Published: November 4th 2009November 3rd 2009
Atacama desert sculpture
This is a couple of hundred miles from the nearest town. Which is already in the middle of nowhere. Let's have a big hand for the artist...
Since Peru, we have spent the last week riding down through Chile and Argentina, traversing the Atacama Desert, and crossing the Andes a couple of times in the process. In all we have been moving for 7 straight days, and have covered around 2,000 miles both on tarmac and various kinds of dirt road, finally arriving in Santiago, Chile. There's been an awful lot of wide open spaces and mountains, so expect a few pictures of us and the bike in picturesque settings in this episode...
Unsurprisingly, it's big, and it's sandy. Apart from the odd sculpture of a huge hand sticking out of the sand, there isn't much to break up the scenery, except for the hundreds of memorials to road crash victims that litter the sides of the roads, which are slightly worrying.
Paso de San Francisco
This is a very remote border crossing between Chile and Argentina, on a dirt road peaking at over 4,000 meters above sea level. It's a fantastic route, mainly only used by a few truckers - no-one else is hard or stupid enough to bother with it. Two of our group decided to get
Shrines in the Atacama
If you thought the roadside tributes were getting out of hand in the UK, try this place. There are literally hundreds of them along the road in the desert.
a bit over-enthusiastic with their off-roading, and binned it after losing control in deep gravel and sand, beating themselves and their bikes up in the process. They'll be fine, but the consequences of attempting some of these routes without the support of being in a group don't really bear thinking about, at least not for wusses like us.
Ruta 40 commences
This is the legendary road that runs from the top to the bottom of Argentina. We've had our first taste of it, and will be seeing plenty more as we run down through Patagonia. Surfaces range from impeccably smooth tarmac to dirt track.
We have a few days here to relax in this clean, modern, European style city, while the bikes receive a final service to get them to the end of the trip. Mauricio, who runs the main Chile BMW bike dealership, is mates with the local bike cops, who ride BMs. So - as you do - he organised a police bike escort from the outskirts of the city to our hotel, stopping the traffic at junctions for our convoy, giving us the full royalty treatment. Christine sat on the back, waving
Playing in the dirt
That's us, on the way up to 4,000 meters in the Paso de San Francisco.
at passers by like the Queen.
And so we depart towards Patagonia on Saturday into what is, physically and psychologically, the last section of the journey to the most Southerly point of the road, in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego.
There are more photos below