Copiapo to La Serena

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March 13th 2012
Published: March 13th 2012
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After I had left Herb & Ron I headed back into Copiapo, to the main plaza, Plaza Prat. I had decided I couldn't be bothered to ride up the Rio Copiapo valley to see some grapes. I would rather look round the museum. I pulled up in the space reserved for "motos" that Herb & I caught up with Ron earlier that morning. The museum was a short walk round the corner but it was closed. I wasn't too surprosed as it was nearly 3 pm and everywhere was still shut. The sign on the gate seemed to suggested it opened again at 3.30 so I headed back to the square.

Opposite the bike was a pleasant little cafe that had out door seating and was open. I took Ron's advice. The best place is where you can see your bike - and which is open. I sat outside but hadn't quite worked out at which place you were meant to go through the ritual of ordering from one guy and collecting what you had paid for from another and those that served you. No one came so I went in and ordered a large coffee.

The two lads, probably about 19 or so, serving in the cafe seemed keen to practice their English. They were from Colombia and were interested in the bike and what I was doing but as they went back inside I heard one of them say "loco" and they both laughed ! Cheers guys !

After my coffee I headed back to the museum. It was about a quarter to four but there was no sign of luck. It was after all a Saturday and I assumed I was just out of luck. As I walked back to the bike I passed a hedge in bloom and I spotted what at first I thought was ahuge dragonfly. It wasn't - it was a humming bird!

I had a vague recollection I had seen one once before, in Canada of all places, when I was a lad. I couldn't be sure though if the memory was playing tricks or not but was the real thing. I had left my big fancy Nikon in the hotel and only had my compact digital camera on me. I played about with the settings a sanppaed away but all I got was a grey blur (Sorry Phil - I hang my head in shame!)

Back at the hotel I caught up with Lin and wrote my confessional blog about my tumble in the desert. Dinner that evening was another triumph. Salad and steak with potato. For dessert we had a sort of milk pudding. It was a bit like creame caramel without the caramel I suspose. It was served with either a prune or plum juice. Lovely.

Breakfasts had alos been good at this hotel. They were always the same but just the job. A big wedge of cold watermelon, coffee, cheese, ham and a sort of maderia type cake (which I could of done without)

I cannot remember now as I write this blog exactly when I set off but it was probably just aftert 9am. It was, as I was getting used to now, foggy again. I headed south back the way I had come a few days earlier on Ruta 5. The fog soon lifted and it was another lovely day. This though only lasted about half an hour before the fog returned. Well of course it hadn't returned it was always there I simply rode into another bank. The visabilty and the temperature dropped. It was a proper pea souper and I started to get neverous.

Being a Sunday I hadn't seen another vehicle at all but I statred to worry someone might just plough into the back of me. It was also amazingly wet and I got soaked. The road surface would therefore be damp and might be greasy and I wasn't sure how goo these off road knobbly tyres were. As soon as these thoughts came intp my head I put the hazard lights on and of coourse slowed right down. Back home I always wear a hi-viz jacket and instintively brought it with me. Somehow it seems out of place to wear it over here so it was tucked away with my tools and first aid kit. I pulled over and as soon as I did I felt even more vunerable so I didn't hang around.

Fortunately the fog didn't last very long and although never quite as bad, more mist or low cloud than fog, I was travelling on and out of it all day. When I passed out the other side I was intp tp bright blue warm air and soon dried out.

At Vallenar I stopped for fuel and on the spur of the moment decided to turn off the main road and head for Huasco on the Pacific coast. I had made good time, it was only about 60kms away and I thought it would make a nice stop for lunch.

The road ran sound of the Rio Huasco and although I never saw an actual river the valley was full of greenary. The road was lined with what I thought were eucalyptus trees. hat was certainly the overwhelm smell I had as I rode by. I also saw my first cow. My first Chilean cow that is ! We do have them back home. In fact I had milked them as a lad. There was a pair just aimlessly wandering round the verge.

I also saw, what I assumed to be, my first vulture. I estimate it had a 3 ft wing span, was very dark, had flared out primaries and a pointed cone like head/beak. Later I was about 50-60 of them milling about (do vultures mill?). I suspect some joker in the vulture world had put it about to watch this bloke as sooner or later he might fall of again and make a tasty bit of vulture grub!

Huasco was a pretty uninspiring place, certainly from the tourist point of view. By and large it was shut but there was a throung of people arounf the samll port so I went to have a look. It seemed the local fishing fleet had returned and people were there to grab the catch of the day. This appeared to be barrows of silver fish, very sleek, torpedo like and about 3 ft long. I know that describes most fish in the world but to my untrained eye they looked like mini tuna.

As I headed back to the bike I as haranged by a man waved a black book, shouting loudly at me. He was accompanied by a minder and I assumed he was preaching the evils of working on Sunday. Go bother the fisherman mate - I'm on me holibobs!

As I set out back to Ruta 5 I was set upon by a pack of dogs. This was quite a common occurance. There were street dogs everywhere. I had first noticed it in the capital, Santiago. Althjough stray I had yet got the impression these dogs were unwanted or feral. More often than not they were just single animals, but occassional as now they formed packs of about 6 or so. Apart from the fact all pf them could do with a good bath by and large they looked well feed and in pretty good nick. Most slept outside front doors or were in someway assoicated with a building of some sort. I think it must simply be the culture dogs live out the front.

Mostly were friendly enough but when until you ride by and then they were out to have you. it seemed their preferance were motorbikes,. They weren't that bothered by cars thought the odd truck or bus would draw they wrath.

I knew from my days on the farm the technique was to ignore them and ride on through. If you slow down the dog thinks it has got a chance and moves in to bite the tyres. There is a greater chance then of me running the dog down and that I would ebd up as vulture food. It takes a bit if getting used to though. I suspect once the dogs had given up and I was in the clear they would strutt back, head held high letting everyone know they were king in their domain and they had successfully seen off another pesky motorbike.

Once back on the motorway I had a pleasant run into La Serena. I stopped, turned on the sat nav and keyed in the hotel. The sat nav proved useless. It tried sending me the wrong way up one way streets and when I eventually got to where it said the hotel was there was nothing there. I was onthe right street so I just carried on until I found it.

The hotel was plansant enough with a lock up yard for the bike but the room was small dark and airless but it would do.I sat down to catch you with Lin. She didn't seem to mind I had not told at the time that I had fallen off but was worried and pleased I had decided to head south.

The plan was to head to Vicuna and book an evening trip to the observatory on Cerro Mamalluca. The wbsite seemed to suggest the tours ran on a Sunday but the woman at reception kept saying banana (manana - its a joke at work - it doesn't seem to work in type does it?). I thought sod it, its half 5 it'll make a nice ride out and perhaps I'll find somewhere to eat and if I'm in luck book a tour.

Vicna was about 50 kms away and after about 20 minutes it satredto get dark. But it could only be 6 ish at most. I glanced doen at the clock on the instrucment panel. It was about 20 past 8! I pulled ober and checked my watch - it was still 5.30 ! Bloody watched has stopped again. I had had problems ever since I changed the watch to Chilean time on the plane, but since i had left Santiago it had been OK.

I decided events were against me and headed back to La Serena. I headed west into the most beautiful yello/orange sunset but I could find anywhere decent or safe to stop for a photo. As I got back to La Serena I headed straight for town to ride around looking for a place to eat but everywhere was shut. I was noy going to buy manky empanadas from a petrol station so I returned to the hotel. They didn't so food either, which I knew, but I asked if they could recommend somehwere. Understanding one another was difficult and the receptionist just waved her arm up and down whilst giving directions. Was up left and down right or did she mean straight on. I had no idea what she was going on about so I pulled out my street map. I marked in pen where we were and tried to indicate she mark on the map where she meant. She tokk the pen but jjust could noy bring herself tp mark the map. More bloddy arm waving. It looked like it was dinner at Petrobras afterall.

As I went to leave the receptionist grabbed my wrist and walked me down the road. She was about 4 ft and weighed slightly more than my left leg and we must of made quite a sight. She turned immediately left and headed off tpwards the town centre. The first plave, just two blocks down was closed so she caried on 2 more blocks and we were there. hy on earther she just did't move her arm left instead of up and down I don't know. I thanked her and went in and sat down.

The place was bright and clean but it was clear this would be no gourmet experinece. The menu arrived and was full of the famous Chilean dishes - pizza and hot dogs. Oh well at least they serve beer. I ordered a mushroom and ham pizza. It came with chips for goodness sake ! The pizza had a thick doughy crust and I think even Dr Oetkar could of done better but at least it was cheap.


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