Getting a little Chile (and a little Argentina)

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November 3rd 2009
Published: November 4th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

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Atacama desert sculptureAtacama desert sculptureAtacama 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...

Standout features:

Atacama desert

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 AtacamaShrines in the AtacamaShrines 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 dirtPlaying in the dirtPlaying 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.

Hasta luego!

Additional photos below
Photos: 8, Displayed: 8


Meet Paul againMeet Paul again
Meet Paul again

Last time he was in a ditch in Copper Canyon. This time he's somersaulted his bike on Paso de San Francisco, pictured here with the remains of his panniers.
Chile meets ArgentinaChile meets Argentina
Chile meets Argentina

It's the Paso de San Francisco again, this time surprising us with a lovely blue lake near the border.
Not a bad spot for lunchNot a bad spot for lunch
Not a bad spot for lunch

Ah well, beats the office, I guess.
Another day, another mountain passAnother day, another mountain pass
Another day, another mountain pass

A dirt track wiggles its way up through the Andes. You can just about see a bike, pictured centre right, for scale.
Police escortPolice escort
Police escort

For once, we're pleased to see 'em. Having said that, we've encountered more or less no traffic enforcement in the whole of Central and South America. Which is nice.

4th November 2009

Hi Max, Great stories, great pics, whilst i am stuck in the office whenever your blog turns up, i feel like the little one in fraggle rock reading postcard sent in by uncle mac, i think that was what he was called.
4th November 2009

love the desolate scenery
4th November 2009

Motorcycle Diaries
Stunning scenery - blue and dry. Everything here now is brown and wet. Now you're in Argentina I think Max should have another attempt at eating animal flesh. Surely it's time to have a proper steak to soak up all the Malbec you'll be applying to your dry throats?
4th November 2009

Get your hair cut, Max, it's a disgrace to the Chilean police force.
4th November 2009

Hi Chris and Max looks great there the hand looks a bit out of place though! Bet you loved the attention on the back of the bike Chris when being escorted by the Police!. Weather wet here very envious of you both. Take care. Susan x
4th November 2009

That lake's a bit of a stunner. I'd guess it was a bit nippy for a skinny dip, but after your arctic adventures that shouldn't be an obstacle.
4th November 2009

I'm in Santiago too!
Hey Chris, just seen you're in Santiago and we got here yesterday too! But moving onto Mendoza tomorrow then we haven't quite worked out the rest of our SA itinerary but probably down to the south of Argentina, probably following you! Looking forward to going back to the office?! Camilla x
5th November 2009

In vino veritas
Seems extraordinary that you are on the "last" stage. You can take some comfort in the fact that it is nevertheless more travelling time than your average wage slave has over an entire year, but must be strange. At least you know there is some great wine waiting for you at the end of the road (and Max, like the guinea pig, the steaks must be eaten, even if only one). Really appreciate the blogs and the pictures, even if I don't say so often enough. The view from here? Welll, I can see a power station, the Colnbrook incinerator, Windsor Castle, tower blocks and endless housing estates. I rather like the fact that the Queen gets to look at all of the above but without the castle and with an additional tower block. Sometimes life is fair. Stay safe and enjoy your travels Sophia x
5th November 2009

Is that a little spanish hair cut I can see there... y'know the style - bowl over the head look... or is the excuse the 'helmet hair style'!! The office is missing you - even Robin needed you to day as it took him over half an hour to tighten up his handle bars!! Hasta leugo amigo...
6th November 2009

How much more?
I'm not sure how much more of this I can take. The envy, yearning and desolation of the rain here versus the stunning series of photos there... For your next post, can you tell us all about the crap bits to make us feel better about our lives? You lucky, lucky bas%^rds - looks like the trip of a lifetime. Until the next one... Chuck
6th November 2009

Watch Out, Watch Out...
Commander Brian and Margaret are about... Last reported leaving Rio for Buenos Aires...I think Margaret had had to drag Brian away from the Rio throng/thong (?) ...not for the first time, we sigh!
7th November 2009

The Hand
That was really cool. Sounds like your friend really needs some help with his bike. Ride Safe .. ... Alec

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