Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Valparaiso – the colourful city onto Chile Grade Chico

The apartment was so luxurious and the company so great.  We took a guided tour by Sam (the Belgium traveller staying in the apartment too) around the city and up to the look out point at San Pablo’s house.  It is impossible to avoid the hills in Valparaiso and as you go up and down along small passages and along main roads you see a contrast of sturdy houses made of brick and houses that look like they could crumble into the valley.  The wooden staircases up to the houses were crazy, and there were a few times we imagined what it would be like arriving home with a boot full of groceries.  New years eve was a great party, and we spent the wee hours of the morning dancing with the locals in the street to a live band.  Not a bad way to welcome in 2014.
We spent Nick’s birthday enjoying the luxuries of the apartment and making sure everything that needed to be charged was charged.

amazing street art


 Kristine had a look on the website to check the progress of our padron and unfortunately saw some bad news…the application had been rejected! Not knowing what this meant she whatsapp’d the contact at Honda and asked him to clarify.  He replied that we should come back to Santiago as soon as we could.  So Friday we left Valparaiso and headed unhappily back to Santiago.  Turns out that some of Kristine’s paperwork had been lost but it would only mean we’d have to wait another 10 days for the padron.  Their solution was for us to come through on Monday and collect a new primero inscription and travel with that into Argentina.  This paperwork would be valid for a month and by that time the Honda chaps would scan us a copy of the padron.  Not 100% convinced with this solution we decided to head back into the mountains near Santiago and wait the weekend out till Monday.  We also organised for our bikes to have their 1000km service on Monday so had a few kms to clock up over the weekend.
We arrived around 9:30am Monday morning impressed at our early rise and departure! The bikes were in for their service and we had a day to kill in Santiago, so we headed back to Lira to look for a powerpoint to attach to the motorbike as well as exchange money into US Dollars for Argentina – as suggested by a number of travellers.
We received the paperwork and vamoosed quickly out of the city and headed north towards Las Andes. Ruta 5 is the main freeway north and pretty busy, it definitely takes some getting used to the change from the KLR650 to the XR125.  We average around 80kmph, which is what we were travelling through Africa, however the lack of acceleration is a little daunting on the free way with the amount of traffic and large cargo trucks.
We arrived in Los Andes in the eveningand started to look for accommodation for the night. The first place we found at a reasonable rate where you could even pay by the hour, was rather interesting with red and green lights out side each room and some suspicious activities going on… we were not too sure about this so decided to look around a little more. We eventually found a little hotel in town called Hotel Manuel Rodriguez for 20 000 pesos (R400) for the and rested up for the night.
peanutbutter and bread staple lunch!

 The next day leaving Los Andies  was beautifull passing numerous vineyards and some wonderfull windy roads which were great fun on the bikes.  Going up route 5 was rather uneventfull but we decided to skip the tunnel just before La Ligua as you had to pay to go through it, so we climbed up and over the mountain instead for some more breath taking scenery and continued towards Los Vilos getting back to the Pacific ocean.
After stocking up in Los Vilos we went on the search for a camp spot and landed up at Chigualoco at a camp ground which we later found out had only opened that day and we were there second guests for the season and managed to get the price down from 10 000 pesos to 5000 pesos for the night. The camp site was situated only 5 meters from the beach and the sunset that evening was just amazing even the pictures don’t do it juctice !

 Wanting to head north and get some kms done we carried along route 5 and turned off towards Ovalle , it was nice to be off the freeway and once we got supplies in Ovalle we started the hunt for accommodation for the night. We drove along the dam wall of Embalse Recoleta and tried to spot a place to camp on the edge of the dam how ever it became evident that this was not going to happen as we could find no roads going down to the dam. We twisted our way to Samo Alto and found a camp site with a swimming pool oh bliss as it was a scorcher of a day. So we set up camp and were then told that we are not allowed to swim today…. Not very happy about that I tell you! Any how we made a fire that evening and enjoyed a lovely meal cooked on the fire with a bottle of Gato wine !
We left Samo Alto and ended up on a dirt track through the mountains, absolutely amazing ride with so much to look at , all the different rock shapes and colours and not to mention the fields of cacti.  We arrived in Vicuna and it felt a lot more touristy being the gateway for the Elqui valley were they make the local pisco which is the equivalent to our brandy. We had a local lunch called Pastel de choclo chilian corn pie. We then headed to La Serena the coastal holiday city which was very busy and crowded so we diceded to head up the coast a bit. We pulled off route 5 towards the beach and inbetween rocks we found some locals and asked if we could camp there for the night they said it was no problema !! so we watch yet another amazing sunset that evening and the local herder try and gather all his goats for the evening.

cacti fields

 With not much to see along the route 5 the next day traveling inland we covered about 350 kms and arrived backed on the coast in a odd little fishing village called Puerto Viejo and made our way up the coast looking for a camp spot for the night , we stopped and asked a local chap if it was allright for us to camp in the dunes for the night and as allways he was friendly and helpful, warning us where the still water was and the mosquitos and where we would be protected from the wind. This camping on the beach is getting dangerous cause we are getting used to nice soft ground to sleep on !!!
Continuing along the salt road we passed many shade cloth shelters which seem to be established for families to come down and camp in.  Many cars passed us with mattresses on their roofs and at a few shelters we saw tents as wells as mattresses laid out.  Bahia Inglesa, our first stop of the day, is another holiday town which apparently has the warmest coastal waters in Chile.  We had a coffee and enjoyed watching the pelicans dive bomb into the water while the seagulls chase after them trying to steal their catch. 
woops !!


tucked away behind the rocls for the night

one of the more extravagant road side reflections and tributes to the saints 

 The next two towns Caldera and Chanaral were not particularly interesting but the coastline towards the Pan de Azucar National Park was beautiful with long stretches of white sandy beaches and crashing waves.  We saw a turn off down to the beach and went to investigate and eat some lunch.  A family had driven their bakkie onto the beach so we waited for them to leave and discussed the possibility of riding the bikes across the sand to set up camp in between the rocks.  While we were sitting there the tide came in, and suddenly realised we may have parked a little close to the water line…thankfully the family decided to leave and so we kitted up and rode the bikes round some rocks judging the time between waves hitting the rocks and receding again.  We were impressed with how far the little 125s got across the soft sand fully loaded, only just not making the little hill up to where we had decided to camp. So using a few rocks and left over firewood we made a ramp and pushed them the last few meters.  Using our ramp for a fire that night, we played cards and enjoyed being so close to the beach.
After a great night’s sleep we woke up to a misty morning feeling nice and relaxed and couldn’t resist the fact that there was no urgency to move on so we decided to stay another day (ahhh the joys of no time constraints).  
before the tide came in!!

look no hands or kick stand!!

tough life !!

 Having loved our secluded beach, we decided it was time to head to El Salvador to prepare for the arrival of the Dakar Rally.  It was very clear that we had entered into Chile’s mining district as along the road were lots of signs for ‘Mina’ (mines) and what looked like excavation tunnels into the mountains. We then met up with the railway and passed what seemed to be an old abandoned railway station until we saw the train passing by.  It doesn’t seem that they need to upgrade the system as this train looked like the original train, as did the buildings.
El Salvador reminded us of Secunda, developed purely because of the mining industry in the area.  Not much to see in this town though as it consisted mostly of housing with maybe one or two hotels.  We booked into a Residencia and enjoyed the luxuries of a TV, wifi and hot shower.

ready for the dakar !!

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