Iquique - San Pedro 290miles. Saturday, 19th may.
As usual managed to be the last to leave. Pulled out of our holiday inn, turned left and away we went. Coast road today, winding south along the pacific for the first 140miles to the large town of tocapilla, turn left, and start heading east back across south america, towards buenos aires and home...quite mixed feelings about that. Just over one week of riding left. :(
Coast road is quite magnificent. Massively high hills on our left, descending sharply to the coast road and the sea. Vis not so good to begin with, but that just adds to the "wow" moments when the mist breaks and pulls back. As usual we start to catch the others as they pull off for photo moments or break off for food/drink/comfort breaks, and the morning passes quickly. Chile is very much more developed than Peru, and there is no question of any issues with dodgy police traps here. Just the normal ones!
Perversely we all choose to ignore all the beauty spots we've passed to have lunch after we've filled up in Tocapilla, in the service station, before joining the main road east. Had a good chat to a Chilean biker who was going the opposite direction. We have a discussion about dogs that bite bikes, or "kildros" as he calls them, and compare kildros kicking actions before wishing each other well and saddling up again.
Up into the hills and back into the atacama desert proper. Very striking scenery - if you like rock and wide open spaces - which luckily I do! We find ourselves riding with Dave and Carmel again, and later catch up with Kevin and Julia, who seem to be enjoying a rare opportunity to ride with each other, on a fairly straightforward day. Its too hot to stop, and the biggest issue here is coping with the endless straights. I manage until about 260miles in, before becoming slightly bored. My pillion puts me off introducing some imaginary curves, or playing with the traffic (there isn't any), so I have to resort to singing. Luckily I have earplugs.
Our destination, San Pedro, is apparently quite popular with backpackers, and we pull into "town" (indicated by a low mud wall and a bush), and find our hotel very quickly, which is a great series of standalone individual ensuite lodges, with it's own bar and restaurant. Lou and I spy a very enticing looking spa pool, and dive straight in to cool off. Unheated pools are definitely very good at this and we both leap straight back out again with very little loss of momentum to the amusement of the rest of our pack.
Once we'd calmed down, a reccy of the town revealed a very high density of bars, restaurants, pubs, craft shops, and shops promising excursions to the valley of the moon, hot springs, and astronomy tours, which I've booked on tonight. The atacama is a great place to spot stars, with very little light pollution from man. Have resisted urge to take the iPad and compare its "night sky" app with the mere lifetime of experience of our guide, but thought I might get at least slapped, or, marooned in the atacama.
We pull into a bar just as extra time of the Champions League final is being televised. Chelsea v Bayern Munich. I have a nice shot of germanic despair framed by chilean flags after drogba nails the last penalty and goes on to lift the cup. Slightly surreal but better than the other way round. We take van man out for a meal, and order a mixed grill, which arrived on a central platter - excellent apart from the pile of sheeps' intestines they left in the middle. Not recommended. Can't cut it, it tastes fairly offensive, and no good to floss with.
Simon baker H. Did you not take your earplugs. Essential kit I would have thought. Clearly Lou is back on form. Terrific photos. Take care. Ex skip.
Isabel Sounds like you are having a great time! How are you keeping fit?