The route to San Pedro could not have been less boring. The road itself was good tarmac but the scenery was like something from another planet, really varied, interesting and downright spectacular, I just do not have the eloquence to describe it. I never realised there were so many shades of brown in the world.
The town of San Pedro de Atacama is a small backpacker’s town full of hostels, tour operators, restaurants and shops, it is a very cute place. Our hostel Casa Campestre was on the outskirts of town and really nice. The people that work there are amazing so helpful and friendly and all speak good English. The kitchen was open so we could make our own food which was good and handy. We camped under some lovely shady trees which were a godsend as San Pedro de Atacama is as hot as hell and being the driest place on the planet is dusty. We stayed at a hostel called Casa Campestra, I can highly recommend this place it is great, it has a couple of rooms and dorms but also great camping places under some lovely shady trees. It is clean, quiet and the kitchen is open for you to do your own cooking which we enjoyed. The best thing are the young Brazilian couple who own the place, jus the nicest people and Ricardo who works there and is just awesome so friendly and helpful.
We ended up spending a few days in San Pedro De Atacama as Joerns bike, his trusty Africa twin, started giving us issues. On the way in to town it just cut out, he waited a few minutes and it started again, it did this two or three times and then rode perfectly to town. We realised that it cut out as we got over 3000m, so put the issue down to altitude. This was not great as we are expecting to ride up to 4500 in Bolivia and Peru. Joern took off the air filter, cleaned it out and did a quick check and all seemed ok. This is when we decided to stay for a few nights and do day trips using the hostel as a base. The first trip begin a test ride up to 4200m to see some lakes, this would also test my fuel consumption at altitude.
On the way up we met Judith a Swiss biker from Lausanne on a 6 month trip in South America. Judith was riding a DRZ400 and is such a nice lady, so we decided to ride together to the lakes. The lakes were stunning the bluest blue you could imagine and we also saw a very confident fox on the road that came and sat very close to the bikes to have a good look at us. Judith then carried on to the further lakes but we had to turn back due to my small fuel tank and we wanted to take a detour to the flamingo lake on the way back to town. Well we missed the flamingos we simply just did not see the turn, which was a good thing and Joerns bike cut out again. DAMN when we got to the lakes we were celebrating as the bike had been fine all day and we simply put the previous days issue down to bad fuel or dirt air filter, but no such luck. Also this time the bike cut out every 10 min so we literally limped it back to base. We had planned on doing a day trip to Bolivia to see the 3 lakes the following day but now Joern had to spend the day working on the bike in the hope that he could fix the problem.
The reason we had decided to do a day trip to Bolivia is that the road from San Pedro to Uyuni is very bad and there are no fuel stations on the way. Plus in Bolivia the petrol is subsidized for Bolivians and the gas station need to fill out forms to sell gas to foreigners (and at 3 times the price) so because of this many gas stations refuse to sell to foreigners. Some locals will if you knock on their door it cannot be guaranteed that they have any. So a day trip to see the lakes and then entering Bolivia from Argentina on a different road to get to the salt plains seemed like a better plan. But first we needed to get the bike fixed. We came up with all sorts of plans As, Bs, Cs and Ds as nothing was going to stop this awesome trip this was just one more hiccup in the road.
Joern spent the morning working on the bike struggling to find the issue until he opened up the carburettor and lo and behold he found a damaged vacuum membrane in the carburettor for the rear cylinder, no friggin way, the exact same issue that gadget had in Puerto Cisnes. We could not believe it, how freaky. This time it was a small tear on the rim and we still had the black gum so Joern managed to fix the tear and we left it overnight to dry, ready to do a test ride the following day. We spent the day chilling, again … we do a lot of chilling on this trip but we are having fun 🙂