Calama, sweet Calama
We rolled out of San Pedro de Atacama so early that the Rastafarians were still asleep and the mud was still thick in the streets of this desert town where it never rains. Even our hotel manager, the Chilean version of Norman Bates, wasn’t awake to give us a morning grunt and a rock-hard biscuit. We were putting San Pedro de Atacama in the rear view mirror so early because we wanted to give ourselves plenty of spare time to slow-crawl our way up the mountains and down the valley to Calama, the next “city” 65 miles away. For those of you who only occasionally tune in to the Shit Happens Express (shame on you), we were trying to get to Calama to find a way to “really” fix the leaking radiator hose that Ruben and I had gerry-rigged a temporary fix. We were assured by the locals that Calama had two things: (1) a motorcycle mechanic or some semblance thereof ; and (2) lots of copper and little else.
Then a bunch of surprising things happened:
- We made it to Calama with no problems. The Ruben-designed temporary fix did not leak one, single, solitary drop. NV ran like a champ. Lindsay you’re a good kid, way deep down.
- Lady Garmin (our GPS) took us right to the front door of Hotel El Mirador, our targeted establishment for the evening. The El Mirador is the finest hotel we’ve been in since sometime in Argentina. It even has a real lobby for god sakes. And people who smile and are happy to help you. And this in the city which the Lonely Planet called a “shit hole.” As I write this there’s the unfamiliar, but oh so welcome, sound of a TV in the background.
- I was able to find the aforementioned BMW Atacama Desert Survival Kit without needing a BMW dealer. Each of the half-dozen small hole-in-the-wall auto parts stores I visited each couldn’t have been more helpful to the dumb-looking Gringo couldn’t buy just one size hose,
- Instead of spending the day tearing NV apart and putting him back together, I made the executive decision (another unfamiliar operating mode) that we were going straight to Iquique without attempting open-heart surgery in the desert. This left us time to catch a tour of the world’s largest open pit mine, the Chuquicamata copper mine, which makes one slack-jawed by its scope.
The situation as of 10:00 PM on Monday, February 7 2011
We are off to Iquique on the northern coast of Chile tomorrow AM, with new adventure kit in hand. If we arrive, then I’m going to find me a real motorcycle mechanic to fix NV. Once that is accomplished, KR and I will contemplate the decision that’s weighing heaviest on our shoulders: Peru and then Bolivia. Or Bolivia and then Peru. Thoughts?