We head south of Antofagasta on the PanAm early enough in the morning that the wind hasn’t picked up yet. I’m learning quickly that the mornings are fairly calm and as the desert air warms with the sun the winds whip up quickly to a strong gusty mess in the afternoon. Better, I think, to ride in the morning and take advantage of as much of the day “sin viento” as possible.
There are lots of roadside sanctuaries along the highway.
After an hour or so we stop off at a place we’ve had on the “list” – the desert sculpture El Mano del Desierto – the Hand of the Desert. It’s a little way off the highway and set up on a bit of desert plain with a view for miles around.
We ride up to it and enjoy the sculpture for a few minutes before several other vehicles show up. Looks like some men working for a local communications company stopping on their way and they pose for photos with (and with my permission) and on my bike. It’s cute to see them get so excited and to see how much longer my inseam must be than theirs…and I have short legs.
On we go….moving south during the day, all the while the wind pickup up little by little.
As a desert should be, this one is dry. So dry my hands crack and peel, my hair feels like straw, and my skin gets ashy looking. Brian says he read somewhere that in parts of the Atacama rain hasn’t fallen for 1000 years. Wow. This place is enormous, and so so interesting.
We stop near Agua Verde for lunch and see a sticker from friends we met on the road – Wolf and Zebra…and I wonder where they are up ahead on the road…somewhere near Ushuaia, Argentina it turns out.
Less than an hour further up the road we turn off to head north to the town of Tal Tal for the night. New Chilean friends have said its a nice beach town, so that’s our stop for the night.
We find a hospedaje for the night with the cutest welcoming committee ever.
Tal tal is a lovely town.