So, after our lovely time in Cusco, all that was left of our journey was to head over the altiplano, ride around the gigantic beach that is the coast of Perú and Chile, crate up the bikes for shipping and give them and ourselves a lovely sendoff.
First up was the ride over the altiplano and our final taste of the old Inca homeland down with its relatively lush scenery to an older civilization of Nasca, home of their eponymously named lines scratched into the surface of the desert.
The Nasca Lines are very much the only show in the town (Nasca) and the locals definitely try to big it up. You’d think after all our time traipsing around this part of the world we’d be wise to a scam by now, but, perhaps as we were feeling the tug of home and so were trying not to miss anything before we left, we got suckered in. Flying is the only (real) way to see them, so up we went. Shouldn’t have.
The most interesting thing about the flight.
Perú’s southern coast is rocky headlands interspersed with lovely looking little river valleys like these, water winding its way from the mountains to the sea. There are also a few in Northern Chile, but then it gets so dry that they cease as you go further South.
A little bit inland and up a couple of thousand metres is the surprising city of Arequipa. I’d never heard of before it either, but it’s the second city of Perú. The heart of it is another world heritage site, all made from the local volcanic rock, some of it crafted spectacularly. The city sprawls a bit but is hemmed in by some supergigantic mountains (6000m or so) and, as usual, the mountains don’t look very big in the background of our pics, but in reality it’s rather dramatic.
UNESCO World Heritage city square.
As we left Arequipa, we started to get into the real desert, the little bit of Perú that’s next to the Atacama in Chile.
That’s a mountain made of red boulders with some grey sand somewhat covering it. We rode through this scenery for a little while and it’s totally beautiful.
Hooray we’re alive! Our headsets stopped working just as I lost view of Eveline in my mirrors as a truck was passing her. After a brief panic I returned up the road to find her safe and well taking pictures, and not smeared over the road as I feared.
We crossed into Chile, well ahead of schedule, with high hopes of doing a bit of sunbathing and swimming as we’d heard that there’s some good surf in the Northern towns of Arica and Iquique, after all they are in the tropics (we’d decided not to risk a swim in the brownish waters off the stinky Peruvian beaches). We’d done but one day in the sun and then the clouds duly rolled in. It rained while we were in Arica. First time in 5 years so they said. Hooray.
We had ridden through the driest desert on the 6 non-icebound continents and seen almost nothing but clouds. I was quite impressed by the total lack of vegetation for about 1500km. I thought on our ride up the coast North of Santiago a few months ago we’d seen some dry country, but as we approached it now riding South, it seemed positively verdant, almost so that I thought it wasn’t the same place.
We were now approaching Valparaíso and the end of our journey. At km 19980 out of our total 20000 (yes, just 20km shy of then end) we had ridden I finally came a cropper. See watery pool below.
I had decided, after a poke around with a stick that the right hand side next to the fence wasn’t very deep and that I would try going through without any special preparation. Wrong.
I had tried to be a bit cocky and ride through with some speed with my feet in the air so that my boots didn’t get wet. Front wheel hit a submerged rock and over I went. More than my shoes got wet. Very wet. My pride was hurt more than anything else and my bike stayed surprisingly upright and my luggage stayed dry, but I was off and lying in a deep puddle.
The aftermath. We don’t have pictures of my bike or me in the water or the rescue attempt. I’d like to say it was because it was Eveline was too busy helping me or worrying about me. That she was too busy laughing at me is the true reason.
Hard yakka crating up the bikes. This time we were very aware of the size of the crate and really tried to minimize it. Probably saved ourselves $1000 by making it much smaller than the crates we shipped them over in. Beginners mistake.