Days 171-173: Atacama; the driest place on earth

Days: 171-173  -   Date: 11-13FEB14  -   Itinerary: Ollague to Antofagasto to Cadera to La Serena, CH  -   Miles: 818

The last few days were spent blasting down Ruta 5 in Chile. It’s a major paved highway, so it wasn’t very exciting. My initial plan was to ride South to Antofagasto and then cross over into Argentina.. that didn’t exactly happen.CH_11Feb14_001 CH_11Feb14_002

Along the way, we passed through the Atacama desert, which is the driest place on earth. It is said that some parts of the Atacama have never received rain while others only average around 1-3mm of rain per year!
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One night, we stopped in the city of Antofagasto. It’s mostly an industrial based city with many of the locals working in the massive mining industry that covers Northern Chile. Like the rest of Chile, it’s very clean and modern place, although there’s nothing really special about the place.

We had dinner at a busy bar/grill restaurant. Of course we had a few local beers. This one, an Austral amber beer was pretty good.
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I’ve also had the craziest pizza ever created. I’m not sure exactly what it was or how it came to be ordered but it was simply over the top. It had something like 5 different layers; sauce, cheese, ham, more cheese, bistek (thin beef steak), even more cheese, and 4 eggs. I could even be forgetting a few things.. WTF?

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Heading out of Antofagasto along the coast for a little bit.

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Most of Northern Chile is built around mining and refining. Lots of factories like this along the road:
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Back on the road for more straight boring desert. At least it’s not hot here. It’s actually a very comfortable 75F / 24C. CH_12Feb14_004

One of the main reasons I came this way was because I wanted to get a picture at the famous Mano del Desierto. I came a long way just for this photo but it’s something I’ve planned on seeing for a few years.CH_12Feb14_005 CH_12Feb14_006 CH_12Feb14_007

My original plan was to turn East towards Argentina after seeing the hand statue.. however my bike decided on other plans. I’ve had a leaking valve cover gasket for the last month or 2 but it’s been recently getting worse.. something needs to be done about it but it wasn’t enough for me to change plans.. then my fork seal started puking oil.. and not just a little bit but massive amounts.. and then my check engine light came on while waiting at a toll booth.. okay, WTF..?

So the motorbike won out and I decided to keep riding South with the rest of the guys towards Santiago where there’s a big BMW moto service shop. Northern Argentina will have to wait till the return trip.

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Leaking fork seal..

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One of the nights, we stopped in La Serena, Chile. I’ve never heard of this place before but it’s a nice little city near the beach with a cool downtown area and a few walking streets.CH_13Feb14_002 CH_13Feb14_003

We were supposed to only have dinner and a few beers.. but that ended up turning into 5 bottles of wine and a rather late night.. and I normally don’t even like wine! Maybe this Chilean stuff isn’t that bad after all. ❗CH_13Feb14_004

 

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