Northern Chile

Entering Chile, or any new country for that matter, was very exciting; leaving us with many questions from our experiences with previous countries already visited. What will it look like, are the people as friendly as the country we are currently leaving? As we cross each country’s border, we always envisage the people having long torsos and very large oval shaped eyes. Will we be eaten or snatched up into a disc shaped ship that is translucently hanging somewhere above our heads?!! The answer to those questions have been an astonishing…no……so far! But what about our next country…..Argentina? That path is yet to be revealed!! But I digress. 🙂

Giants!!

 Giants in the distant land of Calama!

The first large town we entered here in Chile, was Calama. What a difference! From  melting snow in order to hydrate in Bolivia’s frontier….there was a huge array of drink choices. From rationing our dwindling food supply in the rough weather and terrain Bolivia dished out to us……there were suddenly more food choices than we could try in a month! It reminded me of Tom Hank’s character in the movie Cast Away, tossing the crab leg back on the table where a lighter lie, as he attended his coming home party! We lavished and gorged ourselves on ice-cream, chinese-food, and just about anything we could get our hands on! The only thing we lacked were court jesters which would have aided in our digestion of the oversized turkey legs we gobbled up!

Forgetaboutit!!
No Respect (:
Forbidden Hooch-Smooch!
The Recovery!

Crazy Candice!!

After a few days of gorging on everything we could find, Nando, our traveling partner, needed to move on. It was a tearful goodbye to a friend we have been through so much with. We stayed in Calama for another two days then we headed towards the coast, a 7,500 foot drop over ~ 125 miles. Just before we left Calama, we met a Chilean rugby player (Pablo Araya) that was working as a risk management analyst in the copper mine (the largest open pit copper mine in the world: Chuqui!). Pablo was very friendly, to the point of telling Candice that if I gave her any trouble, that he would take care of me!

With Pablo Araya in Calama, Chile

Pablo Araya

Pushing on, with the confidence of knowing that a rugby player was seeking to pummel me, much to Candice’s pleasure of course, was fun as we started our very slow descent into a very dry desert! We camped for three (of many to come) nights in the Atacama Desert (labeled: the driest place on earth!, see pictures below) before we made it to the outskirts of Antofagasta. We had ten miles, of mostly downhill, to get into Antofagasta, with the wind in our faces! I was pure torture having to pedal for hours downhill! Eventually we made it, but with our tails between our legs! We came to the conclusion that we would rather climb steep mountain passes in the snow rather than deal with this demoralizing wind. I hope I never live to regret that last statement! Antofagasta was a nice city with a lot of choices for activities.

Atacama Desert, Chile!

Atacama Desert, Chile

Atacama Desert, Chile

I was looking for the Holy Grail!

We pushed on to our next town. This experience was different because we climbed about 5,000 feet and descended into the small town of Paposo, but as we descended, it got colder and cloudier. Usually when one climbs, it gets colder and sometimes cloudier with the altitude, this time it was the inverse! We stayed in Paposo for  few days and then pushed on to the town of Taltal. Between these two towns the coastline was just beautiful! High mountains would sweep slowly into the ocean. While enjoying the view, I ran over a nail that managed to pierced my tire, the inner tube (top and bottom) as well as the inner part of my rim! While patching up everything a fisherman/snorkeler, Eduardo Canto, pulled up and stayed with us until we fixed everything! Chileans hvae been very kind. One miner even turned around just to give us a liter of pineapple juice!!

Just outside Paposo, Chile

Beautiful scenery between Paposo and Taltal, Chile

Between Paposo and Taltal

Nice flat from a pretty big nail, only half shown!

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With Eduardo Canto, who made sure we were ok while fixing a flat!

As we entered the town of Taltal, we recalled that we needed to get to an atm machine because we were low on funds. Well, Taltal is a pretty big dot on the map, there must be an atm machine there! When we arrived we checked into a small hostel just outside the small train/exercise park. We had two Chilean pesos on us ($4 usd) until we could find an atm. We walked around and found the bank (banco estado) with….three atm machines inside, none of which took our brand of visa! As I went to leave, I ran into a resident there, Luis Rojas, who after hearing about our dilemma, spoke to the banker. We found out that our brand of Visa is ‘Plus’ and that the atm machines in Taltal did not take Visas with ‘Plus’. Luis took us back to his office and made a few phone calls for us to see if the neighboring town in the direction we were going (Chañaral), had atms that would take our card, and luckily there were!

With Luis Rojas in Taltal, Chile.

With Luis Rojas in Taltal, Chile

Taltal

In the beautiful center of Taltal

We left Taltal the next day and made it to the town of Chañaral in the evening. We found an atm and got some well earned food! We spent a few days exploring Chañaral and resting up for our trip to Copiapo. The morning we left we went to the store to get some supplies to make it to our next destination. Upon leaving we hear these alarms going off. They were so loud that the whole town could hear them. There were many Tsunami warning signs and I wonder if they were practice/test alarms for such an occasion. Well, when the alarms were howling, so was a dog that was lying down outside the store. I laughed as his head perched up like a typical wolf picture would look like when they howl at the moon.

Indy

Our New Traveling Partner!

So we packed our supplies and started to roll off unto the main road. The dog started following us. We made it to the road, the dog was still with us, then to the edge of town, still there, then we were in desert. We stopped a few times so he would not hurt himself, but he was keeping up quite well! At about mile 15, I gave him some water from my bottle and some bread! I know how it feels to be at mile fifteen when running! Along the way, we became dog magnets! It was then that I discovered that it is a very dangerous world for a traveling dog. Packs of dogs would come out of the wood work. I mean eight to 10 at a time. They would go after our dog and I would have to bluff charge them or pretend to pick up a rock to keep them away! This happened about three or four times!

From Chanaral to Flamenco 21 miles

At mile 21, we made it to the town of Flamenco. We were looking for a place to stay when we ran into someone that spoke English (see note below). With him, was a resident (Pedro) that said that we could stay with him at his place. He made us dinner and we had a great evening while, Indy, our new traveling friend, slept just outside the gate waiting for his morning run! I worried for him for two reasons: 1) there were tons of stray dogs in Flamenco, I wasn’t sure how they would react to him and 2) when he went to sit down, he was shaking a bit. We planned a 40 to 50 mile ride the next day. I didn’t want him to get hurt and be stranded in the desert. So what we did was put him behind the fence (at Pedro’s residence) with some food, but as soon as we left, he jumped the fence and ran by our side. We went back to the house and Pedro took him inside so he couldn’t come after us. We said goodbye to Pedro, who gave us some rocks to remember him by (quarts and chrysocolla)!! We sped off, but we were very sad not to have our buddy with us!

Saying goodbye to our new friend in Flamenco, Chile

A Tearful Goodbye To Our New Friend!

With Pedro Manuel Torres Richards

With Pedro Manuel Torres Richards in Flamenco, Chile.

Note: Spanish here is much different than we have experienced before. The Spanish is more closely resembled to that of Spain. Some letters are pronounced differently and the speed they speak at, is much quicker than we can usually comprehend (the words blend together more as well). For instance, a word like: La Paz is pronounced La Path (the zeta is not zah, but th). That difference, however minor, really throws us off our game!

It was off to our next big town, with camping in between of course, Copiapo! This is where the mining accident of 2010 occurred. Here we looked for a room that was economical. After checking a few places, all of which were $50 (U.S.) and above, a guy, Nelson, came up to us and said that he is staying at a place much cheaper ($20 U.S.) right around the corner. Nelson fixed power lines and traveled up from the southern Chilean town of Villirrica. We spent the evening together and talked about the distant lands, from ‘whence’ we came! It was a fantastic evening making a new friend!

Candice and I walked the town the next day seeing what the town was like and, as usual, it didn’t disappoint! However, the mine where the accident occurred was on private property, so we couldn’t visit the area.

Nelson Antonio Lizama Marti

With Nelson in the town of Copiapo

Upon leaving, we found a large statue that the Chinese gave the city of Copiapo, in commemoration of the 33 survivors in the mining incident.  The plaque reads:

“In the name of the people of China, Dedicated to the Chilean People, commemorating the successful rescue of the 33 miners (10-13-2010/2011)”.

Statue in Copiapo

Statue in Copiapo from China 

The ensuing miles were tough, up…up…up…up and more up! We spend, as it seems, 90% of our time climbing and 10% going downhill, so we always get the false impression that going a southerly direction in South America, is a horrible idea!

Up Up Up

Our next destination was the town or Vallenar.  This was a nice town to explore and would prove to be a great respite from camping! Chinese food would be the order of the day! We stayed here for about three days and then moved on towards the direction of La Serena and Coquimbo!

Before reaching La Serena, we ran into a man on a moped, taking a photo of us on the bridge above us! He took the exit and met us on the road just ahead. It turned out that he was the Vallenar cycling coach and his students soon followed behind! We spoke with all of them for a bit and found that they are very hard workers: riding for 30, 60 to 80 miles multiple times per week! They were extremely friendly and gave us a lot of encouragement that prepared us for our continued journey!!

Ciclismo Vallenar

Facebook: Ciclismo Vallenar

These two large towns at the South of the province of Coquimbo had many options and had some very nice things to see. La Serena, had a beautiful historic section and Coquimbo, is home to the larges historic monument and has some beautiful valleys and views of the ocean!

Water fountain in La Serena, ChileWater fountain in La Serena 

Flowers in La Serena

Flowers found in La Serena

As we headed south from Coqiumbo, we noticed something nice happening! It was getting greener! Suddenly we would be inundated with the scents of fields full of various flowers! If this is but a taste of what Southern Chile is like, we can’t wait to get there!

Desert Oasis

Beautiful colors

Beautiful Scenery + Nice People = Chile

Orange Flowers in Coquimbo, Chile

Flowers of Coquimbo

The downside of reaching Coquimbo was the wind! We are now in Los Vilos, a beautiful port town, and it was pure torture with all of the ups and downs, not including the cold wind, getting here!

Candice in Coquimbo

The Candice Crouch in Coquimbo!

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Cruz del Tercer Milenio, The largest monument in South America

Jesus Before Pontius Pilate
Statue found at the bottom of Cruz del Tercer Milenio
Fresh Catch!
Always looking for that perfect photo! I often worry about losing creativity or ideas for our blogs but the fun is finding the inspiration as it comes. There are always opportunities so long as we are open to them! This bird just plopped down with his fresh catch (under his left talon) on a pole as we were cycling.
Fisherman in Coquimbo!
Fisherman in Coquimbo!
Half of the nail showing in my tire and through the inner rim!!
Half of the nail showing in my tire and through the inner rim!!
Band in Coquimbo!!
Band in Coquimbo!!
Riding high in Coquimbo!
Riding high in Coquimbo!
Picky Goat!
Picky Goat!
Dangerous?
Dangerous?
Wrong side of the fence!! I know some people that should be in his place!
Wrong side of the fence!! I know some people that should be in his place!
The Northern Chile’s Lamb of the Year!
The Northern Chile’s Lamb of the Year!
The color contrasts are wonderful here in Northern Chile.
The color contrasts are wonderful here in Northern Chile.
Beautiful Bridge!
Beautiful Bridge!
Field of Flowers!
Field of Flowers!
The oceanside has been wonderful here, the humidity begins to allow the flowers to bloom which make for a great scented bicycle ride! As we neared Chile’s capital, we decided to go into Argentina by the way of Uspallata Pass, which would allow us to view the tallest (22,841 feet) mountain in South America: Aconcagua!
29 Fun-filled Switchback Curves!
29 Fun-filled switchback curves and still plenty of climbing to do!
The scenery we will have to climb!
The scenery we will have to climb!
Motorcyclists from Germany! The band is back together!
Motorcyclists from Germany! The band is back together!
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Looking back from where we were!
Looking back from where we were!
Beautiful cabanas tucked away into the mountains!
Beautiful cabanas tucked away into the mountains!
Indiana Jones Wannabe!
Indiana Jones Wannabe!
Our camping spot for the evening!
Our camping spot for the evening!
Carrying all our gear to a steep camping spot is never easy and rarely fun!
Carrying all our gear to a steep camping spot is never easy and rarely fun!
Beautiful Country
Beautiful Country
“He took a tumble off the cliff.”
“He took a tumble off the cliff.”
High winds and cloud cover comes in very quick here!
High winds and cloud cover comes in very quick here!
With some Chilean tourists!
With some Chilean tourists!
This pass would not prove to be easy. There were tough inclines, a series of 29 switchback curves, cold winds, and snow capped mountains to trudge through! After spending the day climbing about 4,000 feet, we found the Portillo Ski Resort that just so happened to close down the day before we got there! The staff called the manager and we were able to get a place to stay! I told the lady at the desk that the view was gorgeous. She asked me if I saw the laguna out back. After saying no, I walked back and was utterly ‘amazed’ at what I saw (see below), and this was our backyard for the evening!
After doing some research, we found that the owner, Henry Purcell, from New York, inherited this ski resort from his family. They purchased this extremely unique site at an auction. Not sure of the success with their offer, they won the action (price unknown) and found out that they were the only bidders!! Sometimes you just have a good day!
Alpine Paradise!
This is Laguna del Inca at Portillo Ski Resort! People from all over the world, including Olympic ski teams, go skiing here! It is worth the trip for the view alone The chalets are wonderful and have this view for their backyard!!
Laguna del Inca
Laguna del Inca, Chile
With owner and General Manager of Portillo Ski Resort
The Owner (Henry Purcell) and General Manager (Michael Rogan), just had to see who was crazy enough to make the climb by bicycle to get here. Great people in a wonderful place!
Up to Argentina!
We came from (and well beyond!)  the area where the school is below (blue roofs) and are headed to the Customs area to enter Argentina!
The Border Agents just love Candice! With Reynaldo who drove us past the long tunnel we were not allowed to pass on our bicycles!
Candice is always popular with the border guards!
Above Picture:
The gentleman in the blue (Reynaldo Villegas) is an Argentinian truck driver (from Mendoza). The police didn’t allow us to cycle into the very long tunnel (Christo Redentor), so Reynaldo offered to drive us to the customs area on the Argentinian side. He was extremely friendly!The guards (one of them: Rodrigo Vega, left) were very friendly and were very interested in our journey!The weather up here (Portillo) is said to get severe at times. Many people have died trying to cross it. The snow gets so bad, you wouldn’t be able to see your hand! Rescue operations could do nothing until the weather subsides, which then would be too late!Another thing. We thought this was a difficult climb. The guards said that two 65 year olds (couple) climbed it a few days before us. They were going into Chile! Amazing what we can accomplish!
Driving KLR 650
We met Nick (from New York) who was driving his KLR 650 back into Santiago, Chile (from Argentina). He lives with his wife in Santiago and needs to drive his motorcycle on this route in order to keep his motorcycle in the country legally! I call it a great hassle!
Candice Applies to Hogwart's!
A cozy home for Candice and her muggle husband Erek!
A cozy home for Candice and her muggle husband Erek!
One sunny day, the muggle husband happened upon a school application for Candice the Gifted! A mistake surely never to be repeated!
One sunny day, the muggle husband happened upon a school application for Candice the Gifted! A mistake surely never to be repeated!
Like the typical meerkat, Candice was curious and became very serious!
Like the typical meerkat, Candice was curious and became very serious!
Unable to wield the magical wand’s incredible power, she became obsessed as she practiced day and night!
Unable to wield the magical wand’s incredible power, she became obsessed as she practiced day and night!
After learning of her denial into the School of Hogwart’s, her laughter became dark and cynical and she was soon overtaken by the power of the ‘one’ wand!
After learning of her denial into the School of Hogwart’s, her laughter became dark and cynical and she was soon overtaken by the power of the ‘one’ wand!
Finally, she turned on her poor muggle husband. His whereabouts are unknown, but some believe he was turned into a hobbit and is forever seeking bag-end!
Finally, she turned on her poor muggle husband. His whereabouts are unknown, but some believe he was turned into a hobbit and is forever seeking bag-end!
After Candice learns of her evil deed and finds her love, she apologizes to her hobbit husband, who is now 5’8″ tall!!
After Candice learns of her evil deed and finds her love, she apologizes to her hobbit husband, who is now 5’8″ tall!!
… and they lived happily ever after 🙂
… and they lived happily ever after :)
There is always room for some fun!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments on “Northern Chile”

  1. Erek! How the heck are you guys?! Glad you are enjoying Chile; I have a friend that has family there (not sure exactly where) and have come to realize that they are the hipsters of South America! Just kidding!

    I have great news! BABY ZAP IS GETTING A SIBLING! I’m not sure of the gender, yet.

    I really enjoy your posts!

    1. Master Alby!! We are doing terrific! Chile has been one of our favorite countries so far!! The people are great! Many have pulled over, or even turned around to stop and give us some supplies while on the road. This has been unique to Chile!

      I can’t believe there will be Francisco Part Deux!! He is truly the God Father!! I can see him on the couch directing the family affairs with the wisp of a finger and a nod!!

      Hope all is well with you Alby! Happy Thanksgiving!! Glad you enjoy the blogs!

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