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Old 05-20-2014, 02:55 PM   #466
SeanPNW OP
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Originally Posted by Captain Katanga View Post
Sean, I've been following along for a while, but just wanted to say that this is truly an excellent, epic adventure!! Thanks for a great distraction at work From one Seattleite to another, thanks for allowing us to vicariously enjoy the ride along. Keep it up, and best of luck!!
Hey Captain Katanga, glad you're along for the ride and thanks for the , definitely feel lucky to be down here.

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Old 05-21-2014, 06:53 AM   #467
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Sean,

I stumbled across your RR and i haven't been able to put it down. Your ride is unique, to me at least. So many things sing out to me that I can identify with which is why it's made such a good read on Lunch breaks at work (still on page 25, trying to catch up!)

We're similar age, from Seattle area, educated... You're living the dream, so i will live vicariously through your written story and pictures. Roll on my friend. I'll gladly buy you a beer when you make it back up to the PNW.
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Old 05-21-2014, 10:29 AM   #468
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Originally Posted by GtiKyle View Post
Sean,

I stumbled across your RR and i haven't been able to put it down. Your ride is unique, to me at least. So many things sing out to me that I can identify with which is why it's made such a good read on Lunch breaks at work (still on page 25, trying to catch up!)

We're similar age, from Seattle area, educated... You're living the dream, so i will live vicariously through your written story and pictures. Roll on my friend. I'll gladly buy you a beer when you make it back up to the PNW.
Heyo GtiKyle, those lunch breaks are the perfect time to mull over RR's. I did my fare share of it on the clock too, but shhhhhhhhhhh.
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Old 05-21-2014, 01:42 PM   #469
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89. Desert, Desert, Desert, Chile!, Desert

The next morning I rolled out of the hostel...



Grabbed some quick cheap foodÖ



And headed out of dodge. In the morning light I got a warm cheery feeling about Arequipa. I didnít see much of the city, and itís not necessarily pretty, or super eccentric in any way, but thereís something about the air here that just seems, comfortable.



Some construction shot me out onto side roads so I stayed on them to skirt around the city and link up with the highway. That same Ďwarmí feeling is out here, donít know what it is though.



Pretty imediately whenever you leave a town things get rural real quick. The immensity of the Atacama desert comes on like the depth of the ocean as soon as you get away from shore. Itís massive, vast, and feels like it could just swallow you up.





Hey look, got some desert right here.



Yep, got some over here too.



Still more desert.



OH BOY A HILL!



More desert.



Tire in a desert.



Wholy fuck me, is that...green?



Shit, are those dairy cows???



More desert.



Eventually I came into another civilization, Tacna. Like an oasis in the desertÖ.because, thatís what it is.



My camera died after the previous photo, but Tacna is the last city before the border with Chile. Holy shit balls Iím goin to Chile. I couldnít find any couch surfers that had space for the bike so I looked around for the cheapest Hospedaje I could find. I couldnít find anything for less than 40, but I did manage to talk a lovely old man down from 50 to 30 soles, and thus secured a nice warm bed to call home for the night. I checked out the city for a bit and realized there are a suspicious number of casinos here in Tacna . I walked around aimlessly for a while, bought some granola and yogurt for dinner and breakfast, and then hit the hay. The next day I was up early before the sun to hit the road and get over the border. Iím headed to a place called Iquique and itís a ways away. I have a couch surfer lined up there and itís good manners to not arrive late at night.



See ya later Tacna.



Good morning, desert.



Where de at?



Peru, you are fucking big, see ya later!



Why hello there Chile, nice to meet you!



Chile, you have some suspiciously similar desert material.



But your canyons are quite unique.





Hills in the desert.



Hey look, geoglyphs. Itís funny how you can just remove some surface rocks to make images and that shit will stay for hundreds of years. Not much change in landscape going on out here.





Vanity shot, sheís looking a bit porky lately, when is my rear tire gonna be sufficiently bald to swap, she just keeps on grippingÖ



If something flips over and catches fire, donít fret, just leave that shit!



One thing Iíve noticed about Chile is that they have a few more Ďrefinedí touches to their roads. Like nice places to pull over and park if you are tired while driving through the never ending desert. They also have fancy and fashionably conscientious solar powered street lights. Nice work Chile, youíre doing good.



Then, out of the middle of fucking nowhere, BOOM, look at that city. Hellooooo Iquique.



Itís a new country, so I need to get some money, get a new cell phone chip, and call my surf host. First though, I need to try the food.



Ah fuck it, gimme dat pizza. Not very chillean, but I like seeing cheese and olives again. There wasnít much of that in Peru.



Iquique is an interesting city with a number of different flares in itís cap. It feels like Antigua had a love child with San Diego and the resulting Iquique is their teenage son. There are old-timey squares with old-timey buildingsÖ



With beachfront property, palm studded boardwalks, and plenty of sand covered surfers and trendy hipsters.





You may think that this is a rag, but I actually quite like the place. Itís big enough to have entertaining things that come with a city, but small enough to not have the extra bullshit. You can even jump on the main road down by the beach and blast from one end of town to the other in 10 minutes flat. Itís like a sleepy Miami, before it got all weird and pilly.



I met up with my surf host Anahi on the other end of town and settled in.



We exchanged stories and our knowledge of cultural icons.



I got to try straight Stevia for the first time, this shit is quite interesting (natural sugar substitute, real strong, google it).



I met her turtledoves.



And we manged some quinoa and salmon. Weird eating salmon down here, yet it almost tasted like I had walked down to Pike Place Market in Seattle and picked a fresh one out myself, almost.



We had some drinks at the house then decided to go out to a discoteca/karaoke place and meet up with some of her friends and two other couch surfers. I hadnít tried the popular drink of choice Pisco yet (to absolutely everyone's shocked bewilderment), so we ended up filling the night with 2 bottles of Pisco and fistfulls of mohitos that were on special. It was a win-win, Pisco is actually quite good, and as we got progressively more pissed, the karaoke became progressively more tolerable, if not blastingly good. We all enjoyed ourselves for several hours, then figured we werenít likely to get any drunker, and thus, the karaoke was likely at itís peak. Good time to get to gettní. I thought we were all calling it a night a bit early, as the rest of the place had just gotten loose enough to start dancing. I looked at the big ď4:12Ē written across my phone which convinced me otherwise. The group disbanded and we blurred our way through the parking lots of lingering intoxicants, blasting music from their popped trunks, and meandered back to Anahiís pad. I looked forward to some sweet sleep, and chuckled at the fact that Anahi needed to be up in 3 hours for work. Man itís nice to be unemployed.

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Old 05-24-2014, 01:57 PM   #470
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90. Where am I? What is this? Antofagasta

I rolled out of Iquique early in the morning to try and get a head start on the mileage to my next place. Iím headed to Antofagasta where I have another couch surf set up. The road is fogy, salty, and crisp.



There really isnít much going on in between little towns, and most of the towns are pretty small themselves and quite spread out. Hours go by. Not much changes. I come into a moderately sized town, I only need to fill up my emptied tank and then roll on out the other side. As I pass through something seems different about this place than the other towns. I start looking around and yes, things are in fact different here.



The architecture here is, unusual, in comparison to other towns. Itís like there is an old western flare, and a splash of care put into the structures.







Fuck me, thereís even street art, and itís good??





And there are street lights, with styling?



I stopped for some food to fill that tank up as well and to have an excuse to do some people watching.





After soaking in this odd little town I got moving again.



A few hours later I came rolling into another oddity of a town, but this one surprised me on a much larger scale. Antofagasta. There isnít anything specifically that stands out to me as to why itís all seems so odd to me, but I think itís the fact that there is an entire thriving city in the middle of what is hundreds and hundreds of miles of desert. My brain is wiped clean after days and days and days of seeing only desert, and now, rolling into here where I see neon lights, boutiques, and beautiful people in high end clothing whipping out smart phones the size of your latest panasonic plasma television, I get a little dumbfounded, like tarzan coming out of a desert jungle and straight into a concrete one. In this very moment as I type this, Iím sitting in a beautiful cafe where people are on the patio in quaint wooden chairs under under sun umbrellas sipping fancy coffee products from tiny cups chatting about mostly nothing in particular. I could very easily be in paris (if Iíd ever been there and knew what paris is likeÖ).



I call my surf host and we meet up. Meet Gubiert, heís a quirky guy, here he is with a pigeon he just reached out and caught.



Gubiert has been living here for about 7 years and is Chilean. Heís spent time living in plenty of other countries throughout his life. Pictures of lions and landscape shots of South Africa dot his walls from his 5 years there.



Heís got a spare room for couch surfers, and a balcony for me to put my stinky boots.



We head out to go see some of the city. What the fuck is this? Is this rain? Holy shit, it hasnít rained here in 4 years. Weird.





We went riding around and I got a feel for the layout of the city.





This place is fresh, modern, and hip.







We swung by a mall to see that, I get the feeling that malls around these places are kind of like a crown jewel of modernity and people like to show it off. It sure was interesting to me, havenít seen one like this since Colombia.



Itís gigantic, and when you are inside, it plays tricks on your brain real hard, ďWait, where am I? Shit, CHILE, Iím in Chile, in the fucking desert where it hasnít rained for 4 years, ah yes, thatís right, carry onÖ..Ē





At the food court, the lines for all the fast food joints from the US where long. Not a single person was lined up for the fast food places from Chile. The interest in and consumption of anything US-y or westernized is quite interesting.



Iíve been here for a couple days now and have basically just been hanging out around town and absorbing how odd everything seems. In reality, nothing is odd here, everything that is here is quite normal for a city, itís just my framework that I currently have constructed in my head for this area. Itís desert, thereís nothing here, and now that there is, my brain is fascinated and intrigued. Now that itís been a couple days though, the initial confusion is wearing off and Iím slipping back into a state of comfortability and normalcy with it all. Maybe when I hit the road again tomorrow the desert will be the odd thing.

The Chilean navy had a little expo, went and saw that.









I would tell you more about the boat they showed off, but I was busy looking at all the toys and wasnít listening.









Hitting the road tomorrow in the early AM, back to the desert, or at least I think thatís whatís further down the road.
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Old 05-25-2014, 01:59 PM   #471
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Hey there !
Just stumbled on your RR looking for the finals mods needed for my 800GS. I'm planning (well ... without plans) to do pretty much the same trip in a few weeks. Was not planning of staying out that long into places, since i'll be on a thight budget... I'm guessing 4 or 5 months back and forth, if possible.

Since I found your RR, I took so many hours reading it and taking notes that I now need to rush to get my work done respecting timelines ! Very well done, and I'm seriously interested in meeting & buying you your fave drinks on the way if our paths crosses...

Did you calculate how many km/miles you rode ?
I'm affraid of running dry on gaz, since the beemer doesn't have a big tank (18l), and even though i'll be carrying around 10L more, I still don't know. I'm kinda used to long distance stress, I live in Yukon near the Alaska border. But I hear there's places down south having problems with gaz supply... How many miles/km is your bike doing ? With everything I'll be carrying, I guess i'll go around 400miles per tanks (including the extra jerry's). Do you thing it is enough ?
Keep up the nice work dude, I'll probably be following most of your tracks in a few weeks ! I'll start out in july, and Whitehorse-Prudhoe bay will be my warm up in less than a month.
Ride safe and keep the rubber down !
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Old 05-26-2014, 06:08 AM   #472
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Originally Posted by Wrebit View Post
Hey there !
Just stumbled on your RR looking for the finals mods needed for my 800GS. I'm planning (well ... without plans) to do pretty much the same trip in a few weeks. Was not planning of staying out that long into places, since i'll be on a thight budget... I'm guessing 4 or 5 months back and forth, if possible.

Since I found your RR, I took so many hours reading it and taking notes that I now need to rush to get my work done respecting timelines ! Very well done, and I'm seriously interested in meeting & buying you your fave drinks on the way if our paths crosses...

Did you calculate how many km/miles you rode ?
I'm affraid of running dry on gaz, since the beemer doesn't have a big tank (18l), and even though i'll be carrying around 10L more, I still don't know. I'm kinda used to long distance stress, I live in Yukon near the Alaska border. But I hear there's places down south having problems with gaz supply... How many miles/km is your bike doing ? With everything I'll be carrying, I guess i'll go around 400miles per tanks (including the extra jerry's). Do you thing it is enough ?
Keep up the nice work dude, I'll probably be following most of your tracks in a few weeks ! I'll start out in july, and Whitehorse-Prudhoe bay will be my warm up in less than a month.
Ride safe and keep the rubber down !
Hey Wrebit, sounds like you've got quite the trip set out for ya in the coming months. The only places I've had trouble with gas supply have been the burn between Fairbanks and Deadhorse and then now in the Atacama region of southern Peru and Chile. Even then, not a problem if you are thinking you can do 400 miles between fuel ups (which is a fucking lot!). If you can do 250 miles you want have a problem.

I haven't done any exacting calculations but I'm somewhere around 25k - 30k miles as of right now. Link me your RR when you get going so I can follow along .
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Old 05-27-2014, 07:53 PM   #473
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91. Finding Cold In The Desert

On my last day in Antofagasta I explored the city some more, and then hit up one of the many beachfront boardwalks.



The beach is prominent here, and even on a weekday night, there are many activities taking place per usual. Girl scouts meet on the beach, families take their young kids down to play as they walk and chat, and teens and young couples take time to enjoy the sunset.













Further down and away from the city the activities shift, and simply walking along the beach is sufficient.



Other people take to Yoga.



And other people take to watching one of the many different sports fields that are publicly available. Fun fact, rugby is popular here, I’m a fan, and this is the first country in latin america I’ve come across that has an active following. When someone first told me “here are the rugby fields” I was like “excuse me? Rugby? Like real rugby???”. Yep, sure enough. They got it.



Chile is quite cosmopolitan in comparison to Peru and Ecuador. Maybe it’s all just anecdotal evidence, or situational based on the places I’ve been, but this seems to be the case. Any place in latin america with as good a pizza as this place had definitely has some strong influences acting on it. I won’t complain, a damn good slice of pizza is like finding water in a desert….or pizza for that matter.



The next morning I hit the road early. Anytime you roll before the sun in the desert, shits real cold. If you stare at the desert sand enough though, you can almost trick yourself into thinking that it’s warm, almost.



Hey look, more desert over here. After so many days in the desert, the desert itself starts to move past the initial aw and prowess, and shift more into a low buzz of monochromatic hues and shifting landscapes. Miles, hundreds of them, blur by in their never ending reformations of hills and windblown ruts. It has an odd beauty that positions itself perfectly next to it’s starkness. My dad recently said riding through the desert is kind of like riding in the twilight zone. I like this comparison, there’s something very weird, yet fascinating about the desert.



Just when you start to question if your grasp on what the rest of the world looks like is starting to slip, you come across a giant hand off in the distance rising from the desert floor. If you were on the verge of slipping into the new found reality of the twilight zone, and maybe a fistful of mushrooms deep, you may just slip right of the edge when you come across this surreal appendage. Luckily for us travelers, this is a well known spot to stop for a pic, and I am familiar with this location from all those that have been here before me.



I take some pictures, mark my presence with a piss rather than spray paint, and get back on the pista. A few hours later...what is this? Either very white sand, or snow. Although my better judgement tells me otherwise, my monkey brain argues that we are in a desert, so I’m gonna put my money on white sand.



NOPE. Fucking snow. Yeah, it’s cold.



Shortly after, I come across a wreck of both an ambulance and also a police car. I guess they were both slightly more surprised by the snow and ice than I...for I am birthed from a land of snow and ice, although surprising to find it here, my wet genetics kick in and I keep traction to avoid any mishap.



Just as quickly as it came, the snow vanishes.



Out in the desert your world is your urinal. The problem is that it NEVER rains, and so many times when you stop to utilize these unfurtile lands for your refreshment, it smells the part of a urinal as well. I walk far away from the road to reach a more virgin piss patch. Many times when I do such, I find road type things like this. What these are, I have no idea. Looks like a road. But who the fuck uses a dirt road through the desert, parallel to the pista? I don’t understand.



Mooooore desert.



I went out drinking with Gubiert until 5:20 in the morning the night before so am pretty tired. I’ve learned riding a motorcycle while nodding off is a stupid idea, and I’ve also learned that some of the best naps in the world can be had on the side of the road. 30 minutes of snoozing later I feel refreshed and alert.



The desert scenery is slowly starting to change. This may look like plants or some other sort of surface discoloration in the rockface, but do you remember picking up those cool ringed or distinctly banded rocks as a kid and thinking they might possibly be super rare and special (?)(?), WELL THEY WEREN'T (!), and in fact, there’s giant rock structures such as these with the SAME geometric banding. It’s actually a cool geologic process involving plate movement that takes millions of years and is quite interesting...but that’s all sciency. Cool to see the same concept but on a much bigger scale.



I came back down to the coast, and breathed in the fresh salty crisp air once again. Lots of nesting birds here, doesn’t rain, so along with the salt, it smells a bit of stale piss as well.



As I ride along I REALLY want to camp in these places. I haven’t come across a region where there is such easy camping since I left the US. You can literally pull of the road ANYWHERE, and ride behind a hill to sleep in complete solitude and security. Unfortunately you’ll probably fucking freeze and never wake up as well. Not seriously, but I don’t have the huevos or the sufficient desire to freeze my nuts off all night. If only I was here during the summer rather than the start of winter….I came to the town of Copiapo and got to looking for a hospedaje.



I’m liking this region of Chile more and more. The further south I get, the more of a balance there seems to be in the cities. It’s the beauty of the desert, mixed with the greenery of prosperity and life.





This town isn’t big, but it’s artsy without the fartsy and seems like a chill little place to spend a day or two. I’ve got a surf host waiting for me tomorrow though, so I’ll just be here for the night.



I ride around town and the surrounding area to get a good list of places and prices to compare with. I chat with a local for a few minutes and he informs me of the street where I can find the cheap hospedajes. I grab some food and then head over to beat feet down the block.



I score a place for 7,000 king kongs ($12), and although much more expensive than I’m used to, I also know that this is about as cheap as it gets. Damn Chile is expensive. Nice place and nice family though.



When I was napping the other day I noticed that my chain was pretty much completely toast. I saw a motorcycle shop that looked decently stocked so I stopped in to pick up a chain. I was just gonna do the chain for now, as I had a host waiting in La Serena for me, but if you’re gonna do a job do it right, so I swapped out my aging rear sprocket for my spare as well.





While there I met Cory and the shops british mechanic, David. Cory was having David work on his KLR that had mysteriously lost all of its compression...just days before he was all set to sell it and fly back home. Cory is from California and has been on the road for a year and a half now, sounds like he’s had a pretty epic ride.



After wrapping up the swap I was now getting a late start but burned my way back down to the coast, trying to beat the dropping sun in hopes of avoiding the cold. The desert is starting to have more and more green stuff in it as I move south.



I made it just in time to beat the sunset. Boom, hello La Serena.





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Old 05-30-2014, 05:51 AM   #474
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92. La Serena and Observing Vicuna

I showed up in La Serena and called up my surf host to head to his place. Didnít have to go far, as he lived right in front of the beach.



Letís just start off by saying that my host, is a couch surf pro. When I arrive I get the downlow on the building, he shows me my room (which has itís own computer with internet for guests), and gives me a set of keys to come and go as I please.



Iíve also got my own bathroom, with hot water I may add.



And a pretty killer view.



Iím pretty freakní hungry since I ended up not stopping for lunch, so I head out front to where I saw some empinada stands. We are at the beach, so they have seafood empanadas. They were simple, but very delicious. I ate two.



Back at the pad, killer rock music is blasted liberally throughout the night. Meet my host, Gonzalo. Heís a man of many talents and interests, but in particular heís got a flare for good food, good music, and good drinks. All of which he was willing to try and educate me on. First up, if you are in Chile, Iím told you MUST hear Los Jaivas (the name comes from a mash-up of what is essentially ďhighsĒ and ďbassĒ in spanish, so ďjaivasĒ).



This particular album has music videos to go along with it, and they were filmed up on Machu Picchu in Peru. The album is sung around poems by the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Chile is famous for mines, wines, and poets.



While the instrumental chilean rock fusion music played, Gonzalo switched to educating me on drinks. He said when he first moved into this apartment, the very first piece of furniture he got was this bar. Drinking well is important he says.



Judging by the taste of this mouth-flooringly delicous Pisco Sour he shook up for me, I would say he knows a thing or two.



Gonzalo left me to watch the auditory masterpiece and visual mind fuck that is Los Jaivas playing Pablo Neruda inspired 80ís songs atop Machu Picchu. How do you get a grand piano on top of Machu Picchu??



I then got educated on some tasty Chilean wine.



And how the wine and music can be paired nicely with some seafood risotto.



After being taught a thing or two about how to be a civilized human being, we pulled out google earth and got down to business. Gonzalo has travelled a lot, and he knows these areas well. I tell him what Iím in for and what I like, he quickly adapts and adjusts and filters what might be relevant information based on what my interests are. Gonzalo is a consultant for mining companies here, so he also knows a lot about the geography and why things are the way they are, geologically speaking.



Eventually I canít take any more learning and I call it a night. Gonzalo is a night owl and the killer rock music kicks back in, I donít mind though, any night with Led Zeppelin is a good night. The next day I get up and head out to get a sense for what La Serena has got going on. I never look places up before I get to them, I like to be surprised by what I find, and not have expectations. So far, this place is much more east coasty than I would have expected. It feels like fall here, the trees are changing, and people are bundled up for the light breeze that brings winter on itís wings.









People seem modern and trendy.



All the popular fashion trends are present, if not cutting edge ones. I even spotted some yarn-bombing (yeah itís a thing, get with the times and google that shit)



After milling about for a while, I stop into a cafe for some lunch, and to have an excuse to stare at people as they walk by.



The news here even seems mundane and relaxed, this headline is about distributing manuals to children on how to avoid traffic accidents, donít see any clippings about the most recent gang shooting or drug stabbing in this neck of the woods. Things are nice and peaceful. I quite like it.



I keep moving and take a peak around town. I even like the sun-lit houeses.



I head back down to the beach drive that rolls south to the end of the cove. This area technically becomes another city called Coquimbo.



Some sort of big monument over there. Thatíll be easy to find.



Quite a few more birds on this end of town.



Coquimbo is smaller, a bit less modernized, but a lot more laid back than La Serena. If La Serena were a Saturday, Coquimbo would be itís Sunday.



Near the center of Coquimbo I stop into a small dome. Here they have some history about the native people that used to live in this region.



These people performed burial rituals in a very unique way, unlike any other culture. They would bury their dead inside of animals. This here is an animal similar to a Llama, and inside of it you can see the skeleton of a human.



I grab some chocolate covered strawbs and grapes and keep on moving.



I bump into two Slovenian backpackers, Martin and Tom, and we all agree itís about Beer-thirty. Martin had been road tripping around the US when his buddy Tom said he was heading to Chile for his 1 month of vacation, come along he said, so now they are here tramping around getting as much trekking in as possible. Nice guys. They gave me a lot of good bata for things south of here, as that is where they had come from.



This place had good deserts. I am trying to conserve my money, but fucking EVERYTHING here is expensive, and sometimes you just canít split hairs over enjoying yourself. Aaaaaand Iím a fat kid at heart.





We say Ďgood-dayí and move on. The big statue that I saw earlier is now covered in fog and I canít see it, but I know itís at the top of whatever hill is here, so I just start heading Ďupí until I canít go up anymore. Shortly later I find itís big concrete structure jutting out of the top of the hill.



Once I get up close I can see itís a big cross. You can pay to go up inside of it, but I wasnít too interested. Watching the other people do it was good enough for me.



Side note, the men in this region where cool hats. I couldnít pull one off, but shit, they sure do.



Instead of going inside the structure I sat out on the steps and made friends with a dirty stinky adorable stray.



Itís tail had dreadlocks, and it was a bit of a derp, but he had character by the bucket.



I kept roaming around town, found some street art, and then headed back up to La Serena. Gonzalo told me about a nice place up in the valley that I want to go to tomorrow so I best be heading back.





All along the Atacama there are thin strips of valleys where the land is prosperous and where rivers flow. Historically, this is obviously where the people flocked to as well. Most of these cities that Iíve been going to sit somewhere in one of these Valleys and out towards the ocean where seafood and ports for import/export can be made. The valley that La Serena sits in is rather special though, and it is called the Valle de Elqui. This valley has a particular geography that makes it somewhat of a microclimate and leads to 340 days a year of sunny clear skies once you get inland a few kilometers. Because of this Chile is a prime location for placing observatories to study our solar system and the observable universe. Earlier when I said Chile is known for mines, wines, and poets, I left out Astronomy. There arenít many places in the world left that have good enough weather year round and no light pollution from surrounding towns and cities. The next most productive telescope in terms of generating published scientific works after the Hubble Space Telescope, is the cluster of 4 telescopes in Chile collectively titled VLT (Very large Telescope). The Atacama desert in Chile is a top location due to itís weather and lack of light pollution, and among being able to boast about their phenomenal observatories, they have also been chosen as the site for the next largest telescopes the world has ever seen. The current largest telescope has a mirror size of 10.4 meters across (the larger the mirror the more light that can be collected and thus the fainter the objects that can be seen). The next largest telescope that is to be built is aptly named EELT (European Extremely Large Telescope) and it has a mirror size of 39.4m, it will be placed in the Atacama desert of Chile as well. After that, there is one final proposed project that, if the money can be collected, it will be the last large telescope built on earth (it is projected that by the time it could be completed, the light pollution will be too high on earth to make it practical to build any more telescopes for scientific observation from its surface). This telescope is aptly named OWL (Overwhelmingly Large Telescope), and would have a mirror 100m across. Itís proposed placement? Chile.

You get the picture, itís always clear skies, observatories are a big deal here, the valley is important.



In some places, the morning fog is still burning off.



The largest town in Valle de Elqui is Vicuna. Itís small, but has a nice vibe.







As always, the center of town has a park. This one is the perfect afternoon spot to sit, read a book, and watch the small numbers of people pass by and go about their day.









The town may be small and slow pacedÖ





But donít be lulled into thinking you can get small town prices. EVERYTHING in Chile is expensive. This food was just under $6 and the cheapest I could find, however it was very good and still a better value than what I would get up north in the US.



I went hunting for the cheapest decent place I could find to stay, and managed to nab a place for $15 with breakfast included, as well as a lovely atmosphere. They even had fresh Honey for your mouth-pleasure. And I mean FRESH.



I got to chatting with some of the staff and they recommended a ride out into the desert hills to a place called Hurtado via the Antakari route. They said itís pretty out there, and I had time before I needed to be back in town for my 6:30pm tour of one of the local observatories.



The route was well planed dirt.



With a balding back tire it was quite enjoyable to crank the throttle and power slide around corners. Makes you feel like the KLR actually has some power!



Beautiful scenery.



Funky red rock in parts.





Classic yellow rock in others.



A little over an hour later I made it to the small town of Hurtado. Itís very small, but feels modern and progressive, as if every farm would be organic and all the kids would be well educated.











These two kids came up to me and started firing off a million questions a minute. ďWhere are you from?Ē. ďWhy is your bike so big?Ē.



After a few minutes they got back to doing what kids do best, playing. They were taking their little cars up the hill and then bombing back down on them.



It may be a still-shot, but from the look of sheer joy on his face, you can see that this kid is hauling ass.



The sun was starting to get low in the sky so I headed back to Vicuna.





I went to the observatory that night, but youíd never guess, it was COMPLETELY socked in with fog. Couldnít see a damn thing. It was cool having a pro show us around the solar system via the Stellarium program. If you want to have your mind blown, go download the free Stellarium program. Itís like google earth, but for the solar system. Itís incredibly fascinating and is a very well polished program. Go get that shit.



The next day I headed back to La Serena. I had some time to kill until Gonzalo would be off work, so I went looking for some motorcycle shops to see if they had some parts I wanted. Let me must say, that I have basically been able to change EVERYTHING I donít like about KLRs, and I love my bike. But the fucking design for the fork seals have given me more unnecessary trouble than anything else. Itís a bike designed to be ridden in both onroad and offroad conditions, so why the fuck does a little dirt and dust give the seals so many problems?!! I get weepy seals more times than I can recount (Yes Iíve replaced the seals, many times, Iím basically a pro at it now). Anyways, I found the biggest shop in La Serena, called the Tonino Center. I was chatting with the manager of the parts department, Bob, and he said I could roll my bike into the back and do whatever work I needed to do if I wanted. ďReally?!Ē. Sweet. I ended up replacing one of my seals and doing a full fluid swap, changed my oil, and finally got my K&N filter thoroughly cleaned (hopefully thatíll help next time I cross the Andes).



If you are in the La Serena area and you need parts or anything done on your bike (BMW, Kawa, Suzuki, Honda, etc) go check them out. I was in there for 3 hours working on my bike and got to see them while they worked on other bikes, they know their shit, and Bob runs a tight ship. Thanks a ton Bob!



I hung out with Gonzalo for the rest of the night and then hit the hay. Tomorrow Iím hitting the road again, further south we go.
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Old 05-30-2014, 08:42 AM   #475
sodajones
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Great posts, dude. Keep it up. I'm sitting in an office everyday and reading about your trips is always a highlight of my day. In July, I'm going to take my KLR for a month long trip from Arizona up to the PNW. This thread keeps my sanity on life support until I can get out of here. Quick question with regards to your KLR. I've been using the stock seat with the cheapo walmart atv cover, but I'm thinking of shelling out money for something good. How do you like your seat? I've also had constant problems with the fork seals. I'm trying some aftermarket ones and taking the opportunity to throw progressive springs in while I'm at it. What's your thought on the weight of fork oil for your pig when she's loaded up?
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Old 05-30-2014, 09:15 AM   #476
Scott_PDX
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Yarn Bombing...who knew?

Always read and enjoy your updates Sean. Your latest Couch Surfing Host looks like a great find.

Keep up the good "work"!
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Old 05-30-2014, 09:54 AM   #477
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Enjoying your report immensely.
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Old 05-30-2014, 11:38 AM   #478
theofam
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I didn't realize Chile was so instrumental in observing our universe! Thanks for the info. As always, great job with the pics and dialog!
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Old 05-30-2014, 12:07 PM   #479
borscht zanetti
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Thanks for the tip on Stellarium ... it is awesome !
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Old 05-30-2014, 01:19 PM   #480
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you have a great ability to strike some really cool couchsurfing opportunities. Any hints on profile creation or things that seem to be attractive for being invited in?
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