After a few days riding north from Santiago I quickly began to realize that I was fast approaching the desert.
All the trees were long gone and so were the shrubs also the all important rivers had dried up.
This was the point I had to start thinking about how much water I would need per day and how many days it was in between towns.
You cant really read this sort of thing in a book, or use a formula… I think the only way is to head out there, carry as much water as possible and see what happens. The route from La Sarena to Antofagasta was the perfect place to try this.
The second shot shows how much water I get through in a day covering 50 miles on flat desert roads (surfaced).
After I worked that one out I did a decent week of road riding before stopping for lunch in a dusty Industrial mining town. This town was the start of my risky off road desert short cut to Calama, Just before heading off into the desert I saw a couple trying to hitch a lift and having no luck whatsoever… check them out, Jeez it looks awful. So glad I had the freedom of the old bike for sure.
Stocked up with a stupid amount of water (2 days worth) I headed on to the sandy track and after 3 miles I hit a massive patch of deep sand. There is no way of riding on soft sand so that meant the start of a two and a half hour pushing stint.
Having had 180 Min’s of finding the best way to push the bike I finally came to the conclusion that keeping it as upright as possible and using force from the legs and hips on the panniers was a great combo as compared to pushing the bars with your arms, it’s like a shortcut in the power transfer dept.
The ground hardened up after a short time and it was just about good enough to ride on so I dug in. The ground was still pretty loose so is was the easiest gear and stabbing at the pedals to keep the momentum up.
All was going well until I hot another mini sand bank so sprinted through it and snapped the split link on my chain.
The 6th picture shows the ground and the load at that time.
Riding in the desert means you have to keep as much oil on the chain as possible so repairing the chain would mean getting the hands covered in oil and sand so I started to look for a t-shirt I could sacrifice to avoid using my valuable water. I found an old base layer that I least liked so decided to sacrifice that, then I came across the bag of gloves that my sponsor ATG sent over for me to take just before I left.
As luck would have it one of them was a prototype glove for hot weather that adapts and cools our hands while you work. A marigold would have probably done the trick for this specific use but I excitingly put the gloves on and went to work.
The power link in the chain was cracked so I had to take my bit of spare chain and use that. By the time I was finished I was sweating like a pig on a honeymoon but guess what… my hands were actually as dry as a bone and not one bit sweaty as they would have been in the marigolds hey, so feeling like batman when he uses some high tech piece of equipment from his R&D lab I put the gloves back in the tool bag and decided to just wait for the sun to go down a bit before the next stint.
Once the sun did start to go down I was back on the unpaved road and trapping along nicely through about 15 degrees C evening air, perfect.
After another hour or so I found a lovely little rock formation s set up camp and quickly drifted away under the stars again but this time glowing with the knowledge that If I could obtain some water from a truck driver in the morning, I could probably survive the desert quite nicely.
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