Vicuña to Antofagasta

After a beautiful breakfast of fresh fruit, avocado, home made jams and good coffee, we finally leave Vicuña for our slow ride up to Antofagasta. The morning is so cool at 13 degrees that we pull over after 30′ to put one layer of thermals on – what a difference that makes!!

So often on our trip, I’ve found that I forget to mention or take photos of commonplace sights. We see them so often, we forget to even mention them. Time to mention one of them now as the road from La Serena to Vicuña had some of the more elaborate ones we’ve seen: roadside shrines. The first ones I’d noticed outside Santiago looked more like small colourful kennels – you may have noticed the odd one in some of my previous photos. I had taken a photo of some of them where we stopped and had some of Mitch and Mary’s sandwiches but didn’t post it as they were just before Anthony’s accident!! Anyway, the shrines we see are either religious ones (to the Virgin Mary, Christ, a local patron saint), or to Difunta Correa (Deolinda Correa had set out with her infant son in search of her husband who had been forced to join the army in the 40’s – she died of thirst, but not before putting her son to her breast and he survived. Bottles of water are left to calm her thirst) or to victims of car accidents. Sometimes, the accident ones are often placed at very distracting places, often on both sides of a bend or on straight stretches of road with several crosses, presumedly where many people died, in a coach accident maybe?? You know never to focus on an obstacle whatever you are driving as if you do, you are likely to end up where you are looking, maybe that’s why we often see multiple shrines in one spot… I haven’t wanted to take close up photos feeling it was intruding, but the first ones here were taken where we stopped to put on that extra layer of clothing.

Roadside shrine in Chie

Roadside shrine in Chie

Shrine to Defunta Correa

Shrine to Defunta Correa

Shrine to accident victim in Chile

Shrine to accident victim in Chile

It is cool today heading north of La Serena

It is cool today heading north of La Serena


The Ruta 5 north of La Serena is being upgraded so we end up stopping many times as the traffic is controlled one lane at a time. North of Vallenar, it is back to perfect dual highway. We feel we might even make it to Bahia Inglesia which I have been told many times by different people is an absolutely stunning place and worth a visit. But the road is so perfect and easy, it quickly becomes boring and as we get close to the Copiapo by-pass, Anthony tells me he is getting tired. Time to stop, change of plans and find a place for the night in Copiapo.
Shades of grey of the Atacama region heading into Copiapo

Shades of grey of the Atacama region heading into Copiapo

Outside Copiapo and time for a change of plan

Outside Copiapo and time for a change of plan

The sole reason for Copiapo being of any size is to support the mining industry in the area. It soons become obvious that people are there because they have too. One miserable place, miserable hotel receptionist, sad hotel which had seen better days but had been left to slowly decay, and very very aggressive drivers. We couldn’t wait to get out of there.

No photos of Copiapo!!

A short ride to Bahia Inglesia where I have tentatively eyed a place for 2 nights, on the outskirts of the village. We park the bikes and go for a walk along the beach. It has a gorgeous little bay, as per the photos, many restaurants along the beach front, but that is it!!! It was too cold and windy for us to have a swim so we had a lovely lunch. We pick one of the few places that doesn’t have music blaring. Oooh those fresh scallops were delicious!!!!!!!

Heading west out of Copiapo to Taltal

Heading west out of Copiapo to Taltal

More shrines on our way to Bahia Inglesia

More shrines on our way to Bahia Inglesia

Bahi Inglesia in the distance

Bahi Inglesia in the distance

Bahia Inglesia beach

Bahia Inglesia beach

Bahia Inglesia beach

Bahia Inglesia beach


We ride out to the cabanas I’d found. Oh dear…. On a rocky desert beach, with a couple of trees planted for the website images no doubt – so unappealing… Quick turn around and change of plan again, and we head to Chañaral.

Fabulous shades of grey of the Atacama

Fabulous shades of grey of the Atacama

Heading to Taltal

Heading to Taltal

Another shrine outside Bahia Inglesia

Another shrine outside Bahia Inglesia

This is definitely mining region outside Chañaral

This is definitely mining region outside Chañaral

Heading north to Chañaral

Heading north to Chañaral

Lava flows down to the ocean south of Chañaral

Lava flows down to the ocean south of Chañaral

It is now early afternoon and the winds have definitely picked up. The road hugs the coast and the scenery is quite dramatic, with lava flows right down to the ocean. Yet again, a geologist’s paradise. Our neck muscles strengthen as we ride at angle for a while.

Chañaral

Chañaral

After riding around Chañaral for a while, we find another hotel listed on Anthony’s GPS which has a nice name: Aqua Luna. It is interesting how places always have an instant feel. The receptionist at this tiny hotel was so friendly and shows us to our room. It is a funny little hotel where all the rooms are towards the back so the only natural light and fresh air come from a central passage way. Outside our room is a plastic fountain with trickling water – maybe not to our taste, but they did try!!

Outside our hotel room in Chañaral

Outside our hotel room in Chañaral

At one stage, I asked for some water and the receptionist immediately organised a huge urn. Later she asked if we needed some more. For dinner, we went through town to a restaurant she recommended. On the way, we enjoyed seeing what shops in Chañaral stored. We find our favourite type of store: it has everything from the brightest bras to industrial strength compressors. At the restaurant, we ordered pizzas, zin queso for me (no cheese) explaining that I am allergic (all in Spanish!! i don’t know much but . When they arrive, I take my first mouthful and immediately taste the unmistakable taste of queso. I quickly grab a tissue, dispose of my mouthful,and inspect my pizza. It’s not too bad, it will be fine I tell Anthony. But the young waiter spotted what I had done and comes over. I say that I can cut the piece off and I’ll be fine. No, he will get another one made he insists. What service!!! A tiny restaurant, in a tiny place and what unbelievable service.

Outside our hotel room in Chañaral

Outside our hotel room in Chañaral

Chañaral was a lovely spot to stay over – time to head off to Antofagasta. First main stop was Taltal, also on the coast. I got chased by two big dogs which was a bit unnerving but we stop outside the Victor Hugo school for a fresh juice. Although the waterfront has been renovated, and the council wanted to make it a pleasant place, the locals thought otherwise… The public toilets are permanently locked, need I say more… We did enjoy watching the seals and birdlife but decided to move on and have our lunch on the road.

Atacama shades of brown

Atacama shades of brown

Atacama shades of grey

Atacama shades of grey

Atacama shades of beige

Atacama shades of beige

Always look back and admire the scenery

Always look back and admire the scenery

More shades of the Atacama desert

More shades of the Atacama desert

Atacama shades of brown

Atacama shades of brown

First sign of  life and vegetation - moss surviving on dew coming into Taltal

First sign of life and vegetation – moss surviving on dew coming into Taltal

Taltal

Taltal

Vultures in Taltal

Vultures in Taltal

What a ride to Antofagasta!!! Absolutely stunning. We chose to take CH1 then B710. Yes, it was windy, very windy at times and a painter’s paradise. Any home renovator would know how many shades of white there are: natural, china, bone, limed, porcelain, shell. The scenery was magical. We saw more than 50 shades of grey: celladon, mallard, bilby, yarwood, dove, moon. So many shades of brown: raw sienna, burnt umber, Gold oxide, nutmeg, walnut, leather, burnished bark, caramel; of red: burnt sienna, indian red oxide, burgundy, carmen, terracotta . So many shades of beige too. It is difficult to capture the beauty of this desert but I hope some of the photos show some of it.

More dramatic scenery north of Taltal

More dramatic scenery north of Taltal

Shade of reds and browns of the Atacama

Shade of reds and browns of the Atacama

Shade of reds and browns of the Atacama

Shade of reds and browns of the Atacama

Atacama

Atacama


Atacama

Atacama

More neck strengthening hours on the bike. We find a sheltered spot to stop and have lunch, near the Paranal Observatory, which is closed except on Saturdays. As we eat our tuna and dried crackers on the edge of the runway, a truck slows down, the driver shaking a carton of juice at us. We do a thumbs up, he stops, he hands over a full litre of apple juice and he takes off again. So nice!!!!

Thank you for the apple juice!!

Thank you for the apple juice!!

Time for a selfie in the windy Atacama desert - runway in the background

Time for a selfie in the windy Atacama desert – runway in the background


The Atacama is vast and beautiful and deserted

The Atacama is vast and beautiful and deserted

A couple of hours later, we get to a great sculpture, El Mano Del Desierto.

El Mano del Desierto

El Mano del Desierto

The hand in the background

The hand in the background

Every new corner gives us new shades

Every new corner gives us new shades

We make good time and get to Antofagasta just after 4pm. We head to our apartment on the northern end of Antofagasta for the next 2 nights but the concierge was only given a bunch of envelopes with apartment numbers on, but with no name, so couldn’t help us. We ring a few numbers, but I have been given wrong numbers. Hmmm, strange… So we are left with having to find another hotel!! At 6pm, rush hour, not my favourite time to find accommodation. We turn the bikes around, I get chased by a very angry barking Alsatian, and stop at another hotel. After being told they are full, they search some more and miracle, they have one last room!!! Bliss. Thank you!!! It is luxurious. Great place to catch up on washing and photo uploading :-). I immediately contact booking.com who apologise and tell me they will do what they can to compensate us for any additional costs incurred.

Heading back into Antofagasta in search of a new hotel

Heading back into Antofagasta in search of a new hotel

Antofagasta coast

Antofagasta coast

Another selfie in Antofagasta

Another selfie in Antofagasta

Made in Bath, UK

Made in Bath, UK

Surfing and texting is a worldwide phenomenon

Surfing and texting is a worldwide phenomenon

Loved this way of training bougainvellias into 'trees' in Antofagasta

Loved this way of training bougainvellias into ‘trees’ in Antofagasta

Part historic part mural in Antofagasta

Part historic part mural in Antofagasta

The Andes coming into the ocean at Antofagasta

The Andes coming into the ocean at Antofagasta

View from our hotel room of the colourful houses of Antofagasta

View from our hotel room of the colourful houses of Antofagasta

We spend a day stroling around Antofagasta and basically lounging around in our room.

– Anne

11 comments on “Vicuña to Antofagasta

  1. Wow the colours of the desert are amazing! What makes it change colour? Is the soil different or just the light? Bahia Inglesia looked a delightful beach so pity about the cabana… Loved the selfies although wondered who took the pic of you by that huge hand as it captured the immensity of it perfectly. You are both looking well and sending much love xx

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    • The Atacama is rich in minerals, from copper, gold, silver and iron as well as non metallic minerals including important deposits of boron, lithium, sodium nitrate and potassium salts.

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    • The Atacama is rich in minerals, including copper, gold, silver, iron, boron, lithium, sodium nitrate and potassium salts. A geologist’s paradise I would imagine. Luckily, about 10′ after we arrived at the ‘hand’, a local family turned up and took our photo. It was great to have the entire place to ourselves first and even better that they turned up! Xxx

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