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:

Friday, 30 September 2011

Riding the Atacama

From Copiapo I rode for two days to Chanarel, the second day of which was along beautiful rocky coastline with amazing camping spots along the way.
I then had the luxury of a bed and a shower in a guest house run by a quirky old fella for a couple of nights and stuffed myself with great, but expensive, fish and chips.
Everything is about mining in northern Chile and it becomes more and more prominent the further north I get. The majority of cars on the road are utes connected somehow to getting the goods out of the ground, and there are scares all over the barren landscape.
Leaving the town with a 400km ride through the Atacama desert ahead of me it was quite simbolic to see a load of vulchers perched at the side of the road.
The last Posada (cafe) and water stop for over 100kms;
The ride through the desert was awesome. The first night I rode until it was dark and slept under the stars without my tent.
I tried to get most of the distance done in the morning and late afternoon, but there was no escapingthe tremendous dry heat of the desert as there is no shade bar the odd parked up truck or tiny patch under a road sign - which I did take advantage of.
The second day I road again until it was dark and was up at 5 the next morning hopeing to get to the next water stop before lunch (70km from camp). Cycling through the desert under the stars and slowly watching the landscape light up through many shades of colour was the highlight of my ride so far.
As it turns out the ride was downhill all the way to the Posasda. No wonder the last two days had been hard riding, I had been riding gradually uphill - to 2000m it turns out! It is hard to tell if you are going slightly uphill in the open landscapes and usually put the lack of speed down to tired legs.
I was going to reach Antofagasta (the coast) a day early!
But shortly after taking a quick snap of the desert hand, the Atacama showed me just how hard it can be at times, ahead of me was what looked like a nice bit of valley cloud... it turned out to be a dust and sand cloud blown up the valley by the strong afternoon westerly winds!
I struggled on for the last 50km, bearly moving at times, but managed to get to the next waterstop and onto the city before five. 165km, another personal best!

The Atacama desert - the driest place on earth. I'm proud to have made it across it, but have to admit without the steady flow of trucks and mining utes going past with the security of help if needed, it would have been far harder mentally and probably past my ability.

Not a plant in sight for 300km - strange place for a budding horticulturist to visit don't you think......?!

A couple of nights in the city then the climb east up the Andes awaits!

There is a short video clip of me in the desert on youtube:


  1. Great photos Ric and you have a way of (story)telling your journey.

  2. It seems that the desert hand is enormous! Must have a story behind the hand?