Travelblog Chile & Boliva


12.-26.12.2018 The northern part of Chile: Tocopilla, Iquique, Arica, Putre/Lauca Nationalpark

Lauca Nationalpark Chile
Lauca Nationalpark Chile

From the desert we went back to the coast with a short stop in Tocopilla. There we had one menu each - for the equivalent of four Euro you can do that. Well strengthened (or slightly over-eaten - there was a huge breakfast buffet) we went along a very nice coastal road to Iquique the next day. We
stayed for two days in a hostel and enjoyed the beach life, the good ice cream (it really could compete with the Italian gelati) and the Christmas mood. There was a large christmas tree and christmas market at the main square, further away from the sea was a christmas market and small christmas parades were held throughout the city (see video). You didn't really get into the Christmas mood, but it was a nice change and a bit like Disneyland in summer. All in all we really liked Iquique with its white sandy beach, turquoise water and lively streets.

We went on to Arica. The campsite we wanted to go to no longer existed, so after some searching we landed on the site "Camping La Armada". It was Sunday and therefore the pool full of Chilean families, but we knew that they would leave soon. Tuesday night however (no holiday, no holidays) we experienced a party, which even beat the party nights in Pichidangui. Until 6 o'clock in the morning (!) the party was going and kept the whole place awake.

After long research and discussion we decided not to go on to La Paz and Lake Titicaca. Now it was rainy season and on the passes above 4.500m it had snowed. Unfortunately we had to skip Machu Picchu too. At least we wanted to drive to the Lauca National Park: huge snow-covered mountains in front of the Chungará Lake and innumerable Lamas. After three days in Arica we made ourselves on the way there and spent the night in Putre. The rapid rise in altitude from sea level to 4.500m brought the familiar symptoms (headaches, shortness of breath) with it, but was definitely worth it. Like the Fujiyama (that was our imagination) the volcano Parinacota was standing behind the lake. Just amazing! Also the trip there with the motorcycle was a great pleasure. Back in Arica we decided to spend Christmas eve there with the Australians Robert and Clary (originally from Holland) and the Belgians Fred and Emmy (living in France). We went surfing every morning
and were usually completely alone in the water with a few seals. Further out on the ocean something bigger appeared again and again, but that was hopefully only a very big seal... :-) Nevertheless, I was happy when one or two surfers more came into the water. That lowered the chances to get nibbled considerably. After surfing we chilled and in the evening Robert called always to the "Happy Hour". I have never experienced a Dutchman who could sing "Anton from Tyrol" so well. Christmas in boardshorts was of course different than we knew it, but also very nice. A BBQ and a nice evening with super nice people (even with Christmas music) were a great experience.

On the second Christmas day we had to leave: Adios Chile! Hola Peru!


28.11.-11.12.2018 A little detour inland: Atacama Desert

Vulcano Atacama Desert, Chile
Vulcano Atacama Desert, Chile

After a short stop in Antofagasta we finally went into the desert. In San Pedro de Atacama we installed ourselves on the campsite "Domus Los Abuelos", a very nice place with a small pool (the bigger one was still filled with plastic bottles) and even a small climbing corner. With over 25 degrees it is much warmer than on the coast, even if the nights are cold. At least that's what we were told. But we didn't notice much of it at night. On the contrary: the earth was so heated by the intense sun (ozone hole!) that we slept like on a hot stone. I think around midnight we were medium rare.

 

The next day we had to do a little service on our motorcycles, washed our clothes and just relaxed a bit. The last week was very exhausting with 1000km. The next days we visited the area. First we went in the brooding midday heat with the bicycle (!) to the Pukará de Quitor, an old Inca place, and afterwards into the Valle de Diabolo. The scenery was beautiful, but cycling over corrugated tracks and through sand is really exhausting at 30 degrees in the shade. For the sunset, we went to the Valle de la Luna. Together with 1000 other tourists, but in the right angle, it even looked as if one was alone in front of the huge sand dune.

 

As beautiful as it was in the desert and as much as we love the wind to do our hobbies, the wind here was really annoying! Especially when a little sand tornado got lost in the camp and you had just hung up the clothes to dry... First Advent! Hard to believe! At home the Christmas market is visited, waffles are eaten and we are swimming or floating in the Laguna Piedra. It was like swimming in the Dead Sea, because of the
very hight salt content. The next day we saddled our horses and drove 100Km towards the border to Argentinia and the Paso Jama. Although we knew that we would drive on 4600m height, we did not consider somehow that this could accompany also with a small temperature difference. So, it was really cold and I (lucky me!) was happy about my grip heating. Kai had to stop more often and let his fingers thaw again. But the incredible landscape was worth the effort. When we saw vicuñas and llamas in the wild, we were simply overwhelmed.

After long consideration and information of other travellers (they advised against it) we´ve decided not to drive the lagoon route up to the Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia) with the motorcycles. Numerous days of offroad riding in between 3.500m and 5.000m altitude and on terrible dirtroads with stones and potholes!? This comes along with a lotof luggage and a surfboard. Where to put all the water and fuel we would have had to take with us? Too many unanswered questions. So we´ve decided to do a jeep tour. You can find more information in the report about Bolivia.

After the jeep tour we wanted to rest again in San Pedro and visit the Puritama thermal springs. That was the plan, but then a gastrointestinal infection literally dragged us away. After a terrible night, we tried to find some shade on the campsite and slept the whole day at 30 degrees. It took us two days to recover before heading back to the coast. The great side effect was, we had more time to talk to Kathrin and Hans (www.otto-mobil.com) who we met at the campsite. Then we went on to Tocopilla.


5.-8.12.2018 Jeeptour through Bolivia

Sunrise in Salar de Uyuni
Sunrise in Salar de Uyuni

We were allowed to park our motorcycles on the campingground "Domus Los Abuelos". We dismantled our tent at 5 o'clock in the morning, packed everything together and were picked up by the agency "Cordillera Traveller". We had prepared ourselves for very simple food, so I was even more happy about avocado and cake for breakfast. The group consisted of two jeeps with eleven girls...and Kai. :-)))
Then our tour to Salar de Uyuni began: Laguna Blanca, Laguna Verde and Laguna Colorada. One more beautiful than the other. The colours were breathtaking! In addition, thousands of flamingos and lamas in between! We could not get out of our amazement. The only disappointment were the highly praised hot thermal springs. A small pool, beautifully located at a lagoon, but with tons of people in it. Our immagination was somehow different. Unfortunately, the Mañana geysers are early birds. That means,
they are only active in the morning. At noon they only smoked and bubbled a little. But once again, the different colours were amazing!
The first night we spent at 4.200m altitude at Laguna Colorada. My headache was really intense and didn't want to go away despite the coca leaves, so I had to throw in an aspirin (thanks Kathrin!). Every movement was very exhausting and breathing was much more difficult at that altitude. The night was quite alright. Only one participant of the trip had a very bad time due to the altitude.


Due to the fast driving style and the heavy roads, we already had the first puncture the day before. This puncture was repaired in patient and intensive teamwork of the guides until the next morning! After a short detour to the Laguna Colorada we went on to the Siloli Desert where stones, formed by the wind, were waiting for us. Passing by the Coloured Mountains we went to the Coloured Lagoons: Honda (turquoise and slightly yellowish), Chiarkota (darker blue and light yellow) and Cañapa (white to dark blue). Each one with many flamingos and at the latter also vicuñas. After a short detour at the viewpoint of the volcano Ollagüe we continued through the Chiguana Saltflat to the Salt Hostel. Here Kai got at least red wine at an altitude of 4.000m. He was already afraid to sit on the dry four days.


The third day began with an incredibly beautiful sunrise in the Salar de Uyuni. The salt glittered in the light like snow and the crunching under the shoes resembled it. We were short before having some christmas mood. But, the upcoming blue sky and nearly 20 degrees destroyed this really quick. After a breakfast (with cake!) at the Fisher Island (an island in the middle of nowhere overgrown with flowering cacti), we went to the photo shooting marathon in the Salar. Actually, we are always dreading "jumping photos" and staff like that, but the results were really cool and it was fun. Even though it was very exhausting at 3.500m altitude. After a short visit of the Colchani souvenir market (we unfortunately have no space left on the motorcycles...) and the Salt Hotel with Dakar Bolivia salt statue, we went on to the railway cemetery (which we now compared to the Salar rather less enthusiastic). After lunch we had a short cappuccino and pancake stay in Uyuni until it was time to say goodbye and drive back to San Pedro. After 45 minutes it made "pffff" and the driver could just stop at the roadside. We had a puncture. Not again! Fortunately a few other tour guides drove by and helped our driver, so that we were ready to continue driving after almost an hour. After that our driver was speeding like hell! We almost flew over a pothole and to the request to drive slower he replied: "There is a problem with the car and my mobile phone has no more battery. I have to go so fast, to be not the last car arriving at the hostel. Otherwise nobody can help us if something happens." Nice...

 

After our last night at 4.000m altitude we went back to San Pedro de Atacama. We were looking forward to relax a bit and to process
all impressions...as far as possible. As a conclusion of the tour we can say that we had made the right decision not to drive by ourselves. We were also completely satisfied with the choice of the agency "Cordillera Traveller" (except for the return trip). This agency was recommended in the Lonely Planet as the best and was also mentioned by the campsite operators.
For every traveller: Bolivia has to be on the bucket list! The Salar, the  lagoons and the landscapes are simply unique!


22.-26.11.2018 Heading north: Punta Choros, Bahia Inglesa & Taltal

Driving to Punta Choros
Driving to Punta Choros

Actually, we wanted to stay longer in Punta Choros. There should have been a kite and surf spot and also the possibility to go by boat to the offshore islands to see somme Humboldt penguins. We started from over 30 degrees in Vicuña, which was really violent, but it soon cooled down. The temperature dropped so much, that I even, decadently, had to turn on my grip heating, while the fingers of Kai were turning into icicles. The drive away from the highway to our destination was scenically breathtaking: mountains, but also an incredible vastness and a variety of animals that crossed our way. When we arrived in Punta Choros, we spent some time to find a camping site that was open or where an owner showed up. The second campsite was also deserted, so we accepted the offer of a Cabaña (for the same price as on the camping site). To get to the Cabaña, we had to drive a short, but very deep piece of sand. And guess what,
Kai´s bike ran so deep into the sand, that, at the end, it stood alone without sidestand. Finally, we had to unload everything (!) and dig out the machine. After more than four hours of riding the bikes from the heat to the cold, this was lots of fun...NOT!

 

After the little workout we explored the place and were disappointed: Kitespot? Where? Between the rocks? Surf spot? Far away and which one
exactly? At the end, we only had the penguins left! But: 16.000 Pesos per person and the boat only goes when it is fully booked (during the
week in the low season this could take a while). Maybe it was due to our frustration and disappointment, but we decided to go on to Bahia Inglesa the next day. Both in the travel guides and what we had heard from others, it should be heaven on earth. A great kite spot, white sand and turquoise water.


After riding the bikes out of the sand (Kai was riding, I was pushing), our demand for a morning workout and the need of sand and exhaust
fumes were covered for this day. So we could start our long way to Bahia Inglesa. After more than six hours of riding (of course with some
breaks) we finally arrived at the campsite Bahia Club. On the internet the spot was beautifully described and illustrated. I already saw myself sitting in the jacuzzi. All we found was a construction site, the jacuzzi were still in the making and in addition, a large group of rally drivers should arrive the next day. There was a big ralley the upcoming days in the desert. We were too tired to look for another place and set up our tent disappointed. The high prices in the supermarket, the dirty beach full of broken glass and garbage made the frustration complete. After the construction work for the day was completed, the night was quiet. There was just a huge mosquito hunt in the night that kept us awake. As a team, we clapped our hands like hell to get rid of them! Team 1 : mosquito 0.


The next day we indulged in empanadas in the village (super tasty!) and rested (if that was possible during the construction work) a bit. Gradually the first rally drivers arrived. We had squeezed ourselves into the last corner to be far enough away from the hustle and bustle, but our plan didn't work out. Although the whole place was empty, the first rally drivers built up their tent directly (!) next to us! Yeah...:-(! One by one the rest of the troop joined our neighbours. At half past two at night, the last participant started his motorcycle for testing. After that, there was finally silence.


We only wanted to drive a maximum of 100 kilometres and spend a few more days at a surf spot, but we didn't like it anywhere. After five hours
of riding, we arrived in Taltal. We searched in vain for the campsite, that probably just only exists on the maps.me app. After an hour of searching, asking people, we found a hostel by chance, which was open and also offered secure parking for our two motorcycles. Finally! The next day we recovered a little from the strains of the previous day. We both even had neck pains from the compensation of the wind on the trip. The wind was really strong on the highway and the trucks had shaken us properly. There should be a surf spot in Taltal, once again: Where can find it? The good thing was, the town was nice and we found tasty empanadas and donuts. That was satisfying. The hostel (Residencial La Familia) was very clean and the owners are nice and helpful. We paid 20.000 pesos for a private room with shared bathroom.


The plan was to stay one day and after that, keep on riding north to Antofagasta and into the Atacama desert. We stayed one day longer, to relax and to plan our next steps.


15.-21.11.2018 Beachlife & Kitesurfing in Tongoy, off into the mountains to Vicuña!

Valle de Elqui
Valle de Elqui

The trip to Tongoy was quite monotonous for driving. The landscape, on the other hand, went through a transformation again. It became drier and drier, there were cactus everywhere and it looked more and more like desert. From time to time you could see the high, partly snow-covered mountains. The last kilometer to the campsite Ripipal was, once again, offroad. But it all went well and made fun. The campsite itself is beautifully landscaped with BBQ´s and seating under small tiki umbrellas. We stayed for two days. On the first day our kite didn´t want to fly due to lack of wind. But, we were lucky on the second day. There was so much wind that even the small 9m kite was used. We also got great tips from the operators of the campsite: they were on the road in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia only a few months ago. Tongoy itself is a nice place and we were lucky to be there at the right time: it was a weekly market.

For us it was time to move inland: Vicuña was our next destination. We wanted to visit the observatory and take a motorcycle tour, without luggage, to Valle Elqui. By the way, the well-known Pisco (grape liquor) is manufactured here. In Vicuña we stayed on the campsite Rancho Elquino. It is beautifully situated at the edge of the village with a view to the mountains. Furthermore, they have a pool, which was necessary, since we had to change from a pleasant 23 degress at the coast to over 30 degrees.

 

For the first time we met other travellers who also travelling long-term. It was nice to share experiences. Two Belgians and two Chileans traveled with backpack and tent, a couple from London with a small off-road vehicle and roof tent (Wicked Camper) and a German couple with pickup truck and skip cabin. The variation of travelling was complete, when suddenly a camper van came around the corner from our home, Lake of Constance. For us, something like that is unbelievable. You go to the other end of the world and meet people from home! Amazing! They are travelling with two small children. You see, such an adventure is also possible with family. We will probably meet more often, because they have the same itinerary as us with the final destination Canada/Alaska. With the whole crew we spent two nice BBQ evenings under the starry sky. The first day we used for motorcycle maintenance and laundry. On the second day we drove with light luggage to Valle Elqui for a change. The landscape was a dream and a must see! We had to skip the observatory. We were told it is not worth the money at that time due to the increasing moon probably disturbs the view to the distand galaxies.

After two days we went back to the coast, to Punta Choros.


05.11.-14.11.2018 Licking our wounds in Horcon, finally surfing & kiteboarding in Pichidangui!

Pichidangui
Pichidangui

The return trip from our dream kitespot to civilization led us over the 3km sandy track again. This time it was Kai who crashed on the sandy road and he heard a suspicious cracking when falling. We had the fear that the surfboard rack had bent, but could not see anything exact. So we drove on, back to the tarmac road. Glad to have survived the offroad part without any further damage, we took a short break. But when I wanted to start my BMW afterwards, it just gurgles. Damn it! Please not now! After eternal back and forth she started fortunately again. Just don't stall now!

 

The ride to Horcón dragged on forever. Beautiful at first, then a bit of annoying highway and finally coastal road past a dune again. Then we went through a small town and I saw three dogs running towards us out of the corner. The enduro boots had already paid off - otherwise I would have nice bite marks on my calf! The stupid creature had really bitten my leg!

 

Arrived in Horcón we had to look for the campsite again. And who would have thought it: now came the second offroadpart of this day! This time without crashes. The campsite Cau Cau was beautiful and we were the only guests. Tired and done we just managed to build up the tent, went shopping and drank a bottle of red wine after this eventful day.

 

The next day the fears came true and were even exceeded! Not only the surfboard rack was bent, but also the board was broken! But lucky us:
The owner of the campsite (thank you Werner!) was a mechanical engineer by chance and had studied in Germany. So he bent the carrier again
straight together with Kai and also helped to repair the board, after we finally got the necessary epoxide resin in the village. Horcón itself is a pretty village with colorful houses, painted stairs and a small beach. In former times this was probably the hippy stronghold, now you can see one of them from time to time. Since the surf spot Cau Cau did not turn out to be what we had hoped for (a beautiful beach, but too many stones and rocks), we continued two days later to Pichidangui.

Pichidangui for us, was paradise on earth: beautiful white sandy beach, turquoise water, embedded in a bay. At one end of the bay flat water
and at the other end waves. The campsite Bahia Marina is situated directly at the sea and is very well equipped for the price (16.000 Pesos).
There is also a pool, which is probably only for cabana guests, but hey: "No entiendo. Lo siento! Soy aleman." That would have been our saying,
but nobody scared us away. Here we even lasted a whole week and with four of seven days on the water (surfing and kiting) the surf-life-balance was right again. We already knew from our own experience, and also from various blogs, that the campsites on weekends mutate into party strongholds. But to see it with our own eyes was incredible. During the week we were pretty much the only guests on the huge campsite. When we came back from the beach on Friday afternoon, we already had half a tent town next to us. Yeah, looking forward... NOT! I don't know if this is normal, but here the fathers go camping with their children and leave the women at home. As soon as the kids are asleep, the fathers turn up the music and party all night long. And guess what? Exactly, sleep was out of the question. In comparison to German fathers, who mostly can only party hard one night, the Chilean Daddys have the endurance to party at full throttle the second night, too. During the day, they had slept on the beach, while their children played in the sand...

 

After a week we moved on. We also had to make some distance. In the night before the departure we heard light rain on the tent, which soon died down again - perfect, then the tent was dry again to be packed. The next morning we saw that it wasn't rain but a pile of bird droppings! The whole tent was covered with it! So we didn't get off as early as planned (we actually wanted to get away from the wind at noon, as it is very unpleasant in combination with the ruts on the road) and had to scrub the tent first! After the work was done finally we went north. Next stop: Tongoy.


25.10.-04.11.2018 Surfing, Kiteboarding & relaxing in Pichilemu and La Boca

Camping in La Boca
Camping in La Boca

After we had left Valparaiso two days later than planned, it finally started. What a feeling: you dream about it for years and suddenly it's reality.  Unbelievable! But at the first gas station there was the first damper: Kai felt over with his motorcycle! Exactly on the side with the surfboard!
Fortunately there were helpers on the spot and nothing happened to everyone (Kai, motorbike, surfboard). Unfortunately I didn't have a camera at hand so quickly. It would have been a picture for gods...:-)))
Four hours later we finally arrived in Pichilemu. Since it was still early season and there were still some campsites and accommodations closed, we had to search a little bit until we found "Eco Camping La Caletilla", which luckily already or still was open. In our own parcel with seating in the shade, we pitched our tent and checked the area. Finally sand (black!) under our feet and the waves so close! Pichilemu is still relatively small but it makes it almost cosy and you can feel the "surfer lifestyle". Almost every inhabitant seems to own a pickup truck. At the weekend, the beach turns into a party zone! In the high season probably still much more! All camping sites are supposed to mutate into party strongholds.

 

There are three surf spots in Pichilemu. The most famous one is "Punta de Lobus" a few kilometers further south, directly within walking distance we had the spot "Inferniello", but we mostly stayed (also within walking distance) at the third spot: "La Puntilla". We spent the days in Pichilemu surfing and chilling. Oh and in between we also finished this homepage. Only the last day was so rainy that we actually spent most of the time just looking for shelter. Who said it only rains a few drops down there? The 2-3 days of rain a month we had probably caught in one. Unfortunately we had already left our umbrella in Valparaiso, we assumed that we don't need it anymore in Chile... First baptism of fire for our tent - passed! Since there was already Asia noodle soup in the washroom at noon, the dinner invitation of our new Chilean friend came just in time. His mother had a restaurant and so we enjoyed a wonderful meal in the dry with a glass of red wine or beer, got to know the whole family and strengthened our Spanish knowledge. The latter was already running by itself after the second glass :).

After finally everything was dry again we made our way to La Boca near Mantanzas. Here we hoped for good conditions for kiting. As we arrived in La Boca, suddenly the road ended. My fears became true: 3km offroad up and down to the spot and campsite. The first meters went well, even a quite deep puddle we left undamaged behind us. Then it happened, I turned too strongly when maneuvering and lost the grip. Boom... and my BMW was lying in the dirt. Maybe it was good that this happened right at the beginning, so I realized that it wasn't bad. A little slower we continued our journey. Uphill through deep ruts (it had poured the day before) was still quite ok, but then came a section with deeper sand. I tried hard to keep the handlebars in track but I got too deep into the sand and lost control. Fortunately, my white horse and I survived this crash undamaged. I only prayed that the spot was worth all the trouble.

 

The spot was awesome! Open sea to the left, together with steep cliffs. A lagoon with shallow water on the right for kiting. And we could set up our tent not far from the beach. The sanitary facilities and/or the container with toilet and cold shower were not at the hightest standard...:-) We were used to a lot now, but we had not experienced that yet. There we really prefer a bush... Fortunately we were alone, I thought. The next day was holiday and whole Chile was at the beach and on the camping site. At this point, I would rather do without a description of the condition of the toilets...  Again we noticed how helpful the Chileans are. Not only once we were taken into the village to do some shopping and got helpful tips.

 

For kiting it was actually a dream spot. Actually, because it only had good wind on the first day, so that it was already at the edge for the 9m kite, the next days we waited unfortunately in vain for wind. But even so we chilled as much as we could and simply did nothing. We knew this state from many holidays on Lake Como. Waiting for wind. The obligatory wind beer unfortunately did not bring anything. But luckily we weren't on a normal vacation for a few weeks, so that didn't necessarily ruin our statistics (time on water). But at some point there is enough of waiting in the most beautiful spot. We finally wanted to surf again!


19.-24.10.2018 Waiting for the motorbikes in Valparaiso

Valparaiso at night
Valparaiso at night

In Santiago de Chile the night porter laughed at us because of our umbrella. We took this as a good sign. After a two-hour bus ride (very cheap and quite comfortable) we arrived at the Villa Kunterbunt in Valparaiso. Martina and Enzo are well-known and popular among motorcyclists and so it was clear for us that we wanted to start from there to our tour along the Panamericana.
The container with our bikes arrived at the port on 20.10.2018 (Saturday), but since customs only clears it from Monday to Friday, we had to wait until 22.10.2018. So, there was enough time to visit the city and to enjoy the hospitality of Martina and Enzo. With paella and an amazing BBQ you could endure that with a good glass of chilean red wine very well.

 

In fact, the sun shone down from the sky every day and so we went to customs at 9am on Monday morning in a good mood, albeit a bit nervous.
In the beginning everything went smoothly and fast and we met two Swiss and a German motorcyclist. We still had no idea that we would spend the whole day together. Since the Villa Kunterbunt is not far away from the harbour, we thought this would be easy to ride this short way uphill. But the bikes were now in a 20km distant check-in hall. Well, that would be the first test ride with the surfboard rack. In this hall we waited the whole morning until we were informed that the responsible customs officer would go now for 2 hours approximately into the lunch break. That was a bit annoying, but ok. Other countries, other customs. At half past four we finally had all the papers and could drive off. At the entrance to Valparaiso some street dogs ran in front of the bikes and chased us. We were warned about the calf biter, but we didn't understand it that literally.

 

After 1.5 days repacking (the practice is miles away from the theory again) and very understanding and supportive hosts (thanks again!) we finally headed south. Next stop: Pichilemu!