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:

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Atacama 2: In sickness and in health

I have now arrived in San Pedro de Atacama after 4 days on the road going at a steady uphill through the desert.

There was however a few issues that made it a tough section....
1. Wind. After battling the strong westerly wind on the way into Antofagasta I had hoped to catch a lift back up into the desert on it and even through it. This didn't really work out and the best I managed was a tail breeze in the late afternoons. I did however get hammered by the head on easterly winds. Which on the first night nearly blow me and my tent away. A gusty side on gale also wipped up a bit of a sand storm that was an experience to ride through.
2. Dysentry. After yet more poor quality food in the city I managed to get some trouble in my bowels. It didn't make for a great last night of preparations in town and also had me squatting at the side of the road in a few spots (One freedom cycling does give is that you can stop and go to the toilet when you need to. In the desert however there is little privacy, and any dignity is well lost!).
3. Altitude Sickness. On the forth day of this section I climbed to over 3400m. It was amazing to feel the effect of altitude on my body for the first time - like I had suddenly lost all my strength and had got a strange hangover from somewhere without the pleasure. Thankfully it passed after struggling on for a while. With my next section taking me to well over 4000metres it is something I will need to plan for.

Well with those few issues and the fact that I had only spoken face to face in full sentences to one person in 21 days ment my second day was a real low and had me erecting my tent bend over double with stomach pain in the dark (the wind was in my favour in the evenings). I got straight in my bed without dinner and dreamed of happy times back in NZ and England.

On the positive at least the bike and equipment was all performing well, plus no sign of rain!

But the morning was brighter, and I was given a lift when I discovered a fruit leather from TreeDimensions Orchard in NZ (a bio-dynamic orchard where I did some work experience back in Easter). I had been saving it for this reason. I followed that with a descent breakfast and got stuck into the ride to Calama, a modern mining service town with all the services needed.
My spirit was further lifted just prior to reaching the town by a train driver hooting away at me and raising his mug of coffee out the window to me.

After I had crossed over the pass at over 3400m on the fourth day I descended towards San Pedro and the scenery became stunning - volcano peaks, weird rock formations, and dramatic desert plains. Plus the greenery of the oasis that San Pedro de Atacama is sited in.

After 21 days on my own I'm glad to be back on the tourist / gringo trial, (for a few days anyway). Daniela is coming up to meet me, so we will spend a bit of time checking out all the local sights. I will also give my bike a bit of a maintenance check, the chain is in need of been changed (I have a chain checker with me that checks fhow stretched it is. I had been waiting as the new chain I have for it will just get hammered in the desert sand)

Oh and I crossed into the Tropics on the first day!

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