After leaving La Serena I crossed the 4th river with any flow, more like a stream in my book, and then headed along a beautiful coastline - rocky cliffs, blue water, pefect paragliding ridges (would have had me jumping 5 years ago), and no fences!! What few houses or shacks there were had wind and/sloar power. Sounds like paradise eh...? Only problem is there is bugger all water and the for sale signs are well up, but if you can get your hands on a regular water tanker and are quick it could work. Managed 75k after a lunchtime start so all good.
The next morning I got going early but for some reason my legs just were not having it, stopped for a stretch, still no go, what I struggled to see as much of a up hill seemed like a decent up. Was it me, the bike, was it really a hill..... No after slowly pedalling on for about 20k at no more than 10kph I decided it was the lack of fuel in my tank. My eating habit over the few days before was shockingly bad plus yesterday was a decent run. So I tuck my bodies hint and stuffed a packet of crap biscuits down and followed it up with meat and potato stew and goat (not a kid) and rice. Managed to speed up and clock up 75ks, god knows how! Oh I bumped into my first cycle tourist too, Pier from Holland on his way south to Santiago from Arica in north Chile.
Thursday all was well in the legs and I stomped on to Vallaner which is another oasis of a valley, with another stream of a river. Here unfortunately the ruta 5 turned back into a brand new motorway, not even opened yet, just putting the signs up infact, the problem was the barbed wire fence that accompanied it. It prevented me (and anyone else) from stopping and wandering off into the part flower covered desert when ever I felt like it, plus it seemed to be joined by a sudden lack of truck stop cafes, both of which gave me cause for concern with my water supply been used up fast (I had just upped my capacity from 3.5 to 5litres the day before thankfully) and when looking for a camping spot away from the road. I will go into more detail about my views on motorways in a later post (bet you can´t wait for that one...:) ).
The flower bloom is a natural phenomenon which only happens every 5 years or so and actually increasing with the change in climate (a positive at last!!). When the desert finally gets a few spots of rain the masses of waiting seeds burst into life and cover the otherwise barren landscape with a floral carpet.
Well I had stayed on the motorway to see it instead of taking an unsealed coast road and was just fretting about the lack of flowers, water, and fences, when my nose got the effect of walking into a florists, amazing!! A total carpet of white, and then purples. And it continued on today, for me it was like nature showing its beauty against the ugly new man-made tar-seal cutting through it.
Thursday was a big day at 110k and todays 90k had me reaching Copiapo, a large town in another oasis valley (this time no water in the river). I´m in a guest house tonight, the shower was cold but felt great.
I have decided to carry on north and try and cross the Andes inland from San Pedro. The true Atacama desert awaits! (Note; I will be upping my water capacity to 8litres over the next few days)