Taltal already seems like a long time ago now as we sit in a hostel in Iquique in the far North of Chile, just one long day's riding from our taget of reaching Peru and making some headway through the South and up to the surf by Christmas time.
The top part of the desert was beautiful, we camped on beaches, rode down empty roads, winding themselves between mountains and sea, dramatic clouds clinging to the peaks all morning, it felt like Iceland or Norway, maybe even Scotland but obviously warmer. One day we cut through the mountains and inland, the road taking us 2,000 metres above the sea we had been following all morning. As we rode past the clouds and into the clear blue skies and Mars-like landscape, the temperature rose and the fact we were in the driest desert on Earth really hit home. The ride up to Iquique really was beautiful but we had planned it to take about 5 days. Day one we rode twice as far as we had planned, day two we rode day three's planned route and more, then day three we made it all the way to Iquique, 350k's per day pretty much. That might not sound a lot but it takes us at least 8 hours, plus setting up camp at night, taking it all down and packing up the next morning at 6am.
We rode straight through Antofogasta, a big, clean, metropolitan looking city in the middle of the desert. I think we were ready for a bit of civilisation for a day or two, we knew Iqueque, 390kms, away would have that. We planned on going out for a Pisco Sour in a bar to reward ourselves when we got there, a very, very rare treat on our budget. The night we arrived however, I pretty much collapsed, sweating and shivering, feeling like a cat that has been rubbed the wrong way; heat stroke, exaustion I guess. When I came round the next day feeling loads better, we went for a walk through town; our bikes were securely parked in the Hostel yard and we were a bit more settled in. It's hot here, hot and dry, the cloudless sky beats intense sun down from 8.30am to 8pm every day. Siesta's are a necessity, not a luxury. There is a beach at the end of the street, four or five waves in the centre of the town and loads going on. For surfers reading this, Las Urracas (The Magpie) is a hollow, sucky, bowling left hander that breaks quickly and powerfully over a lavastone reef, the tidal range here is less that 2m so it breaks through the tides and is constantly hit by swell, year round from the Southern Oceans. It's not high on the list of surfers itineries but I've seen tubes here that would rival those of the Mentawais but with a couple of bodyboarders on them and maybe one or two friendly local 'stand-ups'. This is the bodyboard capital of Chile and we happened to arrive during the ISA World Championships.
After a couple of days relaxing here, reading, shooting some photos, tentatilvely surfing Las Urracas, we were going to move on, one day in Arica sorting our entry into Peru then head to the border the next day. We walked down to the beach to take some photo's at sunset but had left it a little late. As we walked back in the dark, discussing where we planned to be for Christmas, spirits high we got to our block and were met by a terrier barking aggressively on the grass verge by some cars, blocking our path. There were three or four other dogs there, the terrier didn't seem to want to back off so I moved away, Sally moved too but towards a fence. All of a sudden there was a panic of barks, growls and screams and I looked around and a huge German Sheperd had its snout through the fence, grabbing Sally's bag in it's bared teeth. I thought she was just shocked from the attack and it had only got her bag. Unfortunately, he had already bitten her leg really badly. We rushed back to the hostel, a million things to do at once, we hadn't been to the ATM so had no cash, our phones were dead and had no credit to call out. Sally got in the shower knowing she had to draw out as much blood as possible in case of infection, she was in a bad way, feeling really feint and in shock, she scrubbed out the wound with soap and water while the receptionist called us a taxi to the A&E. We grabbed phones and chargers and a kid called Mike came through for us - thanks Mike - we didnt even have to ask he just stood waiting with £30 and a fully charged phone, what a dude. We got into the taxi and arrived at the hospital. They rushed us past all the other waiting patients and we explained Sally had no Rabies pre-vac and needed to start the course of Rabies vaccinations. Three jabs and an hour later, we were heading back to the hostel, dressing already bleeding through. There is one deep cut, it's bad and deep but had the dog not been behind a fence it could have been a lot worse. She thinks its karma for laughing at my near dog miss.
The next day we went to the consultoria (GP) and got the dressing changed and the bruising had come out. The wound itself could be worse, its a puncture not a tear but it is deep. Sally is shaken up but she's stronger than anyone I know. We have to be here in Iquique for 21 days now at least for the Rabies stuff but that's OK, at least it's here and not some shit hole desert town with no facilities. The treatment hasn't cost us a penny so far either.
We are trying to see positives although we are definitely gutted and are actually missing life on the road. It's a great opportunity to practice water photography at some quality waves. We are really hoping that we can raise a bit more money from our photography, me in the water, Sally on the beach with some business cards, wish us luck!
Nos vemos amigos!