We left Iquique and climbed up the ridge separating the town from the desert. The cool coastal air gave way to the dry desert heat. Soon we were basking in 25 C warmth; a far cry from the 12C on the coast.
Our first stop was Santa Lucia and Humberstone, the two famous or infamous ghost towns that were remnants and silent reminders of the nitrate era that reigned supreme at the turn of the century. The ghost towns were in exactly the correct state of preservation or decay, as the case may be, to make them interesting. Humberstone was an almost complete and intact town and nitrate refinery. Santa Lucia lacked the dwellings but had the industry intact. It was easy to consume two hours poking and prodding through the buildings wondering what was and may have been.
After leaving Santa Lucia we wandered aimlessly for most of the day. Most of the stuff we went to look at was only par or below. Finally we made one last stop at Cerro Unica, the largest geoglyph in the world. Surely we would not be disappointed.
We circled the hill looking for the artefact. The initial signs and scratchings we saw did not bode well. Then, suddenly there it was...all 86 meters of it, stretching from the middle of the hill to the crest...gratification at last.
Finally by mid afternoon it was time to make a plan. Where would we spend the night? More importantly, where would we get gas to get to the place to spend the night? The town I had planned to gas up in, Haura had no service station even though one was marked on the map. This was probably where Charles ran out of gas those many years ago, when he was travelling with a girl friend. Now, when you coast to the side of the road, in the middle of the Atacama, in the middle of nowhere, and you dismount and say to your partner "I ran out of gas", Just what do you think the first thing is that would cross her mind? "Sex in the Sand" or, "This could be serious". "If I have to make love because of this STUNT, we probably will not have enough energy to make it to the next town". Charles never did say what happened... come to think of it, I havenīt seen Charles since.
Back to reality. I had less than half a tank left and 250 km to go to the next real gas. It would not work. The desert warmed to 35 C. The head wind picked up. We could back-track and basically end up where we started, or...
I decided to ask around town for gas. This was too big a place to be without this precious commodity. "Try here, try there" came the answer. Their gesticulating hands marked all points of the compass and a few in between. So far all of the hereīs and thereīs were closed. Finally I had what looked like a solid lead. I banged on the door. The lady of the house came out and knew by my gringo looks (I never told her I was a Canadian) that I wanted gas. Surely she knew it wasnīt her I was after. Her old man would be back in ten minutes, she said. I waited in confidence.
Finally, he arrived. I am sure I could see a smile crease his sundried face. "Yes , I have gas," he said. "How much do you want?" "Ten liters," I said. I didnīt care about the price. I just knew I wasnīt going to be pushing this afternoon. 700 pesos per liter was the price. At 450 pesos per Canadian dollar, you do the math. Not a bad deal really as we had been paying about 610 pesos per liter at normal service stations.
Our coastal option for camping vaporized as it would have created another gas crisis. We headed north. As we headed north the earth opened into a gigantic gash, not unlike a massive fjord...except it was dry, with only the remnants of a river on its bottom. What a spectacular change in scenery from the dry, flat plain we had been riding.
Finally, near Cuyo we found a nice camp site with some real trees, and a restaurant only a mile away. Suddenly life was good. We set up camp and rode off to dine as the sun sank below the horizon. I dreamed of Charles and his feeble attempt to extract sexual favors from the age old "out of gas routine" and smiled with the knowledge that I did not know what the outcome was.
Arica held a few hidden gems from Europe. (Alexander) Gustave Effeil had been here...or at least he left his mark here and in several other places in South America, and as far north as Mexico. With a South American agent selling his masterpieces, he delivered two buildings to Arica...the Santa Clara cathedral and the Customs House.
Posted by Robert Bielesch at April 21, 2006 12:16 AM GMT
Next HU Events
- Germany: May 29-June 1
- Greece: June 5-8
- Bulgaria Mini: June 13-14
- HUBB UK: June 19-22
- Montenegro: June 26-29
- NEW! Canada Maritimes: July 4-6
- USA Colorado: July 11-13
- Ireland: July 18-20
- Canada West: Aug 21-24
- USA North Carolina: Sept. 4-7
- France Mini: Sep 5-7
- Canada Ontario: Sept. 11-14
- NEW! UK - Haggs Bank: Sept. 19-21
- USA California: Sept. 25-28
- Aus Queensland: Oct 3-6
- Aus Perth: Oct 10-12
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- NEW! Aus NSW: Oct 31-Nov 2
- NEW! South Africa: Nov 13-16
Buy the Achievable Dream Collectors Set and get Road Heroes Part 1 FREE!
Cooped up indoors in crap weather? Binge watch over 20 hours of inspiring, informative and entertaining stories and tips from 150 travellers! Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to order them both and use Coupon Code 'BoxSet+' on your order when you checkout.
What others say about HU...
"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA
"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada
"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia
"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders
10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!
NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!
Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!
What turns you on to motorcycle travel?
Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!
New to Horizons Unlimited?
New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!
Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.Read more about Grant & Susan's story
Membership - help keep us going!
Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.
You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.
Books & DVDs
All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.
MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!
Story and photos copyright © All Rights Reserved.
Contact the author:
Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.
Hosted by: Horizons
Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!