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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Day 596, Thursday December 11, 2014

 After leaving the Elqui Valley I rode south to Santiago through the center of the country on mostly dirt and gravel roads with many tunnels.

This was an interesting tunnel...lots of sand and mud.

Mainly I came to Santiago for new tires for the bike. I stayed two nights and left for Valparaiso.

When I arrived and was checking in a hotel in Valparaiso I was approached by an American woman who saw the bike with an Alabama plate and low and behold it was Michelle Lamphere (South Dakota) and her travelmate Brian Clarke (England). I had been following their ADVenture for over a year. What a pleasure to finally meet them.

Two photos from my hotel.

That evening I met Michelle and Brian for dinner and we were joined by Simone and Michael Poysden, two overlanders from Switzerland. Great meal and time I really enjoyed the evening. That is Michelle and Brian on the right.

My next stop was the Lakes Region of southern Chile. Many volcanoes and thermal spas. It is quite beautiful and the roads were paved...always a plus.

After moving south through the lakes region I arrived in Puerto Montt which is the end of the Pan American Highway in Chile. I stayed one night in Puerto Montt and went south to the island of Chiloé. On the ferry crossing to the island I reunited with a German couple that I had met in Santiago. They are spending six months touring South America by motorbike. Last year they spent six months in North America on their bikes.

Photos on Chiloé.


On Chiloé I had ridden south to Castro, about midway of the island and was stopped at a restaurant for a bite. While in the restaurant a man came in looking for the rider of the moto. His name
is Quentin Silvand. Quentin is from France and has lived in London for 14 years. He is also traveling
solo on a moto. We decided to ride together and see if our styles were compatible. It has been eight months since riding with someone else and heading into the frontier of South America it would be better to have a mate and Quentin was of the same mind. We departed Castro the next morning and returned to Puerto Montt and headed south on an inland route.

Here we are stopped visiting with a French couple touring Chile on bicycles.

Here we are with two Chileno Cyclist. We met these guys three times. They are really cool.

Our first night we did a bit of couch surfing and stayed with these guys in Haluaihué. We had a traditional Chilean BBQ.

 One of five ferry crossings I have made in the past few days.

A couple of Californians we met on the road to Futeleufú. They began in Ushuaia over a month ago.

This days ride was like riding through a postcard all day.

We have arrived in Futeleufú.

At the moment Quentin and I plan to leave Futeleufú day after tomorrow and enter Argentina and proceed south. We are only about 10 miles from the border. All of our plans are subject to change. More will be revealed...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Day 574 Wednesday November 19,2014

After departing Pisagua the ADV's next stop is Iquique. Iquique is a port city and commune in northern Chile, capital of both the Iquique Province and Tarapacá Region. It lies on the Pacific coast, west of the Pampa del Tamarugal which is part of Atacama Desert. It had a population of 180,601 according to the 2012 census. The city developed during the heyday of the saltpeter mining in Atacama Desert in the 19th century. Originally a Peruvian city with a large Chilean population it was ceded to Chile as result of War of the Pacific (1879–1883). Today it is one of only two free ports of Chile.

After a couple of days there I headed into the Atacama desert for Pica. Pica is a Chilean town and commune in Tamarugal Province, Tarapacá Region. Situated in the inland of the Atacama Desert on an oasis, Pica is famous for its small and unusually acidic lemons. The town has a communal thermal spring with a surface temperature of 40 °C, which makes it a popular bath place in the middle of the desert.

My next stop was Antofagasta. Antofagasta is a port city in northern Chile, about 1,100 kilometers (700 mi) north of Santiago. It is the capital of Antofagasta Province and Antofagasta Region. According to the 2012 census, the city has a population of 345,420.

Formerly part of Bolivia, Antofagasta was captured by Chile in the War of the Pacific (1879-83), and the transfer of sovereignty was finalized in the 1904 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the two countries.

The city of Antofagasta is closely linked to mining activity, being a major mining area of the country. The last decade has been a steady growth in the areas of construction, retail, hotel accommodations, population growth, and remarkable skyline development. Antofagasta has the highest GDP per capita of Chile, $37,000 USD per year.

About 100km northeast of Antofagasta I visited Chacabuco. Chacabuco is one of the many abandoned nitrate or "saltpeter" towns in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.  Unlike most of the other ghost towns in the Atacama Desert, Chacabuco became a concentration camp during the Pinochet regime in 1973. To this day, it remains surrounded by approximately 98 lost land mines, left by the Chilean military when Chacabuco was used as a prison camp. While wandering around this ghost town for a couple of hours I was unaware of these lost land mines...all is well that ends well.

Founded in 1924 by the Lautaro Nitrate Company Ltd., Chacabuco soon fell into ruin as the nitrate mining boom in Chile came to an abrupt halt at the end of the 1930s. Synthetic nitrate had been invented in Germany at the turn of the 20th century and by the 1930s and 40s had severely crippled northern Chile's nitrate industry. What had accounted for virtually 50% of Chile's Gross National Product fell to almost zero within a few decades. A total of 170 nitrate towns were shut down throughout Chile's Atacama Desert, only one remains open today, María Elena, about 95 kilometers north of Chacabuco. Chacabuco shut its doors in 1938. As a town, it had only survived 14 years.

In 1971, president Salvador Allende declared Chacabuco a Historic Monument of Chile, at which point restoration began. But in 1973, after the military coup, Pinochet turned it into a concentration camp until the end of 1974. As a concentration camp, it held up to 1,800 prisoners many of whom were doctors, lawyers, artists, writers, professors and workers from all over Chile.

I am now in Pisco Elqui at the Cabañas El Tesoro de Elqui. This hotel is owned and operated by a German couple, Ina and Kluse, whom I met in Ecuador. Pisco Elqui is a Chilean village in the Elqui Valley, 107 km east from La Serena, at about 1,300 metres above sea level. This was the area where pisco was distilled in the early history of Chile. This area and the Elqui Valley in particular is a grape growing region with several pisco distilleries and local vineyards. This valley also has several international observatories. The valley has one of the clearest night skies of anywhere in the world. I toured a small observatory here last evening.

Photos taken in Iquique.

 These photos are if Pica.

The thermal spring at Pica.

Photos of the ghost town of Chacabuco.

The plaza.

The teator.

A desert fox poses for me.

Photos taken in the Elqui Valley.

Vineyards in the Elqui valley.

Some photos of the incredible colors of the Atacama.

The Mano de Desierto is a large-scale sculpture of a hand located in the Atacama Desert in Chile, 75 km to the south of the city of Antofagasta, on the Panamerican Highway.

The sculpture was constructed by the Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal at an altitude of 1,100 meters above sea level. Irarrázabal used the human figure to express emotions like injustice, loneliness, sorrow and torture. Its exaggerated size is said to emphasize human vulnerability and helplessness. The work has a base of iron and concrete, and stands 11 metres (36 ft) tall. Funded by Corporación Pro Antofagasta, a local booster organization, the sculpture was inaugurated on March 28, 1992. It has since become a point of interest for tourists traveling Route 5, which forms part of the Pan-American Highway.

It is a right-of-passage for travelers to have their photo taken here.

More will be revealed...