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Archive for January 9th, 2010

Day 397 – 9th January 2010

Posted by TravellingStrom on January 9, 2010

Saturday – San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Yesterday was a doddle compared to today, a long day, I crashed and landed on my head but I did get over the border into Chile on my own two wheels 🙂

Well, it was a 6am wake up call and the sun had just risen, it was a bit cool as well, but not as cold as I expected, although there was frost on the seats! After some basic breakfast but a welcome hot cuppa we were packed and on the road by 7.30am and the corrugations started within 100m of leaving the village!

The first section of road took us though some nice winding hills and creeks before we came down onto the salt plain areas.

Down here myself and Chris had a small plan, basically let us blow something up as we were still carrying some jelly from Potosi, we had thought about doing it last night, but I was reluctant to set it off near a village! There were some rocks and stuff around here, so that seemed like a good location so I prepared the stuff which was quite hard and not very pliable due to the cold.

Then once I lit the fuse it was time to run away, but slowly, no air to breathe up here, but two minutes is a long time, here is a boring video of a big bang, I can say that we should have used about 4 of the things to do what we expected one would do, but my experience of explosives is now 2 bangs, so I am still a learner 🙂

After this bit of excitement it was off again and the roads were a mixture of the same as before, lots of corrugations, some loose sand and some nice fast stretches, I was becoming more at ease with the soft sand and although not actually enjoying seeing it in front of me, I was handling it quite well even with the front wheel moving everywhere.

Of course my complacency got the better of me as I was following Chris down a hill towards a lagoon where all the flamingos are. Basically he was in front by a few hundred meters so the dust could settle and this is where I hit a stretch of bulldust! I was going too fast, according to my GPS later, I was doing 70kmh when I hit it, I had a chance to see a track and follow that but the dust was too deep and I lost control.

The front end washed out to the right and I low sided into the berm which caused the bike to dig in belly first and sit up and flip at least one full turn, in the process it spat me off and I did a half pike and landed on my head and left arm on the road. Now, sliding backwards downhill with the helmet visor up is not a good idea as I ended up with most of the Atacama desert up my nose!!!!

My first thoughts were to stand up and turn off the bike, then remove the desert from the helmet and then I looked around where I was and started to laugh, it was a glorious feeling to be alive, although a tad dusty 🙂 The view was nice and I had plenty of time to look at it because Chris did not notice the fall and I know I was ages in front of the rest of them. So, I had time to try and move the bike, but I was stuffed and a bit sore and it was wedged tight, so I waited. I had a drink and a snack, then as you can tell I took a few photos and all in all I waited about 20 minutes. At this time, Chris returned uphill while Johannes, Graham and the truck arrived from the other direction. We soon had the bike back upright and on the road. It seems my windshield brackets are all bent, my left pannier took a massive hit and is stove in, hopefully my computer is OK,(and as I am writing this days later, you know it is ), the right mirror arm got bent and the clutch interlock switch is a bit dicky, but it runs fine, what a tough bike, I love it 🙂 Of course I now had to get to the bottom of the hill which I did, on my side 😉

Yes, I did it again, I picked the wrong track through the loose crap and lost the front end again, this is hard work so maybe I will slow down a bit from now on! But, I soon had it upright and parked next to the national park entry gate. Now, here we ran into a snag, they wanted $150BoB each for entry when we knew it was only $30. What I found out later was that the area boss is charging all foreign tourists extra, then comes around and collects the money and it then disappears, hmmmm! Anyway, we had a bit of a stoush with the people there, before we decided to ride through and not pay, this was all good until my bike would not start, but a quick push start from Chris got me going and we were soon down near the flamingo lake. Now, thanks to Graham I have a couple of photos, although I saw them I was busy repairing the windscreen and trying to work out why the bike was not starting, I could not turn it off and I hoped I did not stall it in a bad place.

Well, that was wishful thinking because not long after this we hit another bad sand section and yes, I stalled the damm thing, this was bad as there would be no way to push start it in this. I could perhaps get a tow from the truck and bump start it that way, but that was a tad dangerous and only to be used as a last resort.

I was actually at the time trying to get out of the sand and over the berm into the hard stuff, but anyway with the engine down, it was time to fix the problem as I knew it would reoccur. I removed the ignition switch as that handle bar had taken a wack as evidenced by the mirror arm being bent, but that seemed OK, no loose wires, I checked all the fuses, no problems there and then before going any further checked once more with my trusty paperclip the clutch interlock switch and that was it! I cannot believe I did not check that first, but maybe the knock on the head did that. Needless to say, I got the bike started and now could relax once I got onto the relatively hard stuff and headed up and out of the valley where the corrugations become very welcome as long as it was not soft sand, I am about over that!

But no, we still had heaps more sand to go in sections, but I learnt my lesson and basically paddled my way through, very slowly 🙂 But now we had to take a detour out of our way to get to the Aduana where we needed to get our bikes stamped out of the country, this is in the middle of friggin nowhere, mind boggling and so far from the border! But as you can see it is very high up and it was freezing up here!

After some lunch made for us by the girls once again, cheers chicas, we had the simple process of getting the bikes stamped out of the country which took about 5 seconds each, I mean this border crossing was so simple, they should export it to Central America who as you know have an attitude problem when it comes to any border crossing and make it so hard you feel like turning back and going home.

By this stage of the trip I was becoming a bit tired and I am sure I was being affected by the altitude, I also had a small suspicion that I was mildly concussed, mainly due to the fact of tunnel vision and dizziness, but I could not be sure. One of the main factors about me continuing was that how would the bike get out, it had most of everything I owned attached to it and while it was still running, well how could I give up on it 😕 I did consider over the next 3 to 4 hours about just stopping but I figured as long as I stayed upright through the sand and rocks and shit then I may get to the end. The main thing I noticed was tiredness and I would find myself sitting on the seat, that was when I got angry and told myself to stand up on the pegs otherwise I will be lying down again and this time it may be amongst the rocks, not bulldust, so once again my allergy to pain kept me upright 🙂

Well, it did not matter how far I got ahead, I always had to stop because which track do I take, left or right, there are bugger all road signs down here and sometimes the most well worn track is not always the one to take! But as it turns out this track took us to the Agua Caliante area, or hot springs

Oh, did I mention I hate sand, well as I had pretty much lost all my new found confidence, the next little while was not fun let me tell you, but using the new trick of slow down and paddle through using my feet, it was doable!

In between all the sand I could see nice scenery, but very rarely did I have time to more than take a quick glance unless I came to a complete stop. After more hours of torture by this stage it was with glee that we finally came within sight of the Bolivia/Chile border. And this was when we met a group of riders heading into Bolivia, it was late afternoon and their destination was Villa Mar where we had stayed, well they had some tough night riding ahead if they hoped to get there as it had taken us over 8 hours to get here. But, anyway, by about 5pm we were at the border and here we had to wait for about 20 minutes for the ute with all the gear.

Well, hopefully that would be the last time I see Bolivia for a while, it was strange county but I can add another check mark to the sticker that says “The Land of the Not Quite Right”. So, after giving the final salute to the land of the not quite right we had only about 10km of hard packed well looked after gravel to play on at high speed before we found some very welcome black stuff and yes we all got down and kissed the tarmac! 🙂

After this it was a fast run into the town of San Pedro de Atacama(still on soft tyres of course as I had no interest in stopping at this late stage of the afternoon), it was nearly 6pm and once in the town we had no choice but to go through customs which lucky for us closed at 11pm. Melissa chatted to the customs guys and they were kind enough to allow the truck through(Bolivian truck and driver with no passport) so the gear could be taken straight to a hotel. The border crossing for us was easy again, fill out a customs declaration form about fruit and stuff and get the passport stamped. Go to the Aduana next door where they checked the license plate of the bike but not the VIN, once they give you the TVIP, take the customs dec form to the other guys with SAG badges and they may look at one or all of the luggage boxes and wave you through, very easy, another lesson for Central America here 🙂 All in all it was only half an hour and that was mainly waiting patiently in line.

Of course I used this opportunity to meet my first Chilean chica 🙂

The next hour or so was annoying as we tried to find a hotel/hostel for 10 people and 6 bikes on a Saturday night. We did eventually find somewhere which was very expensive, cost $80/night and very basic rooms, but at this stage although we bitched about it, accepted the fact it was going to be expensive here. We hit the town for a feed which we also found very expensive, especially paying $4 for a beer! After paying $1 or thereabouts for the past month or more, this could be an alcohol free country! 😦 We did get some entertainment though from a glass ball juggler, he was actually very good and had good control.

It was not a late night as we were all tired, I was hurting a bit but not much as I was just happy to be on pavement and now it was time to take stock and work out how to see the Dakar, because by now they were running south from Iququi to Antofagasta so I had missed that crossing point. There was a rest day tomorrow for them in Antofagasta, so it was possible to ride hard and long days and play catch up. But, as there was no internet here it was hard to do much planning, tomorrow we were heading to the coast.

Day – 158 miles and 254 km
Trip – 48,604 miles and 78,221 km



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