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.
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!
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.
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...