The last few weeks I have moved relatively quickly up the coastline of Chile. The road has brought me both very close to the water´s edge and far enough inland to forget an ocean actually exists in this world.
There has been some long distances with no towns, services or houses at all – forcing 2 or 3 day stretches of having to be self sufficient with no additional food and water to be found.
This is an aspect I haven’t had since Tierra del Fuego and is actually a welcomed challenge as it brings a little more planning, thinking and consequence to the party.
The majority of this time I have been in the Atacama desert – which according to the local tourist commission, Wikipedia and a bunch of respectable sources is the driest desert in the world with certain weather stations never recording a drop of rain.
Driest desert in the world, now that´s a catchy tag line. Well, it at least made me want to bike it.
That was until I was forced to do 5 long days riding where I actually ran out of road and had to hike out – All due to a bad map with some even worse decision making. However this particular story I`m taking my time to write down and will have to re-visit some other day. Leaving anyone who cares in suspense. (It seems that I`m starting to build these side stories quickly.)
As you can imagine, the climate and geography has drastically changed in the past few weeks. Green trees, rain and muddy roads have been replaced with brown rocks, sun and dusty roads.
While transitioning to the new landscape, the reduction of rain was much appreciated. However there was still a trend of threatening clouds clouds in both the morning and afternoon producing some brilliant sunsets and rises – which also constantly made me wonder if I was about going to get wet or not.
Before I remembered the full rhyming aspect, I seriously spent hours on my bike having an internal debate whether a red sky at morning was good for a sailor. Drawing upon my pre-school knowledge of meteorology and the fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west – I had quite a few scenarios to play around with.
Finally I remembered that the saying actually goes ´Red sky in morning, sailor take warning. Red sky at night, sailor´s delight´.
But this doesn’t seem to matter because Mother Nature, just like everyone else in South America, does whatever the hell it wants at any time of day.
As before, I ran into some mechanical challenges and battles with the wind. But truthfully I´m sick of writing about these things.
Also I haven’t figured out a way to auto-delete English Ed Gerrard’s comments – where he will undoubtedly, in his own special way, tell me to stop complaining and also doubt that I´m in South America but rather somewhere behind his home in upstate New York.
So instead I´m going to write about an element of this trip I haven’t covered much yet. This is a part that I really enjoy and without it, the trip wouldn’t be the same.
Especially in the past few weeks, I have been camping for free a vast majority of the nights. The type of camping I´m doing some Bike Tourers call ´Stealth Camping´. This is where you camp sneakily for the night, anywhere you can find a spot and concealed from view without being seen until you leave in the morning (hence the Stealth part).
Alongside other reasons, being hidden is for personal safety – keeping you tucked away from a random drunk or bored local who would like nothing more than to have some fun at your expense.
The phrase `Stealth Camping` itself sounds a little too James Bond for me, so I prefer to call it something closer to `Roadside Wild Camping Because I´m Cheap, Love Nature And Please Don´t Mess With Me´ or some other deviation of that.
But no matter what you call it, it has definitely become a defining factor of the trip.
This experience gives you the feeling of living for the moment in nature. You´re back to basics and as cheesy as it sounds: all that matters on most of these days are water, food and shelter.
It´s an interesting feeling when you wake up having no clue where you will sleep the next night. Everyday after your water and food supplies are squared away (which is a totally different rant all together), finding a place to sleep becomes a priority.
There always seems to be some hours late in the day where you go through all the emotions looking for a camping spot.
Intrigue on what you will find on the road ahead. Doubt you will find anything suitable. Frustration that the spot you rode past 10km ago might have been the best you´re going to get. And of course excitement when everything comes together.
It is actually a process, one that doesn’t get old and can be a little bit like Camping Russian Roulette as you need to take the bad spots with the good.
There have been times where I have been treated to a beautiful beach spot with the sound of waves crashing. People pay a lot for recordings of this sound that they play next to their bedside in order to sleep well.
On the other hand, some nights I had to sleep with the sound of over sized trucks going 3 meters above my head. This was because I´m was in some flat barren desert and slept under the road to avoid being some trucker´s 3am entertainment.
I´m pretty sure people don´t pay a lot of money for this sound.
During this whole process, nothing else matters.
You care about the moment only. When you set-up your tent in the dark without a headlamp so passing stranger can´t see you: you`re not exactly worrying about paying bills and some other concern.
This feeling is quite hard to explain but I guess it has the same roots in why people jump out of airplanes, play dangerous sports or just drive their car a little too fast.
All these things just remove the clutter of life and allows you to live in moment.
I guess that is all I´m really looking for on this trip – not the secret of life, to find myself or anything else deep like that – just live in the moment and have fun.
With that said, I`m starting to get the feeling that have been on a soapbox long enough now.
So I think its time to move northeast across Chile and into Boliva, or as I like to call Ed´s backyard. Where hopefully I can avoid thinking about paying bills just a little bit longer.
I hope all is well with everyone and Happy Easter! Take care.