Antofagasta, Chile (16,444 kilmometers – 10,218 miles)
It would have been easy to continue to glue our asses to the comforts and lackadaisical nature of the Casa de Ciclistas in La Paz, but the Conbigotes Precision Wind Speed Judgement Group finally got back on the road feeling rested and ready for Chile. The southwestern border of Bolivia was only a healthy 4 Altiplano days away and the Atacama desert loomed shortly after.
Very aware that riding conditions off rain, wind and zero air to suck would soon change to well, just wind, we yearned for a change. Though damn gorgeous, these high plains beat the hell out of you. Not only physically, but the mental grind is just as much of a task. There is something overly demoralizing about starting a what looks like 2 kilometers of road, straight as Charlie Sheen, and it ends up being 30 kilometers of pedaling on a treadmill. Distances are almost impossible to judge as there can be zero landmarks from horizon line to horizon line. I equate it to waking up on the a sailboat in the middle of the Caribbean and all you can see is 360 degrees of water. It’s quite humbling. In addition to there being absolutely nothing out here, it is accompanied by the deafening absence of sound. Listening to yourself breathe sounds like a Scorpions concert from 1979.
All of that nonsense being ledgered, we did have a fairly interesting time the day after we crossed the border. I’m not at all sure why, but Chile finds it necessary to thief all of your fruit and vegatables upon entering their country. This would be only a small hurdle if: A). we weren’t idiots cycling this portion of Mars or B). there would have been any locale selling any sort of substantial food items shortly after the border. Having no options for dinner later that night, we rolled the dice on a pre-packaged bag of llama and potatoes that had been idle in some broads cooler for god knows how long. Turned out to be fine. Salty and a bit gamey, but when it’s your only option, it tastes like a fucking porterhouse. Christ, I’ve lost sight of the point here. Anywho, figuring there would be a tiny tienda somewhere in the next galaxy to buy anything food wise, we pedaled on the next morning without worry. Ummm, we were wrong. What followed was 145 kilometers of nothing. No food, only 2 liters of water and a 4,400 meter mountain pass to climb. When the pioneers of adventure cycling wrote the manual, this was in the chapter of “Shit Not to Do.” Halfway through and figuring we were screwed, I won the lottery and begged a woman for some food. She was delighted to provide a bowl of soup, some bread and 2 glasses of Chilean wine to keep me warm from the cold and freezing rain. Ryan, who had distanced himself a tad and didn’t see me stop, continued and I knew he was up shit-creek when I was informed the next town was 75 kilometers ahead. Folks, we got lucky. What followed was 3 hours of descent with a hefty tailwind from the high plateau down into the dryest portion of land in the world. I finally found Ryan in the town of Huara, ramming spaghetti and beer in his face after 8 hours and about 755,000 burned calories.
Finally on the Chilean coast and resting for a couple of days in our old vacacional stomping grounds of beautiful Iquique, we only had what looked like a casual 4-day push south to Antofagasta. Though scenic, I didn’t much care for fighting 30 mph headwinds for almost all of it. Wind quickly turns pleasurable riding into the most goddamn frustrating thing you can imagine. It completely sucks all the energy out of you and makes fun of your love-handles after that. I would have paid a healthy amount of cash to have wind actually be a person, so I could cut her achilles tendon in her sleep. She is an absolute slob.
We managed to survive and all be it for my day long bout with food poisoning coming out of both ends, we are comfortably resting with an old fried of Ryan’s, Rosita. She gave us beds, a washing machine and a small bottle of Jack Daniels to demolish in one sitting. She is an angel. Other activities while here in the old city where we used to live and pretend we were teachers includes: watching golf, taking money from the new casino and a healthy dose of nothing.
The final 2 month push to Ushuaia will ensue shortly and I am excited, but at the same time, I have no idea what to do not having a bike seat jammed in my rear on a daily basis. When I figure it out I will let you know.
Totall irrelevant side note: The MVP of the last portion of the jaunt was my Gore Windstopper head condom to keep me warm. It sure is nice having a sister-in-law who knows a thing or two about cycling. Thanks Abby! Don’t worry Kat, you and I both know who my first call is to when I need to stock up on revitalizing facial moisturizers.