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.
“If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will take you there.”
We had heard from two passing French cyclists that the bakery in the small town of Thulin hosted French cyclists for free, so as we were buying some delicious baked goods at the enormous bakery, we asked one of the workers if she knew anything about this. Less than a minute later two other cyclists, an American and an Argentinian, appeared to show us to the “cyclists quartets” where there were already nine other fully loaded touring bicycles from all around the world. Though we didn’t end up meeting everyone, there was an Argentinian, an American, a Mexican, a German, a couple from the Netherlands, and a couple from France (and someone else we never met) all touring for different amounts of time, and in different directions, with one thing in common: through word of mouth they had all heard about this incredible cyclists refuge in the middle of Tierra del Fuego.