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I wanted to stay in Chile as long as possible. So instead of crossing over the border here in to Argentina, I continued south. The plan was to take the Carretera Austral (Chile CH-7) as far south as possible before crossing over. Out of the desert and in to the mountains, the southern part of Chile is simply stunning. Check out this perfect volcano:

I made it as far as Hornopiren where I needed to take a ferry to where the road continues south. I got in late and the ferry office was closed so I had to wait a day for it to open. It was pretty cold so I opted for a small family run hotel. Really nice and cheap. Cool building too.

The sea tide is pretty extreme in this bay.

The next day the ferry arrived and the office opened. Unfortunately, the ferry was booked solid for the next week. There was no way to move south without the ferry and I wasn’t about to hang out here for a week. So I was screwed. My only option was to go north again to Osorno and cross the border in to Argentina there and jump on the ruta 40 (something I wanted to do going North bound later on). Once again my total lack of planning bites me.

That night a met a couple from Germany who just got off the ferry. It seems that north bound the ferry is quite empty. They pointed out an alternative route to get around the ferry and only lose about 100km of the Carretera Austral. However, you still had to go north to Osorno and cross in to Argentina. Should have noticed this option sooner, but I think I still would have tried for the ferry any way.

The rest of the night we told tall tales to one another over countless beers. I even got to practice a little German. Good times.

H


I headed back to Antofagasta for a few days to get some work done. Lots of fires back at home that needed tending too. Once finished I headed south on the 5 toward Santiago.

It took about 3 days to make it to Santiago. Taking the 5 you realize how long this country is. You’d ride all day and barely make a dent on the map.

Santiago was experiencing a heat wave when I arrived. The city is not in the Atacama desert, but it was much hotter here. First on the agenda was to do some bike maintenance. I found a great garage that let me have the run of the place. So with two helpers I was able to change all the necessary fluids and make the bike adjustments in record time.

Final drive fluid looks brand new. Excellent!

A few days later, Jeanette flew in with a fresh set of tires and we checked out the city.

Presidential Plaza.

Bomb squad diffusing a car bomb near by.

And we think LA is smoggy.

Santiago was a pretty amazing city. Some really creative and original building designs.

You can’t come to Chile and not go on a wine tour. The following day we visited the Concha Y Toro winery.

The Diablo cellar. This is where they keep the good stuff:

The story here is that the vineyard owner noticed that barrels of his wine started missing. So he started a myth that the devil resides down in the cellar. The trick worked because no more wine went missing. Casillero Del Diablo is the name of a very popular wine here in Chile and is sold all over the world. You can find it everywhere. It’s really cheap and pretty damn good.

H


Like most places Ive been to, San Pedro De Atacama was suggested to me by some fellow travelers as a place that must be seen. So I left Antofagasta and headed east out in to the Atacama desert. The Atacama desert is the driest place on earth. There is simply nothing living out here.

Finally just outside San Pedro it got a little more interesting.

First on the agenda was to find a place to stay and it turns out this town is not cheap. I guess being so remote, they can charge whatever they like. Later I found a bar and tried to figure out what to do next. Fortunately, I met some really nice Brazilians who filled me in on what to do here.

So the next morning I was off to visit some volcanic pools and geysers.

Than some small town in the middle of nowhere. Forget the name, but they had lama kabobs. Really tasty.

Here are some lamas still living:

I think this town was suppose to be significant but I forget why:

Later on that day I took a swim in a salt lake. The water was so salty you could float in a seated position. Swimming was next to impossible. The water made you too buoyant.

Covered with salt I headed over to a fresh water oasis a small distance away to get cleaned up.

Next up was a dry salt lake where pisco sour was served.

Pretty much a perfect day out in the Atacama desert.

H


The next morning I was able to get my credit card back once the bank opened so all was good. Unfortunately, this again put me many hours behind everyone. So again I needed to haul ass to catch up.

I caught up with the support vehicles heading down the coast to Antofogasta, the end of the current day’s leg of the race.

At one point everyone had to stop for gas. Again a mob scene. No surprise the support vehicles are just enormous. I was able to get some gas and escape, but not before posing for a few more photos.

I made it to Antofagasta late as expected and only saw late arrival racers.

The next day was a rest day for the Dakar. So I went to the fairgrounds hoping to convince them that I’m Dakar’s biggest fan and rode all the way from California just to be here. The people manning the gate were friendly enough, but no luck. Bribe didn’t work either. Damn.

One of the many cool things about this race was that racers would take their vehicles in to town for supplies and gas. They would finish the race, and than go in to town to pickup a six-pack (I assume, that’s what Id do). So there was activity all over Antofagasta. People hung out on street corners and over passes just to take snap shots. Again had my picture taken a bunch of times just riding about.

The energy level here was palpable. Everything about Dakar was so cool. How can I be a part of this? Hell, Ill change tires for free just to get in to the paddock. I talked with a few people outside the fenced area who were helping out or actually in the race. I asked them to tell me everything, but they were more inquisitive about my trip. Who cares about me, let’s talk Dakar.

I took a bunch of pics and they can be found here if interested.

Dakar 2010

This is an amazing race, but following it is easier said than done. It is definitely a made for TV event. There is a huge mob following along and therefore it’s best to have lodging and everything else thought out well in advance. (It took forever to find a room in Antofagasta) So I decided to break off my pursuit and see more of Chile. Someday I’ll be back.

H


Dakar! This has got to be the most awesome race I’ve ever seen. Everything about it radiates coolness. Even the support vehicles kick ass.

But I get ahead. First I had to iron butt it to Iquique, Chile. I think this was my longest riding day ever. Roughly 500 miles. But much of the road looked like this.

So hauling ass was no problem. Miles and miles of nothingness.

Even the best laid out plans must be derailed by unforeseen circumstances. Murphy’s law. First was the Peruvian/Chile border. The customs agents were on strike and made everyone wait for a few hours. Lot of pissed off people waiting in the sun.

Three hours later I was through. Other than the strike, one of the fastest border crossings ever. Twenty minutes or so.

So I continue down the road of nothingness.

Finally some canyons and something to break up the endless void.

And finally I made it to Iquique. The Dakar fairgrounds were a bit farther south down the road so first on the agenda was to find a cash machine and get some Chilean dough. But Murphy was not done with me. I find an ATM, and the machine swallows my card without giving me a dime. What the hell? The bank is closed, and nothing can be done. Everyone tells me Ill have to wait until morning. Ok, screw it, Ill just I head over to the Dakar fair grounds and hopefully see some of the late arrival racers.

Nothing could prepare me for what would happen next. The moment I stopped my bike I was surrounded by fans taking my picture. I told them, I’m not in the race. I’m just a spectator like you. Response: “I don’t care, hold my baby next to your bike.” I can’t say how many pictures I had taken of myself with fans. It was non-stop. At one point I had to escape so I walked away. Immediately people started climbing on Ruby and posing for pictures. I watched nervously from afar.

I did get to see some of the late racers arriving. They had to go down this really steep sand dune to get to the day’s finish. Simply nuts.

Ruby and some other bikers that arrived remained the center of attention. Babies were propped up on the seat. I was pulled in to group photos. I guess this is what celebrities must go through. What an experience. Fortunately, Ruby and I got out unscathed.

I ended up simply pitching a tent and spending the night here.

Tomorrow Ill follow the support vehicles to Antofagasta, the next stop.

H

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