraged me from going out to explore it. Santiago does have what appears to be a pretty comprehensive subway system, so there was always that option, but I spent a while resenting the necessity of going to look for socks and generally being in a bad mood. Which I regret now, but… *shrugs*
Eventually we went out to eat, and we decided to try the KFC not far from our hotel. It's totally lame to eat fast food from the US, but there are times when you just want familiar comfort food from home, and KFC seemed like a good call. Unfortunately, the KFC in Santiago has very little that is recognizable from the KFC in the States, and the food that we did get was underwhelming at best. Boo disappointing meal.
Back to the room where I pout some more, and then decide we should maybe hit up the camping store that had an ad in the hotel lobby to see if we could replace my socks. But wait - they have a website! Before we try to get there, lets see if we can find similar socks on their website.
Well, there's a pair that *looks* similar, although it's not Smartwool… how much? Oh. A little over $40 US.
Yeah. I'm totally bummed about not having that sock, but not $40 for a pair of socks bummed. That's one or two nights in a hotel, or several meals, or gas - not gonna waste it on a pair of socks. Especially with moto repairs of unknown cost hanging over our heads. So I nix our foray to look for socks, and read more. We watch a bit of TV on the iPad and eventually head out for dinner, which culminates in another disappointing meal. I'm annoyed that with this ginormous city and probably hundreds of restaurants, we keep finding the bad food.
Lesson kids? When you're in a bad mood, you carry it around with you. Don't do that.
Back to the hotel, and wait! They've found my sock! They're very sorry about the inconvenience and they don't know how it happened, but they're happy to return it to me.
Yay for the sock! And now double boo that I wasted all day being upset about it.
Back to the room for some more TV on iPad, and then we decide we should watch the "off road riding technique" video that Stephen gave us in San Cristobal. It turns out to be surprisingly short. It contained some good tips, but sadly I don't think I'll be able to practice before we get to the dirt itself. Baptism by fire for me!
Then we ponder route a bit. We'd really like to ride Route 7 here in Chile. Everyone says it's beautiful and wonderful and the photos I've seen are gorgeous, so we're in favor of it. Plus one of the guys on ADV said it was mostly hard-packed dirt, while Routa 40 in Argentina consisted of a fair amount of gravel/rocks/sand, and the hard-packed dirt sounds better to us. So we look into the ferries and how far we could get.
Unfortunately, to do route 7, there's a series of ferries of varying lengths you need to traverse one stretch to the next. And the second ferry on the route only runs in January and February - it's March now, which means we're too late for that ferry. To go down to that point is only 28KM (or miles? I forget) on routa 7 itself, which pretty much nixes that for us. Looks like we'll be crossing into Argentina and doing Routa 40 after all. It seems to be mostly paved, according to our map, except for a roughly 500km stretch (which we could bypass, but won't) and a little over 100km section near the bottom. So route is decided, and the day is pretty much done.
Not being on the bikes was a nice break, but in all, the day could have gone better (mostly due to my bad mood).
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