November 15, 2004 - Calama 106k, 66m**

Our stay in San Pedro de Atacama was too short. It is a very unique town – for adventure travel, for culture, for nature and scenic beauty, and for good party. More details on the place at the end of yesterday’s update – but we highly recommend it and want to come back. It was our first night in a city in Chile, having camped out the night before. So, we hit the bank on the town square and got some Chilean pesos before leaving. While Steve was doing the work, Dalton and I checked out the old church.

On the way out of town, Steve took this picture of a weird house. It is appropriate here.

We didn’t know what to expect from the day’s ride. The mountains, cold, wind, bad roads, massive uphills and downhills of the prior few days has left us all a bit distracted. We just ride. And, riding out of town we picked up a friend. This black dog.

The dog jogged along with us for the first uphill, maybe 6 or 7 miles. He always stayed with Steve, Dalton or I, whoever was furthest along. It was a smooth, slightly steep 600 foot ascent through a hard rock canyon with great vistas.

When we got to the top, it looked like a downhill then flat forever.

Not, not at all. It was actually a slight downhill followed by a climb that Steve said, from in front via walkie-talkie, “goes all the way to heaven.� Dalton begged to differ. In the first thousand feet of climb, he decided to take a shortcut on the old road, unpaved.

A mistake. He went from a big lead to tied for last place. Loss of points. After over 2,000 feet of climb we thought we had made it to the top. I mean we were way up there – stuff below all around.

It was one of those mountains that just keeps on giving. We went from about 7,000 feet all the way back up to 10.300 feet before the 2nd great decent of our lives began. There was a good headwind coming down the other side and Dalton fell back. Here are two pictures of Steve and Bob on the way down.

This was another 25-mile downhill and it was hard to figure out where to take a break. I said “at the bottom� and we rode into a vast flatland where we set up for lunch.

Dalton and I set up close to the Fiat to stay out of the wind. Steve just left all his gear on. It was flat and head-windy forever, so we decided to try our first three-person Eduardo draft.

Eduardo’s getting pretty good with the camera, no? After a few miles of drafting, we drifted back one by one and got back into the grind. Miles later we knew we were approaching “civilization� by the trash. It appears that the folks from Calama think that the desert is just a giant trashcan. Yeeech.

Just before town we came to the first highway looking thing we have seen since Curitiba. We were riding west with a strong crosswind coming from the south and decided to take advantage of the road and wind and ride to Chuquicamata, the next town on our route. As usual, the road soon deteriorated badly and the wind shifted, so after a few miles we bailed and went back to Camala. Here are a couple of picture from this “driest city in the world” – an Atacama mining/desert town.

Sorry there’s nothing cooler to photograph here. Eduardo was able to find a nice, new hotel with internet access. I got out a few updates, we walked around the town square and pedestrian mall and found an acceptable local restaurant for dinner. The end.

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