The Atacama desert, which happens to be the driest desert in the world, was to be our very first desert cycling experience. To prepare, we bought many three liters bottles and a six liter MSR hydration bladder, so that each of us could carry 11 liters of water on our bikes. Though that seems like a lot when you are carrying the extra eleven kilos up a pass, we now know that it barely lasts us two days. We then set out from Calama right at sunrise (7h30) for a very hot, boring, and different kind of ride. For the first sixty kilometers we steadily but very gradually climbed up to 3,400m (1,200m gain), the highest we have been since Georgia, yet one of the lowest passes we will encounter in the next four or five months, before a beautiful descent down into San Pedro de Atacama.
Though we were pretty set on cycling (meaning no buses) through South America, once we arrived in Santiago we decided to bus up north for a few different reasons. For starters, we are beginning to run out of money, and Chile has been incredibly expensive so we are impatient to get back to more affordable counties, plus, we would like to spend more time in Peru during the dry season meaning that we need to be headed that way soon. We also had no desire to cycle through the whole Atacama desert (1,500km of no shade… no thanks!), and though we could have crossed over and cycled through Argentina instead, we have heard that section is not too exciting and that we would be cycling everyday just to get farther north and re-find the beautiful mountains again near Bolivia. Do, after a week in Santiago – a much needed break that we spent helping a young Chilean warmshowers gal remodel her house – we caught a surprisingly cheap night bus (40 bucks instead of the normal 90) in order to arrive straight dab in the desert.
Now that we are headed into Bolivia, and the remote high altitude jeep track “roads” and small villages that come along with it, we probably won’t have much wifi, and when we do, it may not be strong enough to upload photos or blog entries. So if you don’t hear from us in the coming weeks, don’t worry because we are sure to be having a lot of “fun” struggling to push our bikes through the sand in the Bolivian altiplano!