We were very surprised to meet a couple of Dutch cyclists, but they weren´t friendly. On our way to Caldera, we passed many unique bays. In town we found a nature shop where we bought dried fruit and nuts for reasonable prices. Later we had great lunch for a ridiculous price (1,800 CH$) in the "Casino de Alimentacion". We then returned to Ruta 5, and had a quiet night hidden from the road behind cliffs.
We got up at 5 AM, by 8 we were already cycling towards Chañaral. At 10:30 we were too hungry to ride, so we stopped for an early lunch. While eating, we noticed a man jogging on the road, and we wondered whether he was a professional runner, and why he was running on this busy road.
When we caught up with him, we had a chat while running / cycling. This was Jesper from Denmark, on his world crossing run (worldrun.org). He runs about a marathon every day and is almost finishing cycling around the world twice. He passed in Punta Arenas in January, about the same time we did, so in general he is running in our pace.This part of his trip he does with Alex from the US, his photographer and escort (in the car). Jesper hoped to finally buy a new pair of running shoes as he needs to change them every few hundred kilometers. We were all disappointed when we reached the ugly town of Chañaral, which was especially useless as it was Sunday. After wasting 4 hours there we escaped back to the road. We camped near a mine, in a full moon night.
Before starting the cycling day, we had a nice chat with Luis, the mine guard. He gave us an explanation about the whole mining infrastructure in Chile, and showed us different kinds of mineral they excavate from this mine: copper, sulfur, gold, pyrite, iron and more.
The whole Chilean economy is based on the mining industry, and except that Chile doesn´t produce much more. He estimated the annual mortality rate from mining is about a dozen. Luis claims to be saved twice from death through mining accidents by Jesus. To pass his time alone there, he does a lot of Macrame, and he gave Shoham a nice necklace of the pyrite rock, "fool´s gold".
We enjoyed also his kind companion, his dog, Perla who goes crazy in the sight of passing cars, and chases them like a typical Chilean dog.
In the middle of a long and windy climb, we gave up our try to get to the next Posada, and ate lunch on the side of the road. This turned out to be a lazy decision as it was just 30 minutes away. The people in this restaurant were delighted to fill our water bottled and were willing to sell us some bread and fruits. The night we spent behind an altar in the memory of Marcelo, a truck driver who died on December 2010 at the age of 35.
His friends put there tiny trucks to entertain him in the after world. This is just one of many other altars for road accidents casualties that we saw along the way.
We spent the whole morning fixing 2 broken spokes (on the cassette´s side), and doing general maintenance for the bicycles. After this late start we bravely survived until the next Posada, and were rewarded by an excellent lunch. The waiter expected us to choose the only dishes they serve there: Loco clamp soup and fish or steak plate (2,700 CH$).
From there we proceeded towards Taltal, to get away from Ruta 5 to the coast. After 2 km of riding, Shoham had a strange accident as a piece of metal entered her tire from one side and went out from the other. The air from the tube came out only after we took out the metal. We had to use our last of 7 tubes that started this trip with us, and to finally mount the tire we carried for over 2,500 km from Argentina.
The valley going down to Taltal was charming.
In Taltal we spent 3 nights at San Marco´s Residencial (10,000 CH$ for the room). After a week without a shower we enjoyed very much the hot shower. Marco was exceptionally kind and offered us to do all our laundry there for free.
In profession he is a history teacher, so we got a good review of the Chilean short history. He explained that the war Chile had with Bolivia and Peru in 1879 was all about the money. They wanted to conquer Bolivian and Peruvian terrains in order to benefit from the sulfur that was abundant there, especially to make more explosives from it. Marco was very interested in the Israeli politics and mentality. In Taltal you would find everything you need in small shops and for high prices. It is surprising how diverse the products are in every shop there. You have about 50 department stores selling almost the same stuff. There is not much to do here, yet it is a pleasant town.
The only interesting thing happening here is the high school kids protest for a cause unknown to us. They blocked the entrance to school with a huge pile of chairs and they stand on the roof and shout slogans. No one here takes them seriously, but they enjoy themselves very much.
We plan to cook here a bit, and then leave towards Antofagasta on Ruta 1.
Shoham & Amit
Shoham & Amit