7/16/2002 Start in Antofagasta
After more than 25 hrs. of travelling with different planes and lots of waiting I have reached Atofagasta today ! From here I will start cycling tomorrow. The intention to cycle already the first 25km from the airport to the center I have quickly given up, when I saw that there was a flat tire in both wheels when I checked it out... So I took a taxi, which I was quite happy about, because it got dark soon after the start already. Later I found out, that someone from the airport must have left the air out of my tires...
Antofagasta is not a very nice industrial town on the chilenian coast. It is rather cold here (15 degrees Celsius) and there is this mist along the coast. I already bought a lot of food and will probably start tomorrow in direction of San Pedro de Atacama.
7/21/2002 What a first week
From Antofagasta to Calama (250km) I had to cross the Atacama desert. I was hot ! After Calama I planed to cycle via el Tatio ( highest geysir field at 4500m) to San Pedro. At Chiu Chiu the asphalt ended and a washboard track led towards the mountains. The first night I already camped at 4000m with freezing minus 10 degrees celsius at night. But the real work began only next morning. Because of some snow left on the track, I had to follow a much steeper track which I could impossibly cycle anymore. At the top 4450m the bad new came: There was too much snow, to go down on the other side to San Pedro. So I had to give up and return all the way back to Calama. Here I am now studying my maps, because The planed route from San Pedro into Bolivia by the Laguas Verde/Colorado is now impossible too because of the snow.
Things are not too good at the moment. But It will come better!
7/31/2002 Vulcanos, Vincunas & Salt lakes
After my turning back at 'el Tatio' because of snow, I took the bus from Calama to Iquique, to restart there.
To cycle out of a town is newer nice: searching for the way, heavy traffic... but if this is added with a 1000m climb in altitude within the first 15km, it's a nightmare! So happened in Iquique.. It was really dangerous. For a short distance I followed the Panamericana, before heading into the mountains again.From Huara the road leads in one single climb from the desert up to the altiplano. Incredible: within 9 days I cycled now twice from sea level up to 4400m ! After the high passes I cycled north from Colchane following the border of Chile/Bolivia across the parks 'Vulcan Isulga', 'Vincuña', 'Salar de Surire' and 'Lauca'. Especially the road to the Salar de Surire was terrible: lots of soft sand and washboard made cycling very hard. But I was rewarded with a fantastic landscape: first along smoking vulcanos, then around a salt lake. Every day I saw Alpacas, Vincuñas, Vizcachas ( wild chinchillas), Nadus and Flamingos. A special pleasure were the hot springs, where the cyclists legs could relax.
My back didn't mind, when I reached the paved main road to La Paz after 3 days. Unfortunately the weather got bad and so I passed the border pass to Bolivia (Tambo Quemado 4660m) in quite a snow storm.
7/31/2002 Road blockings in Bolivia
Only few meters after the border I was stopped by a demonstration of the lokal people. The wanted electricity for their villages... Fou a couple of hundred meters the road was blocked with stone walls and burning tires. Fortunately they let me pass, but I had to explain about 30 times, where I come from, where I would go to, why... The best about this was, that I had the road for the next 200km all for myself! To La Paz there were 350 rather boring kilometers to cover until I could go down into the 'hole full of houses'. The ride from el Alto ( at the altiplano 4000m) down to La Paz (3600m) beats every roller coaster, only that the danger is real...