Monday, March 28, 2011

Chile - Hand of the Desert, Valley of the Moon, Running on emergency money, Running into the same familiar face in 3 different countries! Valparaiso and Santiago Chile.

Finally in Chile!

After more than a week without Asphalt and a proper road, I almost kissed the highway when I finally drove on to it. Smooth, paved, none holed, none dirt or mud road, how I missed it!

I headed toward she town of San Pedro de Atacama.

My gas was running out I was already on my reserve emergency switch and had no more than 15 miles left before I as completely out, ant the town was 30 miles away. I thought for sure I was walking and dragging the bike to the town, but I was looking forward to doing it just for the story.

As I was 16,000 ft above sea level the town was at 7000 ft, lucky me hit a break almost the entire way to the town was down hill. So I turned off the bike and went down in neutral for 15 miles!

I made it to the town and gasoline station on fumes! And a sputtering motor.

Once again entering Chile was easy as eating cake.

As soon as I got into town I saw a huge change. I was now finally after many weeks in an industrialized country. Things were organized, roads were in great conditions, and there was infrastructure, name brand products, and plenty of banks!

After driving through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, one starts to appreciate what they have especially back home. Like banks, clean water and asphalt.

I found an ATM, and was charged a $15 dollar transaction fee and realized that this town was expensive. I should have known when I saw loads of foreigners roaming around the streets like a plague.

Cheapest food was around $7 US a meal, and a good meal that fills you up was $8-$10 minimum. It was dreadfully expensive…at least for me, captain cheap.

Remember how I mentioned that back I Peru an ATM machine robbed my debit card number and my bank canceled my card as somebody was trying to steal my money. Well that was a week or 2 ago, and I had called the bank to send me another card so that I could actually get money. 

They said they could send me another in 3 to 4 business days to San Pedro de Atacama. So I gave them a name of a hostel to send it to, called the hostel, booked my stay and thought that in 2 weeks it would already be there waiting for me without any issues.

Turns out that when I arrived to the hostel it wasn’t there. Great, no money and the problem continues.

So after 3 hours on the phone and lots of international calling time used, I was able to get a tracking number for the package and saw it had just arrived in Santiago Chile, 1000 miles away at the capital!

And it would be another 4 days before it would get to the hostel where I was at.

As this place was expensive, a night’s stay was over $20 dollars a night, and I wasn’t waiting 4 days. And as my package wasn’t there I didn’t feel obligated to spend a night there, and went next door to a cheaper place.
I then managed to send in a request to stop the package in Santiago and thought I could just pick it up on the way down since I was already heading down there. So running on emergency reserve money hidden on my motorcycle since the start of my trip, I stayed the night and went to sleep.

The following day I was off to Santiago.

I passed by the Valley of the Moon near San Pedro.

And this happens to be the driest place on earth!



It was an amazing place. I don’t know if it was because I love the desert, but it literally felt as if I was on the surface of the moon, and felt at peace as I drove through it.





You can't say that doesn't look like the moon in a small way



There were some awesome tunnels and hiking as well.





And some interesting looking stuff.








I also ran into some guy doing some research for NASA there, apparently it was because there were caves in this region formed by salt and such that were of interest to the Mars NASA project.





After visiting the moon in my own special little way I was off.

The next 10 hours of driving were pretty redundant. Desert, hot, dry but for me awesome and relaxing!







Had my first Chilean food. A hot dog!




The whole day I kept seeing billboards advertising the meat, I told myself, there was no way I was eating one of those. Well there was nothing else available so I had 2.

It was the only thing available as the north of Chile is very desolate and not much exists except the occasional gas station every 230 miles or so.

There was even some funny stickers



After a few hours more I ran into the hand of the desert.





It’s quite a unique sight to see off the side of the road.



At a certain point the true effect of the hand coming out of the earth is seen and is pretty cool.

About 10 minutes of hanging around the hand, I saw another motorcycle in the distance driving up. I thought, oh cool, get to meet someone new.

Well wouldn’t you know it was Lenny! Remember I met him in Peru, then saw him a week later Bolivia, and now we run into each other in Chile! Scary… I know!



So we used each other to take some pictures and we finally decided to ride together.








So we basically drove until it was nightfall. As the distances were vast and gasoline stations were scarce, I actually ran out of gas. Lucky for me Lenny had 2 extra gallons of fuel. So I put one of those in  and Lenny the other and we kept going up until 11pm until we finally hit a small town.

As much as I like Chile I am not likening the $6 US dollars per gallon of gas or the $20 US dollar a night hotel or hostels. Paying 7 cents for a gallon of gas in Venezuela and now $6 dollars, and paying $3 US for a hostel and now $20 US, it’s quite the crazy fluxuation and change.

So we ate some expensive Chinese food and were off to bed.

The following morning I had to do some more searching for my Fed Ex Package with my debit card so I let Lenny go on his merry way and said I would catch up to him in a few hours. Sadly enough this didn’t happen.

So after finding out more about where my package  was and its location where I could pick it up, I was off again.

Nothing special to say about another 10 hours of desert driving, just pictures.



The whole day I had to go hungry, eating only peanuts, saving money as I had almost none left.

I arrived in Los Vilos late at night.

I was going to camp out at the beach, but I got an eerie sense of insecurity and found a hostel instead.

 Glad I did as I was told it was not a good idea to camp out there.

The following morning I headed towards Valparaiso and Vina del Mar close to Santiago. It was Sunday and my package would be in the office on Monday and thought I could use the time to sight see.

Thus again the toll road began. Every 10 to 15 miles another booth to pay. Felt like I was back in Mexico but now it’s more expensive each toll booth.

Each time I paid a booth my food money kept dwindling down.

A dollar fifty each time starts to rack up quickly.

Finally arrived in Valparaiso.

It was like San Francisco with the steep hills.

But they had some little ferries and such to go up and down them which were quite cute.

Had the best queso empanada of my life.




And even saw Ronald McDonald walk by



I literally passed by 20 some vineyards where the famous delicious Chilean wine comes from.



Once again it would be nice for smell-ivision to exist. Quite the aromatic trip I wish I could share smelling the grapes from the road.

Finally arrived in Santiago and took a tour of the town. It was Sunday afternoon and the streets were empty! 

So I did all my sightseeing efficiently and without trouble.










Even enjoyed a much needed sunset.




Found a place to stay for the night and bunked down.

The next day I went off to pick up my debit card from the FedEx main station near the airport! Running on emergency money is no fun and was happy I could finally go back to normal, or so I thought!