Every cloud has its silver lining as they say. Therefore our delayed departure from Buenos Aires as a result of a broken drive shaft, coincided nicely with attending this year's ISDE (International Six Day Enduro) in Chile.
Click on the link below to see all eight ISDE short movies.
Set in and around the coastal town of La Serena, the week long event provided a variety of terrain. From sandy coastal dunes to rocky river beds, the numerous special tests provided a real challenge to the cream of World Enduro. Not to mention making for some fantastic spectating!
Beach Special Test
On Day 1 we were fortunate enough to meet with some of the British team and their army of volunteering helpers. Feeling distinctly patriotic, we helped out where we could in between watching the lads doing what they do best.
British support crew
Despite rooting for alternative teams, we hooked up one evening with fellow bike travellers from Germany and Switzerland.
Bike travellers BBQ
Despite Ashley Wood's bike blowing up on Day 1 and Euan McConnell riding with a badly injured elbow after a fall on Day 3, the World Trophy Team finished a very respectible 5th place. The Junior Trophy and Army teams following up with 10th and 8th places in their respective classes. All in all, a sucessful ISDE for Team GB.
We joined in the end of week revelry, ending up in a night club until some ungodly hour together with team members and the infamous "Purple Helmets".
We both felt there would be few sports where the National team would absorb us into their company quite so readily. We felt both privilaged to be involved and happy to have made new friends.
Before leaving La Serena, I was forced to replace the Paralever bearings. With no BMW dealer in La Serena, Bob Moreno from Tonino Motos came to the rescue, helping me not only to source the bearings from Santiago, but allowing me the run of his workshop to install them. Top bloke.
Me and Bob
Winding our way North we were soon to meet yet more overseas Brits - in Chile for an annual cactus convention! I kid you not!
Pan de Azucar National Park
Stopping off en route to Antofagasta (or Antofa-nasty as we were to coin it), we spent a great night camping by the Pacific Ocean within Pan de Azucar National Park. The resident Condors and Pelicans certainly had more success fishing than us!
Continuing North along the Pan-American, the scenery soon became dry and arid as we headed away from the coast.
Mano del Desierto
French piloted 1938 BMW outfit
After a night camping by llamas in a mini-zoo in Calama, we rose early to visit the World's largest open-cast copper mine. Arriving in nearby Chuquicamata, we rode into what appeared to be a ghost town.
We would later learn mining economics dictated it more cost effective to relocate the townsfolk and cover the town with the ever increasing mine spoils, than to transport the spoils elsewhere.
A rather large copper mine
Fitting our new tyres we'd carried since Los Andes, we were glad to both shed the extra load and gain the extra grip before hitting the dirt roads to El Tatio geysers.
A night in the quaint adobe village of Chiu Chiu, site of Chile's oldest church, made for an interesting stop-over.
Chile's oldest church
Despite El Tatio being a tourist draw card, no one other than the refugio caretakers were around when we arrived. The tourists only make a brief early morning visit to witness the impressive geysers at sunrise.
Our plan to camp was thwarted by the afternoon wind, which ripped our already weak, UV-effected tent in several places. Luckily the refugio bunk room was available for the night.
Walking around the desolate geyser field, we marveled at the bubbling fountains of boiling water, each one having its own unique character. With no one around, we slipped naked into the thermal pool, soaking in the hot water under a low, evening sun reflecting an orange glow off the surrounding Andean mountains.
Taking a dip at El Tatio geysers
How many places in the world could you bathe naked at 4300m and with such a stunning vista? Not many, we agreed. It was indeed a special moment.
What wasn't quite so special was getting back out. Towelling off our naked torsos in 3 degrees was a little fresh to say the least!
We returned to the refugio to find Wim, a Dutch traveller, had arrived complete with several rolls of duct tape. With initial introductions out of the way, we set about repairing our trusty home.
After a restless night, the three of us rose at five to join the throngs of arriving toursits check out the geysers; all the more impressive in the early morning light.
Me, Wim and Em - 6am
El Tatio sunrise
The scenic but extremely sandy, corrugated ride down to San Pedro de Atacama was made a little easier by Wim travelling in convoy and acting as back-up truck by carrying some of our luggage. We asked if he'd like to perform the same task by joining us on our adventure into Bolivia, but sadly he had prior commitments to meet in Argentina!
Lunch with the flamingoes
What was once I'm sure a quiet, adobe village, San Pedro was now over-run by foriegn tourists and horny street dogs. It served its purpose to restock on supplies and catch up on e-mails, but that was about as far as it went.
Here we met Charlotte and Maciej, a couple of cyclists en route to Patagonia, the five of us enjoying a few days together before departing in our respective directions.
Our campsite in San Pedro
Leaving San Pedro
For us, we were off to Bolivia and the Salar de Uyuni, a four-day adventure over the Andes and across the Bolivian Altiplano. Little did we know what lay ahead....
Rainbow Sky, Paso de Jama
Em's photos of the month:
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