4 May 2017

All we did today was have lunch

The problem with northern Chile at this time of year is that although it is dessert (hence no rain) and the temperatures are perfect (22 to 25) the combination of cold sea and warm air causes clouds to build up along the coast that often spread up to 15 miles inland and it is also quite windy. The result is that the beach can be quite dull and cool until mid afternoon and then the clouds roll in again to obscure the sunset.

Due to this and the desert terrain having been much the same for the last few hundred miles and would continue to be so to the top of Chile, we decided to go straight to San Pedro de Atacama (via a few more beach stops, instead of going to the top of Chile and back down to San Pedro (about 1,000 miles).

From San Pedro the plan was then to cross back into Argentina, but here the plan changed again and we decided on an about turn back through Chile, instead of the 4,200m pass into Argentina. I was already struggling with the altitude at 2,300m (not sure if due to the new heart pills - I should have asked about altitude). Customs for both countries is at 4,200m, there have been reports of long delays and the road stays above 4,000m for around 100 miles onLa Serena this route.

In a 3 day dash on the main road we cover 800 miles and end up back in La Serena, where we have heard of a couple of good mechanics, we are in need of an oil change, the steering pump is losing oil and a bracket is broken on the exhaust.

We stop for the night at a truck stop just north of La  Serena and when I get out of the truck I see one of the rear tyres is very low I pump it up and although I cannot see any problem after a thorough examination it goes down again quite quickly. First stop tyre place, they cannot find a leak so assume it is a bad seal to the rim, but when putting it back on they see bubbles coming from the middle of the rim, which turns out to be cracked. On to the first garage, who undertakes the oil change, checks all of the suspension and steering but advise that  I will not be able to repair or replace the steering pump in Chile, but he does give me some steering pump leak stop so we will see if that works. This guy does not have welding equipment so on to the next Adventura Jack

Aventura Jack is a 75 year old Canadian who has a storage yard for Motor Homes an also repairs them and rents them out for the owners. Others had put on IOverlander that he was happy to let overlanders stay on his property, to help solve peoples problems and has a mechanic and welding equipment  (he also has a commercial washing machine which he was happy for travellers to use). So, we stayed the night, washed the bedding, welded the bracket and replaced the rubber mounting for the exhaust, and also welded the crack in the wheel, so except for the steering pump we are back on the road and rattle free

So now we are back in Vicuna, in the Elqui Valley, where the sky is blue, the sun is shining and not a hint of a cloud (but still bloody freezing when the sun goes down behind the mountains at 19.00). The new plan is to cross into Argentina up the road from here. The top of the pass is higher than before (4,770 m) but the customs posts are 50 miles each side, both at around 2,000m and although the top of the pass is higher the amount of time above 4,000m is a lot less.

But we have decided to stay here for a couple of days before crossing and today made another unsuccesful attempt at doing a Pisco tour, so all we did today was had lunch of goat cooked in a solar oven in a little restaurant down the valley. Third time lucky for the Pisco tour tomorrow!

We continue up the coas

As we head inland we find a deserted Mining Town

The theatre has been restored, in the 1930's had many top international plays and shows
Approaching San Pedro
With many snow capped mountains all around
The Adobe Church in San Pedro
The streets of San Pedro with a snow capped volcano in the background
This fairly modern sculpture is miles from anywhere in the middle of the desert.
Back to the Elqui Valley

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