Wednesday, June 1, 2011


We tried 10 hostels before settling in in the cheapest one we could find that offered hot water. We paid 12,000 CH$ for a room for two, and could have saved a bit of money if we had chosen to sleep in a one person room, sharing a bed. The hostel wasn´t fancy, and worse, the owner tried to be unhelpful. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the hot shower and sleeping in beds. We prefer not to write down here the hostel´s name as they do not deserve it.


We went to the only bicycle shop in the city, but still a very good one (Oxford, Ossa 2648). There we finally found a good back rack for Amit, to replace the old one which was broken in at least 4 places but still managed to hold on. We also got a key to open the chain, a tool we have been looking for a long time.
Their mechanic gave us his word that he will give for free our old parts that could still serve other bicycles.


In the only camping store in town (Andesgear, Mall Plaza) we found 2 MSR stoves, for reasonable prices - about half than what the cost in Israel but probably 3 times more than in the US. We bought the XGK MSR stove for 109,900 CH$, and we hope it would serve us well.
There we found out it was probably our fault that our stove died. We used paint diluent as burning fuel, as it is easier to find then white gas and burns cleaner. Although it worked for a while, it probably melted the inside rubber parts and brought to the stove´s death. There are many big and cheap supermarkets in the city, and we did a lot of shopping in them, and even found some cheap and tasty dark chocolate, 55% cocoa, imported from Germany. As we plan to enter Bolivia soon, we wanted to buy a map of Bolivia. The only maps we could find where maps of Chile, so we tried the tourist information which is in itself not so easy to find open. They directed us to the Bolivian embassy. 3 nice bureaucrats welcomed Shoham when she entered, and after half an hour of waiting and watching them printing maps from the internet, they were finally convinced to give her a real map, for free.

The Market
In the market there are 20 restaurants in one huge building. All the restaurants offer the same menu for about the same price. Upstairs, where it seems like the locals eat, the menu is slightly cheaper (2,000 CH$). Upon entering the market during lunch time, one is attacked and not released until he sits down in the restaurant and orders the first dish.


The desert, an ice lolly with a taste that changes daily, is given only when it is demanded. Just like in Israel, around the market we found shops dedicated for nuts, dried fruits and legumes, so we stocked up for the way.

We were ready to go when we went to the internet one last time, and got a message from Jorge who has just come back from a motorcycle vacation and was willing to host us. So we decided to extend our stay in two more nights. Jorge lives with his roommate, Sofia, on the 14th floor quite near the sea and next to a lively school.


He is a mechanical engineer, yet works as a contract manager, in the power plant 60 km to the north of Antofagasta. Unlike most Chileans, he speaks English, thanks to the lessons he takes.

Jorge insisted that we stay for two nights so that we will have the chance to participate in the CouchSurfing meeting in their apartment. They said that about 10 people should come, so we made some snacks: Humus with mushrooms, buns and a chocolate banana cake. Eventually, 30 people showed up, but at least half of them spent the night smoking and drinking in the porch. We liked better the other CouchSurfers. There were two Turkish who are working in the Paranal observatory as optical mechanical engineers. We were all a bit embarrassed talking about the political situation our countries got themselves into after the flotilla demonstration. It was very cool to meet Daniel, a Chilean who just came back from Israel after living 3 years in Tel Aviv. Molly, a 21 years old Jewish girl from the US, offered an interesting conversation. She is spending one semester in Antofagasta studying journalism as part of her bachelor degree in political science. At some point of the evening we were offered a couch in La Paz with Jose Luis, who lives there. After the party we left the city towards Calama which is the last city we will encounter before Bolivia.

For more photos of this post click here


                       Shoham & Amit
                     South America by Bicycle

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