So it took us 22 days to drive from the equator to the Tropic of Capricorn! We stopped at a huge metal monument that marks the line where the sun is right above your head at the summer solstice.
That was about the most adventurous thing we did today, as we still had to figure out the insurance puzzle. We stopped at a car dealer and he made some phone calls to an insurance office down town. We made an appointment there at 3:00pm and after lunch we went over. It took a lot of phone calls – and we had to come back at 4:30pm – but it worked! They had to make a lot of phone calls to head office and they had to be creative putting our details in the computer, but tomorrow morning we can go pick up our insurance policy! Pretty boring though, huh? Again we were impressed with how friendly the people are here – from the taxi driver who told us it was quicker to walk than take a taxi to the car dealer who made all the necessary phone calls.
We drove to the outskirts of the city to a no-frills campground. Although the sun was out, it was quite windy on the beach so we didn’t stay outside for very long.
Tomorrow we will drive a bit further south to a nice statue in the desert and then we need to be back in Antofagasta to pick up our policy. From there we drive into the mountains… so tonight will be our last night by the Pacific Ocean!
As warm as the sun, as silly as fun
As cool as a tree, as scary as the sea
As hot as fire, cold as ice
Sweet as sugar and everything nice
As we were still stuck on the same level in the insurance game, we decided to try our luck in a different city tomorrow. We know from other people that it’s virtually impossible to get insurance here – but we want to defy the odds I guess. We have some good leads – from a comprehensive international insurance to a real local policy with a fake licence plate number.
With all the paperwork issues in the back of our mind, we drove to the impressive ‘Humberstone and Santa Laura Salpeter Works’ site. We had visited ghost towns before – like Rhyolite in Nevada – but this still was a great experience. Back in the 1930’s, Chile produced 65% of the world’s saltpeter – until a synthetic variant was developed and the mines were no longer profitable.
The site was home to more than 3,000 people who lived and worked there. You can visit the different houses (from the director’s house on the main square to the bachelor houses on the edge of the town). Because it was abandoned so quickly, it really seems like time stood still. The theatre is still in excellent shape – same as the general store. It was a solid 35° Celsius in the desert when we visited – a bit colder than Death Valley.
After our visit, we drove further south to find a campground. We drove along the Panamerican Highway along Chile’s coast line. The landscape transformed from endless desert view to a lunar landscape – with grey rocks and no signs of life.
Finally we pulled into our campground, where the nice lady instructed us to park between the houses. She gave us a key to the toilets and said we could pay however much we wanted. We had tuna and pineapple sandwiches for dinner and watched the sunset over the ocean. To our surprise, it was already past 8:30pm when it started getting dark. It’s really nice to see that the days are getting longer… in Colombia we had to stop driving by 4:00pm to make sure to find a place before darkness set in!
The thing that makes me feel the most down,
Is the feeling that I’m living in a ghost town.
Barn door bangin’ in my face,
Like tumbleweed I’m rolling ’round this place.
So far we have been able to get the car insured in every country at the border. In Chile and Argentina it’s not so straightforward unfortunately! In Peru or Ecuador, you pay someone 10 dollars over the counter of their kitchen and they give you a nice official document that you can show to the police. In Chile, you may have to visit 10 offices of insurance companies and not be able to get insurance at all. That’s what we did for most of the day… we’ll spare you the details but it has not been solved yet.
We decided to stay in the same campground for another night – as we did not feel like racing to a new campground in an uninsured car! We took some time in the afternoon to walk around the beach and visit our neighbours – a colony of sea lions. We never knew that sea lions make so much noise at night, but apparently they cry like angry babies. Thankfully they were far enough!
On the beach we spotted a big star fish and more shells than any collection can house. The ocean is quite rough here and when the waves crash against the rocks, the water splashed 2-3m high in the air!
With plenty of time on our hands we perfected our barbecue skills, grilling sausages, potatoes and eggplant over the fire!
Just like a paper tiger
Torn apart by idle hands
Through the halter skelter morning
Fix yourself while you still can
Although Patrick did have to get up in the middle of the night to chase barking dogs away, we did have a good night sleep. When we woke up, it was already 8:30am. It is worth noting, however, that there is a 2 hour time difference between Peru and Chile. So it looked the same as 6:30am yesterday. After breakfast we packed the car and drove a little bit south. The roads in Chile are definitely much more organised than Peru – or most Latin American countries. There are clear rules on the roundabouts, there are traffic lights and nobody is honking their horn all the time.
We stopped for ’empanadas con queso y carne’ on the way. As it is Sunday, a lot of people were out on day trips and we joined the crowd in the roadside restaurant.
We drove past some rock carvings along the road. It was quite windy but we could make out shapes such as the sun and a tree.
We arrived in Iquique in the late afternoon and did some quick grocery shopping. We reached our campground not much later and spent some time on-line downloading new maps for Argentina and Chile and researching where to buy car insurance.
Oh yes, and we need to buy an adapter because the plugs in Chile are different…
After our eventful night, we had a quick breakfast and made our way to the Chilean border. After 2 weeks in Peru it was time for country number 14 on this trip.
The border was really close to our campsite, so it only took about half on hour to get there. We got ourselves stamped out of Peru and a few moments later Rodrigo’s paperwork was cancelled as well. With part one of the process completed, we drove to the Chilean side. We parked the car in a big car park and lined up for the immigration officer. We stood in line for about 30 minutes and we got our stamp soon afterwards. That only left the small detail of the car inspection. Chile is very serious about what you can and cannot bring into the country. Fruit and vegetables are a big no-no. We declared all our food (otherwise you risk a 200 dollar fee) and all the fresh food was taken. After the car inspection, Patrick went to get the import documents for the car. That only took about 5 minutes and they did not need any copies of anything. They did not even check the car’s identification number.
Safely across the border we drove to a campsite nearby. It was great to see that there are definitely more camping options in Chile than in Peru. We had a small barbecue to celebrate!
You know I can’t believe I’m telling everyone that I know
That every stamp in my collection is a place we could go!
Spending the night in a hotel room was a nice change. We had a small breakfast in the diner next to the hotel and – after checking our e-mails in a hotel nearby – we hit the road again. Before we got to Peru, we developed the habit of refuelling the car as soon as our range dropped below 200km. In Peru, however, we refuel every morning. It’s not always that easy to find good quality fuel (most common in Peru is 84 octane, but Rodrigo’s V8 is not happy with that) and reliable petrol stations can be few and far between!
We drove through beautiful desert landscapes on very straight roads (easily 20km without turning the steering wheel). Every now and then we crossed some mountains and winding roads, but for the most part Rodrigo had a quiet day and the stereo did most of the work to keep us entertained.
We had set our sights on Tacna, but as today is November 1st all the hotels and hostels were fully booked. Even the crappy ones! As the sun dropped lower in the sky, we drove to the seaside in Boca del Rio to find a camping spot. We ended up right by the beach near some other groups that were camping as well (we don’t like to be the only ones in such public places). We decided against sleeping in the tent because of all the noise outside and finally decided to sleep inside the car. We folded the seats flat, used our towels for blankets and put our earplugs in!
Around 3:00am someone knocked on our window – which gave us a small heart attack. Initially we thought we were in trouble, but it turned out someone else was. One member from the nearby camping group had gone missing – and they needed Rodrigo’s headlights to light up the beach. We put on the big beams and did some turning around to get a 360° view. After some more commotion, the missing guy was found near some other tents. With the peace returned we went back to sleep!
I don’t care if my liver is hanging by a thread
Don’t care if my doctor says I ought to be dead
When my ugly big car won’t climb this hill
I’ll write a suicide note on a hundred dollar bill
Yes if you wanna run cool, you got to run
On heavy, heavy fuel
After a good night of sleep and a healthy American breakfast in the morning we said goodbye to the other travellers and our campground spot on the wild beach. On our way to Camana we came across beautiful coast lines and farm fields.
Unfortunately when we arrived in Camana we did not manage to make it to 12 nights of camping in a row. The campground we were looking for had been transformed into a construction site. We both actually felt sorry for having to resort to a hotel again. Luckily we didn’t have to look very far as we found a hotel with car parking near the city centre.
Once we were checked in we headed into town in search of internet (we couldn’t connect to the one in our hotel) and a nice restaurant which we were both able to find. It’s been a while since we had Asian food so as soon as we spotted this ‘Chifa’ place we didn’t think twice.
At night we realised we weren’t going to catch a lot of sleep as the whole city seemed to be celebrating Halloween in the street and we couldn’t close the windows (we definitely should start adding the window-check on our checklist). So Marijke asked reception at 2:00am if we could be moved to another room, with success. The new room had much better insulation and with the help of some ear plugs we managed to get a quiet night in a cosy warm bed after all. Maybe sleeping in a hotel room isn’t that bad after all. 🙂
Give me back that old familiar feeling
Let me feeling like I was someone
Give me back that song we sang in harmony
Just you and me singing together
The first 10.000km took us from Vancouver in mid July to Palenque in southern Mexico at the end of August. The second 10.000km took us from there to just south of Lima, Peru! That’s through 10 countries in total: Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru!
Here’s part two of the things that did not make it to the blog!
1. Patrick’s shaving job in Guatemala, half finished (or half started…)
2. We don’t always (try to) look our best on pictures
3. People in Costa Rica are really into the SM business
4. Sometimes we have an off-day too
5. Eating a chocolate ice cream can be tricky sometimes
6. Aaahh, the homo sapiens and the morning rituals in the wild
7. Climbing down a hill without your walking shoes can be pretty darn dangerous
8. Clothes – check – done, good (enough) for one more day
9. Some days can be pretty stressful
10. Spelling mistakes are made here as well … haha, frut salad (it’s funny in Dutch)
On to the next 10.000km!!
After our tenth night in a row sleeping in our tent, it was time to let everything get some fresh air! We are really wondering how long we will be able to continue this camping spree, because we have been sleeping really well in the tent the last nights. Only if it starts raining somewhere we may opt for a room again – or if we don’t find a campground.
We met up with the people from Dragoman on the campground. They are a group of 20 people travelling in a truck and camping wherever possible. You can buy a ticket to join them and hop on and off where you want. They told us about mummies nearby, and as it’s Halloween we let our dark side take over! We reached the necropolis of Chauchilla and wandered through the desert looking at skeletons!
We continued our drive along the Panamerican Highway south. The best driving directions we have received so far is “as long as you keep the ocean to your right hand side, you are going the right way”. We parked Rodrigo on the beach at Puerto Inca – the ancient port used by the Incas. The Dragoman group stopped there as well, so we joined them for a game of volleyball and we grilled our sausages on their barbecue. We went to sleep to the sound of the waves crashing on the beach!
Do you want to go to the seaside?
I’m not trying to say that everybody wants to go
I fell in love at the seaside
I handled my charm with time and slight of hand
We left our desert oasis in the late morning, stopping for some grocery shopping. We had lunch by the side of the road on a hill overlooking the green pastures.
On the other side of the hill, we reached the mysterious Nazca lines. There are lots of theories surrounding these lines, ranging from fertility calendars, star signs and UFO landing strips. Anyhow it is amazing how these lines are preserved – they are exposed to the desert all the time. They were not really investigated until about 50 years ago. It was very dry and quite windy on the desert plain. We climbed the metal outlook tower to get a better view of 2 figures (‘the tree” and “the hands”).
A short drive further we stopped at a hill and climbed it to have a different view. We could not see any new figures from there, but we could see the lines that run across the desert – almost to the horizon!
We found a camp site in Nasca and parked there for the night. In the middle of the desert it’s a very pleasant 31° Celsius – so the swimming pool was a nice addition to our day!
Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles, I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows
Ground control to major Tom, your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong