Antofagasta - Officina de Chacabuco (1360 m.a.s.l.) 112.06 km
Yesterday night when I'd just ended a last letter, I got into talk with the owner, who showed a spendid english. He had travelled most of the world. When I mentioned I was going by bike and he said that there had actually been another cyclist sometime ago, a german, I soon put two and two together and told him the name was Jeff! Yes, he did was his surprised answer, and all of a sudden I felt a member of a brotherhood: the hardcore cyclists.
The day gets merciless from the start, but that's no surprise. During the first 16-20 km I'm climbing to the plain behind the brown coastal range. It's a constant 6-8% incline, the sun burns hot and the wind from the ocean I don't feel as we're moving with the same speed. But when I stop I soon get cold. After 8 km the worst is over and the rest is a piece of cake. In the plain my fear for this distance disappears, it doesn't resemble what I passed through south of Antofagasta in a car. There is not much change in the brown color, but ir's flat and an encouraging speed makes the form of the mountains change quickly. A light tail wind doesn't make it worse and I "step on it" knowing I'll reach one of the two towns on the way to Calama
and have my bottles filled within long.
The only change from the brown are some yellow deposits in something looking like a dried river bed. It looks like sulphur, I put my nose to it, but there is no smell. A last improvement is that I've climbed upwards. Now when I sit in the only bus shelter I've seen until now writing, I've added 300 m, since I reached the plain, now 805 m. I'm churning ahead at a high speed. The wind that started out as light breeze to moderate wind have grown and helps me forward. The thought of reaching Baquedano around 3 p.m. and eat kunch there gives me wings. For more distances I keep 30 km/h while the
the road is actually inclining, even just faint. Flashing lights, horns and waving arms from oncoming cars encourage me further. The 2 l's in my bottles just have to do until Baquedano and that's going to hold.
I have already seen trees from a distance of 7-8 km and now 2.55 p.m. I roll into this very small town. But there is a supermarket and that the prize for friut juice have raised a couple of hundreds since Antofagasta I don't mind.
Now I want a quiet lunch, a can of tuna, bread and lots of juice and afterwards just roll quietly till it get's time for camping. I hope to do the distance to Calama in two days after this first power demonstration. That the altimeter says 1050 encourage me further. Calama should be at 2000 m.
Under my way I've passed several mines. That's the only thing to find here. No restaurants or posada's. Only two towns between Antofagasta and Calama. Baquedano after around 1/3 and Sierra Gorda after 2/3. At one of the mining areas there suddenly was a smell that reminded me of the chemical experiments in my yooth. We were 3 who bought some equipment and chemicals from a brother to a class mate of my brother. For 70 d.kr. if I remember correctly. The experiments took place in the cellar of one of us. At a time 2 of us entered the more explosive department, but one, if I may say so, extremely successfull experiment made us so respectfull, that we didn't continue in that direction. After
all rockets were my favourites. At that time the first artificcial moons were evolving the Earth. I believe I was the first and probably only one that ever constructed a rocket driven by cut off heads of matchsticks. The ignition was done by a piece of thin thread of copper and a train transformer. I only did a few experiments, it took too many matchboxes, but one landed on the roof of the neibouring house, so 4-5 m of altitude and a "shooting" range of around 10 m. Trials with more efficient fuels were abandoned after an explosion in a water tube. The tube was open in both ends so noone were harmed, but it gave me a respect for these things, so I still have all ten fingers intact.
It is with these things like travelling, you need a humble respect. Remember, if any of you are thinking about this.
A nice long break has done me good. Now I move on.
I've arrived. At where? Hmm.. to the spot where it's time to camp and
it's possible. It's not going to be the most elegant camp, but who cares?
Unfortunately the wind doesn't lower until the sun sets and it gets
dark. So to be able to see a bit while I put up the tent I have to fight
the wind, but the nesccesary rocks are found and do their duty.
The rituals are done. Flashlight, cutlery, pocket knife etc. are put into their respective positions. And then 400 ml's of water in the pot on the cooker. While the meal is found, the kettle filled for a cup of coffee, the cup filled with instant coffee and sugar... and maybe I sit a while by the light of the headlight to write or simply lie down to relax after a days work. Today it's the writing, which continues after the meal while the water for coffee boils.
The meal is according to the recipie 3-4 portions. How many they expect to shere these portions is not mentioned, but they fit a long distance cyclist.
Now the kettle is snoring ahh... it'll be nice with a block of chocolate for the coffee. The cold is creeping into the tent so it's time to zip the inner tent.
Today I crossed the line of the Capricorn, which means that in this area the sun once a year will pass zenit, vertical above your head. But it's thank God winter because the heat is sifficient. Besides I crossed the halfway mark to Calama and left ruta 5 to go on by ruta 25.