Northern Chile


We ride south out of Ollague not knowing what the road will be like.  We hope to make it to Calama and then turn east to go to San Pedro de Atacama, an oasis in the desert of northern Chile, for a few days rest.  Our maps, GPS and Pocket Earth on my phone all have different colors of roads shown so who knows….200 km of mystery road here we come.


The road is under construction in many places and we pass through miles and miles of incredible plains and valleys, surrounded by volcanoes and salt flats.  Not far out of town we pass a large salt flat on our right that has open water on part of it.  Makes me glad that I never saw open water when riding on the Uyuni.


And over a hill and around a bend we see another salar.


The road surface changes from loose gravel, to some soft sand spots, to a few stretches of pavement around 5 or 6 miles long and then back to gravel.  There are washboards, but nothing like what we had in Bolivia.


I see a volcano on my left with its side collapsed and a small stream of smoke or steam coming out of a crack…not a blade of grass grows for many miles in parts of the road.


The colors of sand and earth are stunningly beautiful and set against the bright blue sky the many shades of tan, beige, gray, lavender, black and mocha are even more lovely…




I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed gravel more….it’s a beautiful day.


Roads lead off in different directions here and there leading to mines…and there are mines everywhere up here.




The wind starts to pick up before we get to Calama and just a couple of miles before we see a big cloud of dust just blown up from the deck barreling right at us.  I watch as it hits Brian a split second before it hits me and he weaves all over his lane, and then I find myself doing the same thing trying to get it back under control.  Thank goodness the gust had picked up dust so we both could see it coming.

After a quick stop to fuel up and get some cash we head out of town turning east toward San Pedro, another 60 miles or so up the road.  We pass through a wind farm…hmmmm, maybe that’s a hint as to how windy it is here all the time.



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  1. So tremendous and desolate and yet beautiful in it’s starkness. Thanks for sharing this ride with us.

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