January 15, 2013 GMT
Saying good afternoon to Ricardo

For 4 days we attempted to say good morning to Ricardo, the mechanic. Unfortunately he never arose before midday, and on a Saturday it seemed 15:00 was his waking hour. Our hostal was conveniently next door but one to his house and workshop, so we could just put our heads out to see if he had surfaced.

Antofagasta is a 'working' town, and we had exhausted all the sights by the end of the 1st day (it does have an excellent train museum). The hostal , which was full of road workers, did not know how to deal with gringo tourists. We were there 2 days before we realised it was possible to pay extra for breakfast. Which was handy, as nowhere in town served any before 09:30.

When booking a room we always ask "with breakfast?" . The response here was "no", not "no, you can pay ARS1800 extra for that".

With breakfast finally acquired we were told that "only bread and cheese is available". Until the 2nd, slightly nicer receptionist, asked if we would like eggs.

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On the 4th day the bike was ready, the alternator rewound and fitted, however it wasn't until 14:30 that the receptionist thought to tell us that Ricardo had called in the night before to say the bike was finished. But as Ricardo had not surfaced at that point, it didn't really matter.

5 days in Antofagasta. It made the 9 in Punta Arenas waiting for Jean's bike to be fixed on the last trip seem a doddle.

With all our previous efforts at saving money by camping on the beach blown on the latest bike repair, we decided not to wait for the fork seal to be replaced. Bright and early the next day we pulled the bike out of the garage and I pressed the starter.

Nothing, well OK, a slight "whirrrrr". I had seen it running the previous evening, evidence that the alternator was working, so just bump started it down the handy hill. Then we elicited some help from a couple of passers by after filling with gas and failing to start again.

After 50kms we stopped for a 'safety' gas top up before another long Chilean desert stretch between gas stations and steeled ourselves for another session of bump starting. But the starter motor now worked fine.

250kms later I noticed oil all down my right leg when refilling in a bleak, sandy, windswept and desolate place. By now I had lost all sense of humour. Luckily it was just the alternator inspection port not tightened properly.

So, with the starter motor working, the battery being charged and confidence in the bike building, it was back to camping on the beach. At least the sand would soak up the oil from the front fork leak.

As much as I enjoyed camping next to 'Tracy Island' , and was impressed at the way they hid the Thunderbird 2 launch area from the mainland.........

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........I decided I would like a sleeping bag and ground mat, as the beaches were becoming more stony, so we made a long run south back to Lorraine's (just north of Santiago) to retrieve them.

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Here we said a final farewell to our much loved Argentinian 'fuel can', note how it can be compressed to save space when not in use.

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Coincidences happen all the time when out on the road, like bumping into people more than once. As an example at a campsite in the Parque Nacional Pan De Azucar we encountered a Dutch/Chilean couple, hitchhikers, last seen 600k away on New Years day in Pica (the Oasis in the Atacama).

However the strangest one of the trip (so far) happened following a day out with Lorraine, trying and failing to find a suitable wild camping spot with her 3 dogs.
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As we pootled back down Ruta 5 a blue Range Rover overtook us then slowed down and hands waved out of the window. I pulled alongside and saw the beaming face of Juan, our friend we had bought the bike off.

Camping gear reloaded, we turned north again, the front fork still oozing oil. The Elqui Valley, stargazing, wine tasting and Pisco Sours our targets.

Posted by Bruce Porter at January 15, 2013 02:02 AM GMT
 


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