Saturday, 7 February 2015

Stranded in Antofagasta

(next post: The Atacama Desert - Antofagasta to San Pedro)

I was so eager to get back on the bike when I left Santiago. I had envisaged spending two nights in Antofagasta before setting off across the Atacama desert to San Pedro de Atacama. Well that didn't happen. Tonight will be my fifth night in this city and I can't wait to leave in the morning and get pedalling again. I arrived on Monday evening and went to ask about my bicycle at the bus terminal on Tuesday morning. I was informed that my bicycle would arrive on FRIDAY! Bollocks.

Antofagasta is the second largest city in Chile and it is easily the most expensive. I would recommend skipping this city. Being parked here has been a pricey affair. It has made me really eager to get to Bolivia as soon as possible, because it will radically cheaper in comparison. It's really humid here on the coast, but that will change once I get inland. The atacama desert is the driest and oldest desert on the planet.

If you look online for things to do in Antofagasta you soon realise that there really isn't anything special here to do other than the normal stuff to kill time in cities. Most places of interest are nowhere near the city and I mean MILES away. I have mostly spent my time eating food and drinking wine. Basically I've been doing my utmost to get out of shape before I commence cycling again.

Mountain Graffiti
Someone graffed up the mountains! The city is long and thin, stretched out along the coastline, sandwiched between the Pacific ocean and the desert mountains. The sketchy neighbourhoods are up on the hillsides. Antofagasta has a far grittier feel than Santiago. The centre is full of sketchy looking bars and prostitutes, but the beaches in the south are lined with expensive bars. The mining industry and the isolated location in the desert explain the astronomical prices here.

El Bigote
I got bored pretty quickly, so I decided to go for some new facial hair. Chops and a moustache from now on. I will try and rock it for as long as possible. At the moment I'm quite enjoying the look.

pastel de jaiba
Pastel de jaiba - crab pie.

Beach Antofagasta
You can't really tell in this picture, but this is a bunch of people dancing in unison to some intense Latin pop music, following the moves of the dance instructors under the gazebo at the top.

Beach Antofagasta Cathedral Mountains Empanadas
Easily my favourite thing in Antofagasta has been the fish market down by the water. I stuffed my face with ceviche and empanadas.


Kiss from a rose.

La Caleta
There are several seals just mooching around by the fish market. I stood and watched them for quite a while, observing their battle scars.

Fish Market Fish Market Empanada
Ostión y queso empanada (Oyster and cheese)

Pulpo y queso empanada (Octopus and cheese)


Turkey Vultures
Turkey Vultures in Plaza Colón. These birds are all over the city.

Battered bike box
Oh dear. Look at that box. I dread to look inside.

You prat!
Prat! Is the world trying to tell me something?

Crystal Ball
All over Chile you'll see people juggling and performing other types of hippy bullshit for cash at traffic lights. This was the first time I had seen someone using a crystal ball.

Django's back!!!
Django! In one piece! Actually the rear mudguard was completely mangled. I've managed to get it more or less into its original shape. At least it works, even if it looks a little fucked up.

After spending 10 days or so off the bicycle I've been going a little stir crazy.  I'm pretty relieved to have all my stuff together at last. I plan on leaving shortly after dawn as it is really cool in the mornings. By midday it will be roasting.

I am really excited about the next part of this trip. The desert is a completely new landscape for me and it is going to quite a challenge. I've heard many different things about the desert. The latest scare stories I have heard is about dangerous wild dogs and UXO (unexploded ordnance from conflicts between Bolivia ands Chile). One thing I have learned is that people love to give a forecast of danger and doom.  Whatever it is like, it is going to be completely different to the south of Chile. It certainly won't be so easy. Bolivia is going to be where it gets really tough! I really can't wait. I have no idea how my body is going to deal with the high altitude and freezing cold nights.

Right, I'm off to get some food for the next few days. I hope to make it to San Pedro in two or three days, depending on the weather and the landscape, so I should get there on Sunday or Monday. The latter being the more realistic estimate.

(next post: The Atacama Desert - Antofagasta to San Pedro)

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