"Pushing South - literally! "
So south it was the next morn as we headed east ( and yet more down ) almost to the coast to the North South Panamerican highway. It did not take a genius to work out that our direction was to be South!
It was yet another nice desert ride as we wended our way south. Mid afternoon it was border time ( yet again !)as we saw the Chilean flag arise in the desert distance. And for the very first time in South America and Latin America the border officials spoke some English and were helpful. It was not quite the "Jolly good show I say old chap, having an adventure are you" type of English but it was nice to hear it all the same.
Arica is the first Chilean town across the border and therefore the most northern one and a nice welcoming one at that. At one stage in order to get to our hotel I deliberately ( and slightly provocatively) went down a one way street as I was too tired to navigate around the long way. Who did I meet half way thru this interesting and delicate manouvre than no other but a traffic officer with flashing lights coming the right way! However all that was needed from me was a slight promise to reform my character and riding habits and to turn around the right way and the little problem was solved. So I carried on down riding the footpath instead of the wrong way down the street. Problem easily solved officer!
Then the hotel. The young girl behind the counter said I could park my bike in the little courtyard past the reception counter. I duly rode in. She had a fit! It seemed she thought I was on a push bike! Anyway we got thru a very narrow standard doorway ( I now know I can ride through a standard house front door - watch out if I ever come to stay at your place !) and in spite of protestations I stayed put. She eventually calmed down to standard Spanish 101 instead of the high pitched voluble almost shrieking variety!
One of the things I notice in Arica is a lot of the houses had broken or missing tiles on the roof. Then the penny ( peso!) dropped. If it never ever rains you can be somewhat relaxed about missing tiles on your roof can't you?
From Arica it was anther days hop to the city of Iquique. It was a lovely ride thru the desert. Which got me thinking about the misconceptions of deserts
Try this -
Tropical deserts are very hot. Not when Mr Humbolts current is there
Deserts are flat things The Atacama is quite hilly in Chile
Deserts are sandy. For sand read lots of rocks and stones
Deserts are boring. The Atacama is anything but!
Deserts are dangerous. Not compared with driving thru cities!
Deserts have oasises( and mirages). True
And of course sometimes there is light at the end of the tunnel..........
So instead of riding the Atacama being a drag it has been one of the highlights of the trip.
There is some sand tho
And like the sands of time thru the hour glass so do go our lives -
And other interesting thing has now happened. I had a small shadow in front of my helmet at lunchtime. We had overtaken the sun! For the first time since Prudhoe bay we now had the noontime sun behind us.
Then that profound astronomical observation of mine was vindicated as we passed the sign that said "Tropico Capricornia". Another milestone was passed, we were out of the tropics.
From here ( in Mexico)
Actually it does seem as if we are on the back straight now that we are heading down Chile. In three days time we will be in Santiago which I think is roughly level with the top of New Zealand. Then a few days after that we will be in the temperate ( and wet) climes of the Puerto Montt region. One of the characteristics of Chile of course is that it is all very straight north,south so you actually start accumulating longitude very quickly. "North and South" would be a very good name for a magazine here!
So on our rest day here in Antofagasta ( a lovely and memorable sounding name for a town or city - a lot better than something boring like "Wellington") it was time to wash the thermals and bring the rain gear to the top of the bags. Bring it all on! It is almost a month since we have seen a drop of rain.