Bolivia left us both high on adventure and discovery. Entering Chile, we were both amazed to find that this feeling continued-thanks mainly to the challenging roads and breath- taking scenery. We had previously written about the feeling of being overwhelmed by it all, and this still feels like the best description. Staring at snow-capped volcanoes, salt plains and vast deserts almost overloads the senses as you attempt to take it all in. Throw in riding a motorbike at the same time and it is… well it is almost overwhelming.
We stopped more times in 20 miles than we did in the whole of Ecuador, to take photos of various incredible vistas. Our journey South into the Atacama Desert commenced from Ollague, a border town built on the back of the mining industry by the looks of it. The roads were in the process of being upgraded but that meant there were huge sections of horribly loose dirt and of course, the dreaded sand. Tom has learned by now that momentum is your friend and keeping the front wheel gliding over the soft sand is the key to not falling off! Easy eh?
We traversed many miles of this challenging terrain before entering into Calama- a large industrial town West of San Pedro De Atacama. It was around this time that we heard from Brett (remember him from Peru?) and he was around 800miles South of us on the coast. We began to discuss catching him up as we had enjoyed the time we had previously spent with the Ex-US Marine over a few days camping and riding in Peru.We spent a day in the Atacama pushing our riding skills on more sand and even getting the bike stuck up to its rear axle (If it had one). 20 minutes of pushing and digging and we were done for the day- back onto the tarmac please!
That evening we read about the roads to the South and spoke with our friends Jim and Jenny (who have both travelled from Alaska to Argentina on a motorbike). Jim informed Tom that the roads were pretty dull in comparison to the earlier fun. Brett had agreed with Jim and told us that it got more interesting around the coast. So, that was it- we decided to push South and get as far as we could to Brett. 13hours later and 772 miles covered we met Brett and proudly told him about our longest day ever on a bike. He said that he felt pretty special to have had 2 Brits ride that far to see him! We wild camped for the next 3 nights and had some fun with the camera and a lime green couch that we found dumped near our camping spot. The rugged coast and miles of dirt tracks became Tom’s very own playground for a couple of days, before we decided to head to Valparaiso on the coast and enjoy more experiences that only wild camping offers. Tom and Brett made their very own jump for the bikes and Lorna caught up with Harry Potter on her Kindle. We were treated to a real American camp fire experience by Brett, as we were introduced to S’mores. A combination of marshmallow, chocolate and sweet crackers.. A healthy American delicacy!
Christmas was spent courtesy of Lorna’s Dad’s kind present- in a funky apartment in the city of Santiago. Brett joined us as he and Tom cooked turkey with all the trimmings. (Tom had to accept defeat with the Yorkshire puds though). Relaxing in a comfy environment gave us chance to catch up with friends, chill out and of course do the necessary laundry. Brett was due to fly South in the New Year into Patagonia with his girlfriend Karolina and we agreed on plans to meet up again if we could. For us, it was time to leave Santiago and to use the few days between Christmas and New Year to continue south to the adventure town of Pucon (Tom was hoping for a Chilean Chamonix), and then onto the start of the highly anticipated Patagonia. All and all, a wonderful country and a wonderful way to spend the festive period!