We had made it through the heat and commotion in Central America, managed to ship our bikes from Panama to Colombia, endured the elevation and rain in Peru, ridden through Bolivia, the poorest country in Latin America, struggled in the mud and frozen our butts off in the Andean Altiplano, and finally we had made it to the DAKAR rally rest-day in Copiapo.
So the day after when the last DAKAR support truck had left Copiapo, we were left with very little energy or motivation to continue! We changed to a nicer hotel and spent another day in Copiapo, just hanging out at the plaza, meeting people and working on the website. We finally got a chance to ship home some stuff that we had been accumulating since Mexico. Chile being pretty organized, we trusted the Chilean postal service to live up to their name.
The DAKAR rally had of course attracted a lot of visitors to Copiapo, everybody with their cameras ready for anything with a motor and a bit of mud. Since we had both – especially the latter, we were treated like celebrities. People were literally lining up to take pictures. Their kids were allowed to sit on our bikes and a couple even gave me their baby, so he could be in the picture! 😀
These adventure riders from Santiago also wanted to get their piece of the DAKAR atmosphere in Copiapo.
From Copiapo we continued to La Serena towards Santiago. We were surprised to find that the Chilean wine fields are actually in the desert and not in the green mountains further south. The sand and the green wine plants made a beautiful contrast.
Now we are talking 🙂
The scenery was very similar to the Peruvian desert but more remote. In between the cities there was nothing.
Chileans make amazing and very creative road alters.
On the way we met this amazing 63-year old lady from France, Francoise. She was riding her push-bike alone in the Atacama desert. She told us that she was having a hard time on the bicycle, because of the winds and because the roads often didn’t leave enough space for her. In Peru she had been pushed of the road and she had broke her ankle. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.!
La Serena is a popular tourist destination for the Chileans with beautiful beaches and a nice view from the large cross, La Cruz del Tercer Milenio.
It’s funny how we sometimes turns in to the tourist attraction. So here we are taking pictures of each other 😀
On the way south Lars had one of those traveler’s nightmares: leaking oil – inside the bag! When will we learn to put stuff in plastic bags!?
South of La Serena we stopped when in the middle of the highway there was a big black dog. It had been hit by the truck in front of us and was badly hurt. He was desperately trying to move, but he had broken his back and his rear legs were not reacting. He made crazy moves in circles and looked almost mad. We tried to approach the dog, but couldn’t get very close, since cars were driving by with high speed. Finally 2 trucks stopped in both lanes and blocked the traffic. The dog was in panic and probably in a lot of pain and crapped around in despair. He moved towards us and we got him out in the ditch. His heart was beating like crazy and he was bleeding from several places. His back was bent in a weird angle and we knew he wouldn’t survive this.
The dog kept crabbing towards us and leaned his head against us. He looked up at us as if saying, “please save me” but we didn’t know what to do. He would die for sure, but not quickly. Most likely he would die of thirst before his injuries. I just sat there with his head in my lap and cried.
An ambulance stopped and we asked if they had anything they could kill him with. They didn’t.
We considered all possibilities and asked people in other vehicles if they had a gun so we could shoot him. But no one did. After a while we agreed to ride to the next garbinieri and ask them to drive out and shoot the poor creature. It was horrible leaving the dog there in the ditch and I cried like a baby. The next carbiniere was just about 5 km away and they promised they would take care of it. We will never know if they did, or if they just thought: Bloody sentimental gringos, dogs get run over everyday in this part of the world”.
We will never forget this poor dog and feel bad about our inability to help it or end it’s life. We later talked about how we would have handled it if had been an even larger animal like a deer or horse. What would we do if we hit an animal and needed to kill it to end its suffering? I don’t know. For sure none of us could make ourselves slit the dog’s throat and a larger animal would be even harder.
R.I.P. pretty dog.
It was high season in Chile and finding a good place to stay in Santiago was hard. We drove around for hours after dark and ended up in a sad hotel with no parking. But it was late and dark and better than nothing.The next day we changed to this little gem: Hostal Romandia. One of those places where you immediately feel at home. We stayed here 2 days and just enjoyed the atmosphere in Santiago.
Mercado Central, Santiago’s fish market. A lovely tourist trap.
Colors and treats in Santiago
Amazing street art and graffiti in the cool Bellavista area.
My favorite one! He he!
In Curico we made friends with this enormous black dog. He took pride in showing us his city – which he obviously ruled – and a special pride in showing off his car chasing skills. We had never seen such energy and aggressiveness in a car chase and he truly looked scary. At first we yelled at him to stop, but he of course interpreted that as cheering and went off with it with even more energy. When the car had passed he proudly returned to us for appraisal and treats and we finally understood the dog mentality and realized that it was all about the chase. Whenever the cars slowed down, he lost interest and wagged his tail. For sure we had both had our hearts up in our throats and our legs up beside the handlebars a few time on this trip but maybe being chased by a flock of big dogs with exposed teeth wasn’t that dangerous after all!
Further south the scenery finally changed from desert and dry hills to green rolling hills, lush fields and forests very similar to southern Germany. The livestock was fat and happy. I was surprised how much this scenery affected my mood in a positive way. Maybe it reminded me of the nature back home, I don’t know, but in this environment you can live and breathe.
The best part of this trip is the camping. Especially like this evening near Curacautin, next to a clean cold river and with plenty of firewood. We cooked a big fat steak and drank lots of awesome Chilean red wine.
Don’t need any other entertainment than this.
The crime scene!
Heading for a beautiful ride through Parque Nacional Conguillio. The last eruption was as late as 2008 when the largest and most active volcano in Chile, Llaima, erupted.
Never seen that sign before!
The forest is amazing with enormous Araucaria araucana trees, also called monkey tail trees
Lunch break at a pretty little Mapuche cafe in the woods. Mapuches are the Chilean indigenous people mainly living in the Andes. Lars being a former baker (Ha, guess you guys didn’t know that!) loves checking out bakeries everywhere we go (This also explains my overweight!) and this one was a delight. Fresh baked bread from a stone oven in a little wooden house in the mountains with wooden furniture, smiling owners and a cute dog and a little kitten. We loved this place!
We met Andrea and Michael from Heidelberg, Germany with their BMW 1200 GSA. They had just crossed the border from Argentina and were heading south.
All right I know that publishing pictures of food is pretty lame – but sometimes on a trip like this it’s the only good thing that happened that day. We had spend all day going down lousy dirt roads leading to lakes to camp, only to find out that there was no access. Seems everything is fenced off in Chile and it’s hard to find free places to camp.
Before leaving Chile and entering the Argentinian pampas we decided to try out one of the many Chilean hot springs.
The ride to the Chilean border at Paso Mamuil Malal through the Villarrica National Par was rough to times, but just beautiful with stunning views over the Lanin volcano.
So with very clean ears we arrived at to Paso Mamuil Malal. We could already taste that last border pipe that had been sweating for 7 months in Lars’ tank bag. Argentina, here we come!