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herbert and i

Chiles Endless Desert

CHILE | Saturday, 18 October 2008 | Views [704] | Comments [9]

My last night in Peru i ran into a Colombian on a 1150 GS, so we made a plan to ride together for the day. It was strange riding with someone after so many months of riding alone. We reached the frontier papers at the ready, just stamp me and the bike out, but no, a final bit of beaurecratic nonsense at the border. We had to buy a slip in triplicate and go to many and varied windows to get stamps. I am glad i didnt waste the couple of thousand dollars on a carnet because even with the tryptich one still needs to go through the same amount of paperwork. This border is by far the most organised, but it still took a couple of hours before we were free to ride through. Just before Arica i lost the chain once again. My new friend enlisted the help of the local motorcycle mechanic who promptly had it fixed. I decided to stay in Arica to sort myself out, so we parted ways he headed towards Antofagasta. The mechanic then took me back to his workshop where i was made an official member of the Arica Moto Club and presented with a skull cap and key holder with the clubs logos.

I left Arica at 7.00 am and sorted out fuel stops as there are long stretches without fuel. This is as stark a route as i have ever been on, lots of nothing, arid, dry and salt laden desert. I stopped at some strange statues off the road, as i was photographing i felt the earh shake beneath me. Low and powerful like thunder, it gave me a start. I headed off and there they were tanks firing live rounds into the desert. The whole earth seemed to shake with eat impact, sending clouds of dust into the air. i was going to photograph the tanks but thought better of it.

All was going well when the bike went into a weave, i initially thought it was the grooves cut into the road. It then went into a tank slap and instantly i knew i had another puncture. Luckily i was able to control the bike to a stop. It was the most desolate place, I flagged down a truck driver who helped me set the bike up so it wouldnt fall over, i then got to changing the tube. A double headed nail was the culprit, all was going well till i tried to find the valve remover. Finally after what seemed like hours i had the bike back together. Then a loud explosion probably a km away made me jump, a huge mushroom cloud of dust filled the air and blew in my direction. I couldnt get going fast enough this place is eerie. I finally stumbled into a hotel in a town called Calama 13 hours after starting out and 605kms what a day.

From Calama i headed east into the desert for San Pedro de Atacama and the Salt lakes. The chain was causing me problems, i had been told it was a Brazilian chain and couldnt handle the power of anything over a 250. San Pedro is a tourist trap of the highest order although really starkly beautiful it is as expensive as the US or Canada. I decided to leave and visit the Salt Lakes on the way through to Antofagasta. I got there with 2 more chain adjustments in 350 kms. This was now at the critical stage. I was told La Sirena was the place to get the repairs so without an option i nursed the bike south. The scenery changed from stark desert to stony plains dotted with the first plant life in hundreds of miles. The road then cut to the coast, seeing the water made me feel that i had passed the hardest part and gave a strange sense of security. It progressively became greener till vineyards dotted the desert growing up the hills and covering the plains. I stopped for photos, then after taking off, I heard a great grinding sound and the rear wheel locked sending the bike into a huge skid. The chain had come off and locked around the swingarm. I couldnt move the bike at all. Lots of banging and hamering had it freed. It all went back together but had chewed up the sprocket. I was really going to have to nurse it 350 kms.

The next day i made a very painfully slow ride at between 40 and 50 kms stopping to lube the chain every half hour. Stopping for fuel the best thing to happen in days, i was given a free road book of Chile with fuel, stops, camping etc and lots of good wishes. I arrived in La Sirena late in the afternoon exhausted and with a sore bum, my Airhawk seat cushion also sprung a leak. I met a biker on a KLR 650 who told me he had a bike shop, he was going to a funeral so i would have to make my own way there, and guess what i got lost. Then i saw it a guiding light a beacon to a change in luck hopefully, Tonino Motos named after the owner Tonino. The mechanics got to changed the front and rear tyres, chain and sprockets and oil and filter change. One of the employees owned a hostel so my change in fortune had begun.



Tanks firing on you? Mushroom clouds? Broken down with a puncture on a lonely desert road - bloody 'ell, what are you trying to do to me!!! DO stay safe!! xx Kylie

  Kylie Graham Oct 18, 2008 5:26 PM


WOW! Your adventures continue to leave us boggle-eyed. "Things" are only supposed to happen in 3's. How come you had 4 zippers go? Glad you got 'em all going again, particularly the fly one! Gosh, a double headed nail in that part of the world! Wot rotten luck. 605 K's in a car is long enough let alone riding/driving a motorbike! Hope you managed some rest in Calama. Continue with your safe riding. Our love.

  Elaine and Paul Oct 18, 2008 5:33 PM


Forgot to say - above - tanks firing live rounds, a mushroom cloud. Is Stephen Spielberg directing this saga? Have courage for the next leg - whatever that brings. Our love, still....

  Elaine and Paul Oct 18, 2008 5:47 PM


The Cuenca Black Riders AND NOW the Arica Moto Club? You sure there's no conflict of interest there? Just be careful that skull cap's not a real skull, you know how fussy they can be at Aussie Immigration. See you real soon, Slim and Chief xxx

  kay and allan Oct 20, 2008 12:13 PM


PS love the pics of the Nazca Lines - what an awesome adventure. k

  kay and allan Oct 20, 2008 12:32 PM


Damn that Brazilian chain, but arriba Tonino Motos!! Here's hoping that things start looking up. xx Kylie

  Kylie Graham Oct 23, 2008 1:02 PM


Hello! Hola! Sounds like fun and games! But I loved those photos of Herbert with the Pacific Ocean in the background, plus that sandy road - plus that road cutting right through the sand dune, with only a little wooden fence to stop the rest of the sand dune tumbling down...Those Nasca lines too, man you are living a dream! Despite the plumbing (hope it has improved...:)

  Annette Edwards Oct 25, 2008 1:29 PM


Absolutely amazing Tony. I admire your endurance and sense of adventure......I would have given up months ago!

  Gary Khoo Oct 28, 2008 7:32 PM


Hello Tony, what great good luck to find just what you needed. It seems to me that good fortune is with you on this wonderful adventure...so, be a sport...how about posting 6 numbers for Tatts this week???
Kylie in good form. We are all looking forward to seeing you safely home.
Stay safe.

  kathleen Oct 29, 2008 8:10 PM

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