PS: I just updated the “Where We Are” Page, now complete with zoomable google maps, showing where we stay every night. I love those red dots, slowly making their way towards the South.
6/26- Arica to Cuya – 105km
6/27- Cuya to KM1867 Posada – 102km
6/28- KM1867 Posada to Iquique through Humberstone- 105km
6/29- Rest day in Iquique
6/30- Iquique to South of Puerto Patilos – 75km
7/1- South of Puerto Patilos to South of Playa Quebrada Honda– 104km
7/2- South of Playa Quebrada Honda to Tocopilla- 65km
7/3- Tocopilla to Hornitos – 105km
7/4- Hornitos to Antofagasta- 85km
7/5-7/7 – Rest days, 4th of July celebrations, Copa America and Brady’s birthday in Antofagasta
On the way out of Arica, we stopped by a Copec gas station to buy a map. A really nice British guy who have been living here a while chatted us up. He rides motorcycle and is very familiar with the road that we will be taking. He gave us really good reliable pointers with information about what time the wind starts blowing which directions (very useful information!)
The road goes up and up for an hour and a half, then a small but really fast and smooth downhill, followed by a 1100m gain with a bit of headwind and straight upill and downhill section at the top.
Typical view for the day- desert on either side, smallish to medium shoulder. Good thing that the road was pretty quiet.
We finished the day by losing the elevation gained all the way down to Cuya. The wind was blowing pretty strongly that it made our downhill progress pretty slow.
Down in Cuya- there were a few restaurants to choose from (6-8), but we needed to figure out whether we wanted to camp in the windy valley. We went to the only hostel in town and decided to stay there instead of camping to get out of the wind. Brady made amazing salami and avocado sandwich. We watched a random movie on the TV in the dorm room we were staying at (we were the only people)—nice to see that Chileans have channels in English- not dubbed!
The next day started with a little uphill section for 25km or so- We are in the valley so the wind was channeled through and it was so strong!
Stretching midway a 1200m climb- I’m getting this climbing thing down, averaging at 500 vertical meter every hour. A few minutes after this picture was taken, a kind gentleman gave us a bunch of guavas and apples. He was pulled over on the shoulder to pay tribute to a roadside memorial for his friend who passed away the past year in a truck accident.
There were a few more geoglyphs at the top of llamas. I didn’t take very good pictures and it was pretty far away.
After the downhill, the road flattens out and WE GOT OUR FIRST TAILWIND!! We were speeding on through at 18mph! It was glorious with the vast expanse of desert stretching on either side of the road, distant mountains and the soft hues of the impending sunset.
As we got into the tent to tuck in for the night, the dogs from the restaurant started barking at us .We let them at it for 15 minutes before Brady threw bread at them. It worked for 45 minutes or so before they started barking at us again. Thankfully we were both very heavy with benadryl induced sleep, so we couldn’t be bothered.
After more of the amazing melon and guava juice in the morning, we continued our way to Iquique- only 50 miles to go! We stopped by abandoned Nitrite mining town from the late 1800s-mid 1900s that is declared as UNESCO world heritage site. Nitrite plays a very important role in Chile’s political and economic development. Fun fact: Chile is a nation with the highest GDP per capita in South America (US$ 14-15K versus Peru’s $6.5K) . This completely explains why everything is so much more modern and expensive here than Peru.
It was hot out, but the place looked eerie nonetheless. It was a Sunday, so there were a few other local tourists as well. A lady tried explaining to me how much this area and this type of town has affected Chile.
On the way out of Humberstone, we took the road that ran parallel to the freeway. This road was closed to car traffic, so we had the road all to ourselves.
However, at the end of the road, right before it meets the freeway, the whole thing was fenced off with poles and barbed wires. We had to crawl through the space between the barbed wires!
We thought that this day was going to be easy peasy, without that many hills. However, the HEADWIND was gnarly! Good thing we were able to ride on a 2 lane freeway on the other side of the median from live traffic. Seems like the road is under construction, almost done but still not open for public. It was nice riding in the middle of the road when the wind gusts make our bikes wobble.
We arrived at Iquique on a Sunday afternoon. We looked around for a hostel and got lucky after our 3rd try. (I am cheap on accommodation and would rather splurge on meals). We found a decent hostel, a few blocks from the ocean.
However, EVERYTHING was closed, no restaurants, or bars, or any services. What a tease! They have restaurants with THAI FOOD and SUSHI and everything, but they were all closed. We managed to find a supermarket that was open. New discovery in Chile: Wines are amazing and really really cheap- I’m talking about $5/ bottle for really good wine. We have been drinking a copious amount of wine here. It’s almost cheaper than water, or coca cola, or the nasty gum tasting Inka Cola.
We decided to spend an additional day to check out all the amazing restaurants that were closed on that Sunday.
Alas, on Monday, everything was still closed! What is going on? I asked around and people are somehow convinced that everything was open— Online search reveals that Iquique was hit by an 8.2 magnitude earthquake on April 2014—we assumed that this was why all the services was closed- similar to Christchurch in NZ. However, not a lot of the buildings were boarded up or appear to be very damaged. Is it their winter school break?? We were so confused. We spent the day searching for places to eat and places to buy groceries for the next 3 day stretch where we won’t have very many services.
Walking around town, we found this- the university was boarded up (see the chairs stacked up behind the gate?), apparently, Chile has huge student&teachers demonstrations for educational reform here, demanding change to the very privatized and very expensive educational system here. Two students were even killed in Valparaiso during a clash with authorities in May of this year. We saw another (very big) demonstration in Arica, where all the professor/as wore black and lined the streets.
The following day (Tuesday), the town came alive!! Turns out that Monday was St Peter and St Paul holiday,… we never got to dine the many seemingly good restaurants in Iquique. Maybe next time.
The next 3 days were all along the coast to the town of Tocopilla. The road was nice with wide shoulders, but the headwind was very strong almost the entire time. We rode with a slow place (11mph avg), 65miles, 75 miles and 50 miles consecutively to reach Tocopilla.
We found a campsite 10 minutes or so from the main freeway- Our campsite was exactly in the middle of two beaches. I was a bit worried since it was a full moon night which means the highest tide of the month (right??- that would only make sense!!) that we might get engulfed. Here’s our two beautiful surly bikes getting ready to be released of their weights.
And made dinner of quinoa, zucchini and carrots with taco seasoning. As we were cooking and eating, there were a few of really cute small mice running pretty close to us, obviously excited about the food smell. We shooed them away and made sure to keep all of our food in the panniers inside our tent’s vestibule for the night.
We camped at amazing campsites along the beach off the freeway. We got to our campsite late on the second day (7:30PM) and had to put the tent in the dark. It was hard to find campsite as the coastline was dotted with shanty-town-looking fish camps. The people here collect and sell seaweed, so they live pretty spread out everywhere, especially around Punta Arenas.
The Ocean was glorious, we fell asleep lulled by the crashing gnarly waves. The beaches and ocean North of Tocopilla remind me of the Northern California beaches- rugged, with strong dangerous waves and endless as-far-as-you-can-see ocean. The wind seem to die down later in the day, so we slept really well (too well to hear the mouse chewing the pannier a foot away).
One thing of note was that we did this in the midst of winter here, so a lot (80%) of the services that were supposed to be open in the summer or other seasons were closed. This made it a little more difficult to find restaurants or stores, but we brought plenty with us and rode with enough water for the day—See biking notes below
I don’t know because it is winter, or it is generally like this, but the fog was very thick and dense throughout the day. We barely had to put on sunscreen. It’s a little bit of a bummer because the sunset and the stars were blocked by this really thick (almost San Francisco- thick) fog. It also made the ride a bit grey.
We spent the night at Tocopilla, a quite port town with hostel. We stayed at a pretty tired hostel, ate steak and had great juice. For some reasons there are lots of Colombianos living there.
Only to fall over sideways pretty hard, scraping his hips and elbow, as well as breaking the plastic part of this brake. Shoot. Here’s my temporary fix for his front brake- it kinda works. Tsk, this is what I call completely unnecessary risk.
The 2 day ride from Tocopilla to Antofogasta was similar, except the wind got stronger and the shoulder disappears. The cars were going hella fast, so it made it a little bit terrifying.
The next day, from Hornitos to Antofagasta was pretty gnarly with headwind. We had to get to Antofagasta early to watch the final of Copa America for Chile vs Argentina. Getting into Antofagasta, they had ciclovia, bike path, leading 15km into the city.
We are staying 4 nights in Antofagasta- which is the 2nd biggest city in Chile. It’s not super recommended by Lonely Planet as there are no tourist attractions, but the city itself is nice, with people jogging along the beach, and nice fish market with delicious ceviche. And we are staying for 4 nights to celebrate Brady’s birthday here (instead of the desert with no services). We spend the days jogging, doing maintenance on the bikes, eating cakes,ceviche and empanadas, and watching netflix.
We had fun watching and celebrating Chile’s win in Copa America. The city and the country went nuts, with all the drivers (presumed drunk), driving through the streets, honking up a storm all night long, yelling CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, CHILE CHILE, VIVA CHILE!
It’s getting colder and colder as we head South. The days are also short (10am-6:30pm). The days with sun are the most glorious.