Monday, December 22, 2008

Caldera and Vallenar to La Serena Dec 18 -22

Leaving Caldera I decided to take a couple of off-road detours along the coast. The 200 km of dirt through Torotal and Corizal Bajo to Huasco was beautiful. I had an excellent lunch (congrio, a kind of eel) in Corizal, where some of the locals insisted that I share their bottle of wine. They also told me about the main industry in Corizal, collecting algae to sell to the Chinese and Japanese for use in cosmetics.

This was also the day that I saw the first real greenery in weeks. It might look like scrub brush to you, but after a thousand miles of desert it looked like a tropical rain forest to me!

On the 19th I decided to take another detour, along to coast to Punta Choros. I had been told it was good dirt, then a little bit of shallow sand, then dirt again. It was to go to Parque de Pinguinos de Humbolt, where I thought I could spot some penguins on the shore.

The dirt part was great. But then I hit SAND, and if there´s one thing bikers (at least this one) don´t like it is sand. This was truly deep doodoo, and on grades.

The first time the bike went down I had a hell of a time getting it back up. Fortunately there was some drunk (the only person for miles) lying under a cactus. He had tried to get me to pay for going to the beach, which I declined. I hiked back up to him and got him to help (promises of $$), and back on the road. Interestingly, he wouldn´t take any money from me for helping lift the bike.

A few hundred meters down the road, down I went again. Fell on my leg. After lying on the ground going through the routine ´leg´s not broken, arm´s not broken´ etc. I stood and This time got the bike up OK.

A few kilometers more and down she goes again. This time on my foot. Same routine, counting fingers and other extremities. I came up one short, but then I remembered that I have been one short for 30 years, so no new damage! This time I had to take all the luggage off and really struggle to get it back up. Took about an hour. Just as I was leaving that spot, about 20 yards further on, down she goes again! I just stood there and screamed OH F**K at the top of my lungs. I think they heard me in Peru (although they didn´t come to help). I eventually muscled it back up and semi-duck-walked to reach the hardpack.

All the while I kept telling myself: This doesn´t happen to me. This is my friend Oisin´s story (this stuff always happens to him) and I want out of it!

Anyway, I rode on to La Serena with a seriously sore ankle, knee, and back, where I stayed for four days, taking it easy and popping pain pills. Fortunately nothing serious.

As an aside, as I was riding into La Serena I saw this sign. I´m not sure if it was a veterinary hospital, a brothel, or simply some bad translation, but it certainly conjured up some interesting thoughts!

I also have to make a comment, and thanks, about Tonino motors in La Serena. I needed a new chain and sprockets while there. The chain was shot. I went to Tonino and he had a chain and front sprocket, but no spare rear. However, he had just gotten in two new KLR650s. He took the rear sprocket off of one and put it on my bike so I could get back on the road. This meant that his bike was out of commission. Now that´s service!

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