I woke up later than I would have liked, around 10am. I blame this on my rather poor sleep camping the night before, but honestly I just like to sleep in when I have the chance. Having missed my free breakfast, I went to the front desk to check out. As I approached the owner, an energetic old man very similar to my grandpa, he immediately insisted I sit down at a table and eat first. Not arguing with his generosity I took a seat and watched as he ordered his (much younger) girlfriend to make me a sandwich and some fruit. I got some coffee nearby while she prepared my food and thanked her, embarrassed that I had made her work past her shift. She didn’t seem to care much at all, so I ate contently while working away on my laptop. After finishing my meal, the man looked over and without hesitation asked if I was still hungry. Before I could respond, his girlfriend was preparing me yogurt and oatmeal which I scarfed down graciously. I’ve found I don’t make much time to eat while I’m traveling, always too preoccupied with figuring out where to next.
By the time I finished the majority of my work, I realized that my clothes were on the verge of unwearable, caked in mud and sweat from the days prior. It was already noon, but I was only planning on driving another 3 hours that day so I went ahead and got everything washed. In the meantime, I organized my photos and videos, planned some more specifics of the days ahead, and worked on my art skills a bit. I bought paper and markers earlier to advertise The Josh Anderson Foundation and got started with a poster. The result was the start of an idea to gather signatures and photos of people I meet along the way, the hotel owner and his girlfriend being the first. As long as the poster doesn’t fly off my bike or get soaked in the rain, it should last.
With my clothes dried, I packed my bike while talking to the owner. He proudly showed me his Mercedes a parking spot over, sheathed in a weatherproof cover. At one point he even had me get inside to look at it. In the painstakingly long time it took to attach everything I learned all about his life. How he worked for a cruise liner for 20 years, learned English while cruising around the world (over 10x), and saved enough money to buy the hotel; how his sons were rich engineers working in the Atacama copper mines and how he enjoyed his relaxed lifestyle, back in his hometown. Now knowing him better than most my own friends, I added him on Facebook and went on my way to Iquique, back on the roads riddled with potholes from a recent storm. I arrived eventually with no plans and still a few hours before sunset, so I stopped at a sushi bar along the beach and gorged myself with fresh caught salmon shrimp rolls and Kunstmann beer. Afterwards I walked to the beach, poster and GoPro in hand, meeting people along the water.
Before long and without realizing, I had set my phone down near the water to take a picture. I immediately forgot where it was and frantically searched for the next half an hour. Unsure if I left it near my bike, I went back and looked everywhere. When I went to look on the beach again, I had forgotten where exactly I had been and the search started to stress me out. I finally got the idea to use Find my Iphone off my Ipad, got wifi from a local restaurant, and was pointed in the right direction. Still unable to find it, I recruited a couple of other Chilean travelers to help me out. By the time we found it, half buried under the sand, the rising tide was only inches away.
To thank them, I bought a round of beers and after got their signature on my poster. By now it was late, maybe 10, and I had no clue where I was going to sleep. Not wanting to shell out $50 for a hotel, and hostels being impossible to find, I headed towards the beach on the southern outskirts of the town. Everything I found was rocky and unsuitable, until I passed by what appeared to be an abandoned industrial lot on the side of the road. Fenced by sheet metal, it was sketchy at best, but I noticed a flashing neon light near a gate that read “Cabanas and Camping”. Feeling desperate, I pounded on the gate and a groggy Chilean hobbled over and stared at me through the bars. After a few uncomfortable seconds, he asked me if I was there to camp and let me in. I was lead down a hill and to a covered area, lit by flickering lights. He grunted and pointed to wear I could set my tent, and left me for the night.
Honestly I slept well, the ground below me was soft sand, the night’s silence only occasionally penetrated by the loud whooping of a walrus somewhere along the shore.
The next morning I wasted no time getting out of there and I mean it. I was up and on my way by 8 and decided to go straight for Arica, the border town of Chile and Peru. As I climbed back into the Atacama, high up in the city’s backdrop, my phone screen decided to malfunction and I was left without a GPS. There was really only one road north out of town however, so finding my way was simple enough. It was a 310km ride without a single gas station along the way, I made sure my bike’s tank as well as the extra gas can was full and booked it out of there. about 2/3rds of the way I ran out of gas and ended up using my spare fuel, just enough to get me to Arica. First stop (after gas) was to fix my phone, something I found pretty challenging when I didn’t have a phone in the first place to look up a shop. I asked a bunch of locals, got sent to a bunch of dead ends in shady marketplaces, and after a couple hours finally found a place, for the low cost of $150. With no other choice, I paid up, using their wifi on my laptop while I waited. I decided to check the weather for my next stop and ended up finding out it was going to rain everywhere I was going for at least the next week. Extremely discouraged, I found a nearby hostel and am spending the night figuring what to do next. I’ll probably service my bike in the morning and hope the weather changed somehow, or else I’ll be stuck hugging the coastline for the foreseeable future.