FROM region IV TO III
REGIONs coquimbo(IV) to atacama (III)
santiago to copiapó
wild camp to copiapó
Enough water and food easily saw us to the first and second road side shops about - about 20-25km from Copiapó. A climb right before the town but then 14km of downhill right into town. An ok town with a couple of bike shops. A mall with good camping/out door shops. Here for 3 rest days. Paso San Fransisco is closed dut ot bad weather so heading north into the heart of the Atacama desert!
vallenar to wild camp
No villages on this 150km stretch but there are some small shops - mainly within 40km of Vallenar then nothing until wthin 20km of Copiapó - so about 100km without water or food. We filled our water bottles at the restuarant at 40km which was enough until the next shop (another 60km). Difficult also to camp hidden - we found a small hill but otherwise, just flat desert.
wild camp 2 to vallenar
The day started cloudy with just spots of rain but as we set off, a torrential down pour in the driest desert on earth! Heavy rain for about 8 hours, even the locals were surprised. A small posada/coffee hut at the top of the pass gave us some shelter and hot bread with coffee. Nice downhill all the way to Vallenar. We stayed in a hotel due to the rain - but needed to shop around as so many are ridiculously over priced.
wild camp 1 to wild camp 2
Still taking it slow due to knee pain. A few more villages on the road (about 20-25km apart) so plenty of water and basic provisions available. A second pass, higher in altitude and more steep but not as far. Has dinner at the last village and watched the champions league final! Camped by the disused railway with an amazing night sky.
los hornos to wild camp
Almost straight from the beach is the start of a pass - a gradual gradient but about 20km to the top with about switch backs. A small town at the bottom on the other side of the pass with the shop on the other side of the ruta 5. There are villages about 20-30km apart.
La serena to los hornos
A short day due to knee pain took us to the beach. A small village with a few sea food restaurants and hostels. We had a good fish and chips and then cycled down to the beach and camped there. We slept to the sound to the ocean!
ovalle to la serena
So we both caught the cold in Ovalle and took a week off the bikes - mainly in bed. After a week in bed, it was a little tough starting again and with the gradual 40km uphill to begin with, this turned into a tough day. Many small shops along the way so plenty of food/water. The road is pretty busy near La Serena but there is a hard shoulder.
wild camp to ovalle
A worsening cold and cough made us take a short day to Ovalle. Busier road but ok. Ovalle is a major town with shops and restaurants but not a good bike shop. Stayed here until we recovered from our illness. We planned to head east towards Paso Agua Negra and into Argentina - but the current news is that this border is closed due to bad weather and it'll be closed for the rest of the season. So our plan is now to continue north - hoping to cross at Paso San Fransisco.
wild camp to palqui (wild Camp)
After the previous tough day, we had a big breakfast at Combarbala and then set off into the desert. Quiet roads and small villages every 20km make it a nice day of cycling. Camping around Palqui was difficult due to the amount of farm land and vineyards but we managed to find a quiet place 500m off the road.
illapel to wild camp
A brutal day of climbing! Pretty much uphill for about 45km with many switch backs and false summits. Steep in parts and the ripio becomes progressively worse. Last shop is 16km out of town which was closed; also the fork in the road is here - ripio to the right, tarmac to the left. We went right. Nothing else on this road until the next town except mines - we did see a few rivers but as they were so close to the mines we decided not to use them in case of heavy metal pollution. Great views the higher we got and amazing sunset over the Andes. Downhill in the dark and campd wild. A farmer did warn us of Pumas and snakes!
tilama to illapel
Good ripio road for most of the way - smooth and compacted dirt, not many rocks. But 3 steep climbs becoming progressively easier. After each climb (in the valley) is a small village which was nice to get cold drinks and snacks - nothing inbetween. Beautiful views but tough day of cycling.
cabildo to tilama
Quiet roads and small villages every 20km - mainly uphill. We stopped at a few places to buy water/drinks but the shops were closed about 50% of the time. Tilama is very small with only 1 or 2 shops - very basic. The shop at the northern end of town (next to the house with flowers) is run by an old lady, has water, pasta, tinned food and sweets. She let us camp in the field opposite (free) and gave us as much water as we needed. The tarmac road becomes ripio about 10-15km before Tilama but its pretty good quality, smooth dirt.
wild camp to cabildo
Woke up to another flat tyre! The road from to this town is much quieter for both traffic and shops. After 45km, we found a small shop to buy lunch - luckily it was open. After a good 10km uphill to start the day, we had a massive downhill - some 30+km. Cabildo is a small town with all the normal shops/supermarkets. Caught the cold here so decided to take a rest day. Stayed at Hostel Maria Teresa - $14000 peso/person - nice place, ok breakfast. Small courtyard for more bike mechanics.
los andes to wild camp
More bike mechanics in the morning and afternoon made this a late start. Cycling out of Los Andes is not the most inspiring - dirty suburbs, busy roads... we found a small river to camp by after another short day of cycling.
wild camp to los andes
More punctures and now broken rack bolts - hence a short day of cycling! We had to get to a mechanics to weld off the broken bolts. We then spent the rest of the day fixing and strengthening the racks. Hoping this was the last of the bad luck. A few bike shop in town - all of which directed us to the one in town with the best workshop. Everyone was super helpful and got us back on the road the following day.
santiago to wild camp
After almost 3 weeks off the bikes in Santiago with Reza's mum and visiting friends, we were back on the road and heading north on our new fat bikes. We left on Sunday and so the traffic was not as brutal as it could be heading out of a big city. However, we truly missed our puncture resistant 'Schwalbe Marathon Tour Plus' tyres! Having cycled some 4000km without a single puncture, we had got used to a puncture-free existence. However, our new 4 inch tyres picked up every piece of metal on the road. And the Ruta 5 has a lot of debris!!! 5 punctures later, we decided to call it a night and camped in a field beside the motorway.