We left the tourist oasis of San Pedro de Atacama rested from 2 days off. It was a 1000m, 40km climb in good conditions before a 60km stretch (1100m descent) to Calama and we were optimistic we could do it in a day. We didn’t count on the westerly that picked up as we reached the pass. 40 gruelling km´s into the wind and the day fast disappearing with the last 20 looking like we would be cycling into the night so we flagged down a small utility and Juan the driver very kindly squeezed us in. We were blown away by how large the city was and pleased not to be negotiating the motorway in the dark trying to find a hostel. Shattered again by el viento (the wind).
Next day was a short day, the first 30km in the calm thru the landscape of gravel and sand. No plants, no animals, nada. The wind picked up at midday and we managed another 10km before we sought refuge in an oasis of a few trees, buildings and somewhere to pitch the tent. Luckily as the wind increased to storm force and there was nothing to hide behind in the nothingness outside of this island of refuge.
Optimistically we set off at first light (7am) the next morning hoping to beat the wind but would you know it, it was in our faces again – and more nothingness around (normally wind picks up at 12 midday). Our 2km lead swaps for drafting dropped to 500m and when we saw the buildings of the Estacion San Pedro (very small railway town which we weren´t even sure if we would get water) we knew we could not/would not go further. Turns out to be a sizeable working mens town/camp and best news of all, it had a cocina (a camp kitchen) where we could buy a great dinner of a large plate of soup and a stew – bliss. We also scored some eggs – diamonds in our language. The dining room even had a photo of Lake Hayes on the wall!
We had to admit, the last couple of days were not hitting the mark but as I said to Alan – can´t be roses every day and mebbe