The ride continued to awe me, the road twisting and turning through winding canyon roads, still under a beautiful blue sky, still under a beautiful crystal blue sky, so high I could almost each out and touch the wispy clouds above.
The brown desert contrasted magnificently with the sky. I passed odd patches of green, riding high on the altiplano, filled with a feeling that I was all alone, being watched only by the mountains that bracketed the desert road. I looked down on deep canyons, occasionally with meandering rivers running thousands of meters below me.
As I neared the coastline, I rounded another curve to see the road snaking through the desert below me like a massive scalextrix set in the sand.
I followed the road down, thinking I was finally approaching sea level, only to climb again to pass a final set of mountains, after which the road straightened out again, and I opened the throttle up. Garth slowly picked up speed, at over 4,000meters, the power was considerably lessened, but once I reached a cruising speed of 70mph /110kmh, Garth purred along contentedly. At this altitude, Garth was hardly using any fuel, and I went further on this tank of gas than I had on any ride before.
The road continued on through the Atacama desert, taking me along ridges looking down on more deep canyons, taking past the Geoglifos, past the deserted ghost town of Humberstown, and finally round one last final bend before I was presented with my first view of the Ocean since Peru.
The blue sea, streaked with tones of turquoise, met the desert sand, and there was Arica. I was disappointed that the road had ended, but also excited to be by the ocean once more.
Arica was not some sleepy surfer style beach town. Tall, modern high rises dotted the shoreline, and behind them, a maze of small buildings was crammed behind the beachfront condos and hotels.
Welcome to “civilisation”.
I curled my way down the road, back to sea level, back to the “modern world” and back to traffic lights, gas stations, junctions, and hooting horns.
I rode around for a while, and checked into the cheapest hotel I could find. I wasn’t really impressed with Arica. It was a bit of a shock to the system. Gone were the multicoloured ex US school busses. Gone were the traditional dresses and bowler hats, gone were the raggedy beat up pick up trucks and the crumbling colonial architecture of Bolivia, replaced by shiny new 4x4’s, modern high rises, and , well, civilisation. I pulled into a gas station to fill up, 250miles /400kms since my last gas fill, and Garth was still showing ¼ of a tank unused.
I couldn’t find a hostel in the city, so was forced to take a room in a cheapy hotel a few blocks back from the beach. I also had a hard time finding anything cheap to eat, gone also, it would seem, were the street vendors who had provided me with most of my dining requirements for the past weeks. The bonus was that bastion of the American dream, MacDonald’s.
I filled my grumbling stomach with the clown’s biggest burger, washed it down with Coca Cola, as opposed to the ridiculously high sugared Bolivian equivalent, and finished off my fine dining experience with a McFlurry. Things weren’t so bad after all.
Back at the hotel, feeling considerably better about life in the modern world, I turned on my air conditioning, and connected to proper high speed internet. There was an upside to civilisation after all!
I slept like a baby that night, well, I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night crying or mess my nappy, but you know, I slept well, and rose early the next morning, packed up, and left Arica for Iquique, in the hope of finding a slightly more relaxed beach town.
I headed back inland and followed another twisting road, riding through canyons until I was spat out again back on the coast at Iquique, an even more built up seaside city. I asked directions for the hostel owned by the guy I had met back in Peru, and made my way through the traffic, along the coast and to the hostel. I passed through the old part of the city, which was quaint, and lifted my spirits considerably, and arrived at the hostel, took one look at it, and went in search of another.
The old part of Iquique
With the help of the Lonely Planet, my bible, I found the HI Backpackers hostel a few blocks further down the beach. An infinitely better option, I was able to park Garth inside the gates, was closer to the beach, and had much better facilities. Plus, it looked as if the hostel was cleaned more than once a month!
After I checked in and unloaded Garth, I hosed him down, washing off the desert sand and Bolivian mud, and a few weeks worth of grime, before giving myself the same treatment down at the beach, washing away the dirt and fatigue in the refreshingly chilly ocean.
A million miles from Bolivia, Garth at the beach at Iquique
Next HU Events
- 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
- NEW! HUMM Morocco: May 13-16, 2015
Which bike, how to prepare it, what else to take, how to pack it all in! 6 hours!
"It's another great job, informative and entertaining."
"It's really professional and full of useful information, a must for any traveler."
Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'GEARUP' 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
"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia
Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!
What turns you on to motorcycle travel?
New to Horizons Unlimited?
Membership - help keep us going!
Books & DVDs
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!