My first day was an exciting one, months and months of waiting for this one moment came to an end. As I prepared my bike in the morning, I found myself constantly remembering that “one last thing” I needed before leaving, running back and forth stocking the bike with everything necessary. My hosts parents stood bye in the kitchen, anxiously waiting to send me off; they were scared of my audacious plans from the first day I met them. I’m sure they wondered, “who is this gringo? He doesn’t even speak Spanish, what makes him think he can travel South America alone, let alone on a motorcycle??”. Once I had actually bought the bike, a 2007 Honda Falcon NX400, sold to me by a fellow traveler, they did nothing but support me through all my preparations. For that I owe them a huge thanks, but mostly for the juice boxes they loaded into my trunk right before I wheeled away. I knew I was missing something :P.
I made 3 local stops before heading to the interstate: Jumbo and two friends houses.
At Jumbo I bought a couple of SD cards for my GoPro to keep the footage rolling along the trip. I also bought a last minute pair of gloves which turned out to be a life saving decision, the wind that day alone would have froze my hands to the point of frostbite. I don’t even want to imagine the cold when I end up passing through the Andes….
As for my friends, I made sure to say goodbye before leaving. I first stopped by Ruso’s places, one of the locals, and then Van and Danny’s nearby. Ruso, I’ll see you in a month man, as for Van and Danny I’ll see you two before too long back in the States.
So now I was off. I blasted music on freshly installed speakers and drove through the town I had known so well for the last 4 months 1 last time on my bike. The drive was around 5-6 hours though I was sure to stop several times on the way on deserted beaches, outlooks, sand dunes, and of course for gas and food. Within an hour, I had made my first discovery that will likely affect me for the trip ahead. My as* hurt. Man I hope I get used to that seat because I’ve still got over 7,000Km to go haha.
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My second lesson: don’t let the bike fall over. I had loaded all of my luggage on one side to give space on the back of the seat; it wasn’t a problem while driving, but once parked it really wanted to tip the bike over. I’ve road heavier bikes with the same issue, but never through the sand along a beach and never alone. I parked the bike along a gorgeous white beach to stop and relax, take some photos and snack a little. Once sufficiently rested, I came back to the bike, hoped on, kicked the stand up, and hit the ignition. Like always, I released the clutch a tad to get the bike started while I adjusted myself on the seat. The back tire quickly lost traction in the sand and with that, the bike was on its side in seconds. I recruited a nearby fisherman to help me pick it back up, and with a sigh of relief started the process all over again, being careful to keep the bike upright and lead it out slowly. Only one problem. Gas had leaked into the air box and it wouldn’t start. The fisherman had left and I was alone with 3 hours left until La Serena. Now this had happened to me once before, and I knew the protocol. I could either tear the bike open with tools I don’t have and clean it, or wait until the liquid evaporates and continue on. Well last time that took 2 days, so I wasn’t feeling very hopeful. I decided to give it a couple of hours before making any drastic decisions, and bummed around by the bike swatting this one particular fly that bombarded me fearlessly for what seemed like an eternity. The damn thing had more kahunas than a kamikaze and more agility than a cat. Even worse, it had a humongous needle for a face that kept threatening to skewer me at any turn.
Well at the least it distracted me as I ran around frantically, because by the time it had left me alone the bike magically decided to run again. I hurriedly packed my things in fear it may not want to start again if I waited, and attempted to set off once more. I say attempted, because you guessed it, the bike fell over again. It was not my day. With no one to help me, I gathered the strength of 1,000 men and dead lifted that bike to it’s upright position. Now, it’s easy enough to lift up without my luggage, but there was no time to waste unstrapping everything as I didn’t want the gas to fill the air box again. I was lucky enough to save it in time, and I was finally off.
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Rough first day as far as that is concerned, I was ready to break out the tent and set down some roots, feasting off my measly supply of Super Ochos, juice boxes, and cereal bars.
I didn’t let that ruin the day though, and honestly the rest of the trip was fantastic. My new gloves and windproof motorcycle jacket kept me warm, my speakers entertained, and the surrounding nature inundated my senses.
Once I arrived in La Serena, I contacted a couple friends spending their weekend in the city and met up with them. They were couch surfing in an apartment along the beach and I was invited to spend the night, so I did. We went out and celebrated one girls birthday, or at least as much as I could. My exhausted self drank a couple beers, took a couple shots of pisco, and passed out by 2. That may sounds late to most, but as far as Chileans are concerned that’s when the party starts, it’s not uncommon to return home at 6 with the sunrise.
So I’m now catching up on my school work, spending the day with the girls, and will head off to my next stop, Copiapo, early tomorrow morning.
I’ll try and post again soon, but be sure to keep up with everything on Instagram @HohnJarmon and Facebook as well!