Having spent the last few days eating, drinking, and exploring the La Serena and Elqui valley area my feet are starting to itch, I am "chewing at the bit" to get pedalling again!
But my route is going to be changed a wee bit;
My plan was to cross at the Paso de Agra Negra which is inland from the Elqui valley, directly east of La Serena. At a height of 4780m crossing the Andes was (and still is!) one of the big challenges of my ride and I have been looking forward to spectacular views and isolation.
But since my farm contacts have not "fruited" and my pace along the first stage was a lot quicker than expected I have got months before the Pass is due to open. Also my funds would be better kept for a cheaper country (Chile is suprisingly expensive, some costs been similar to UK or NZ).
SO I have been looking at options....
1. Head north to the Paso San Francisco, similar height (4750m), passes by the highest active volcano in the world - Ojos del Salado 6864-6893m (true height undetermined..!), and would mean I still arrive into Argentina at a decent latitude to explore the North-west.
It is currently open but they will not allow solo cyclists through, possibility in 2-3 weeks!
2. Head further north. There are 3 passes near Sand Pedro de Atacama. All between 3800 and 4300m. All should be open. But that means cycling through the Atacama desert (the driest place in the world, not a challange I was looking for before climbing to such altitudes). Plus it means I enter Argentina at its northern tip and would be tempted to cross straight into Boliva which can also be entered at the same area.
3. Head South to the main crossing point near Santiago, 3800m, open all year, busy with trucks and buses, tunnels, and although very challenging I had hoped for an alternative. Plus means riding south again (see below).
4. Head further south. Many lower passes around the 1800 - 2000m mark near Chilean and the Lake District. Not the challenge I was looking for, but means I get to see the more (horticultural and agricultural wise) interesting part of the country, means riding south through Santiago area, expensive option due to increased time in Chile and Argentina, heading in the wrong direction (see below).
I decided pretty early on that to keep my moral and motivation up, it is best for me to be heading in th right direction for my journey. (Am I exploring South America or on a journey between my two homes....? A journey I think). I have a massive distance ahead of me and fascinating areas to explore without adding to it by going south t then have to ride further north. Therefore I should keep on a roughly northerly route and not, (as my good friend Kai puts it),"tit about" to much.
Combined with this I have been warned against Summer in Burenos Aires and the Uraguay coast, hot and crowded, which had been my intented schedule. So I am thinking the best option would be to cut the route and stick to the West side of the continent. But before you worry to much this is NOT a long winded cop out. In some ways the opposite. As many people know I am hoping to continue on north through Central and North America. So the kms will be covered!
Looking at my options and the information currently available to me option 1 is the one I would like to go for, so with 2-3 weeks before I am expected to beable to get through the border I will take my time travelling from here (La Serena) to Copiapo.
Lucky for me it is the National Festival for the next 4-5 days so will try and cure my itchy feet with a bit of dancing instead ;)
Breaking Chains and Not Burning Rubber
BREAKING CHAINS - Freedom: Cycle touring is the greatest way I have found to experience freedom. Whilst I celebrate mine I hope to help others gain and realise theirs, and protect ours, by fundraising for Amnesty International
NOT BURNING RUBBER - Environmental Awareness: Cycling is one of the most efficient and sustainable modes of transport. It's slow speed allows you to become more aware and connected with our surroundings, and therefore the pressures that they may be under. I intent to have a minimal negative impact on the environment whilst I travel, and will share my observations and experiences about my journey, environmental issues, and sustainable living here: