Monday, February 18, 2013

Stealth Camping 101

Day 113 (February 4, 2013)
Taltal, Chile to Huasco, Chile
Day's Ride: 329 Miles

After updating my ride report at the Internet Cafe in Taltal, I grabbed some supplies at the local mercado, then started backtracking north out of town to look for a camping spot. On the way out, I saw a couple of Mormon Missionairies walking down the street, and shouted a quick hello to them in English. That caught them off guard, so I pulled over and talked to them for a while. It's always nice to meet Americans in far off places and have a conversation in English every now and then.

About five miles north of town, I found a beautiful spot to camp right next to the ocean. There was only a small "sendero" (trail) leading to it, but the XR650L was built for such things, and I was able to ride to it with no issues. I don't think a BMW would have done well here....sorry Mike !

I set up camp and started cooking right as the sun was going down. Beautiful!

Now granted, this wasn't a very stealthy spot as it was in full view of the road; however, there were several families literally living on the beach a few hundred yards away, so I didn't think I would have any issues. There was plenty of trash laying around as well, which really was the only negative thing. For those of you that are reading along in preperation for doing this trip, here are the coordinates for where I stayed: -25.26898, -70.44061. Really, you could camp just about anywhere north of Taltal without issue.

I woke up the next morning around 8:00 PM and was surprised to find a man rolling bales of dried kelp up the beach a few feet away from my tent. We chatted for a minutes and I still wasn't able to figure out what he was doing with the kelp, but he complimented me on my bike and then went on his way. I imagine he was using the kelp for fuel for his fire or something.

In any event, I cooked my breakfast, packed up, and got ready to hit the road. I found a pretty cool bird skull lying in the sand and decided to add it to the front fender of my bike:

I've been looking for a good skull hood ornament since Mexico! After zipping birdy down, I found a slightly less harrowing path out of my campsite and back to the main road:

This was a little more managable, but there were still a few sections that I don't think a bigger bike could have made it through. Once again, I was extremely glad to be on a light and tall 650cc bike.

South of Taltal I headed inland for a National Park that a few Chileans had recomended to me when I was camping in San Pedro.

I was trying to avoid riding on the Panamerican Highway as much as possible and this seeemed like a good diversion. The road immediately switched to something that wasn't quite pavement, but not quite dirt. I looked in my handy little Chilean road map/book that I had picked up at a local Copec gas station and found that it was labled as "Establizado con Sal" or Salt Stabilized.

It was quite nice really, hard as contrete with very few pot holes. It was better by far than any road in Honduras...

Pan de Azucar ended up being really pretty and I stopped for lunch near some fisherman who had recently returned with a fresh catch. This guy cleaning the fish and feeding the scraps to some pelicans who were loitering a few feet behind him.

He would tease the pelicans and wave the fish guts back in forth in front of their faces; their heads would bob back and forth, their eyes following the fish guts like begging dogs waiting for a scrap from the master. It was great entertainment!

I continued south near the ocean, cutting back and forth on salt roads trying to stay off the Panamerican and as close to the water as possible.

I eventually came across a couple of dutch cyclists. We stopped and talked for a while; they were on their way north from Ushuaia and had started riding in October, so I was able to get some information on road conditions down south. Looks like im in store for a lot more gravel!

I've got lots of respect for people who do this trip on bicycles. I'm a cyclist back home, but I can't imagine carrying all of that gear on a bicycle for thousands of miles and years at a time! What a journey!

I spent the rest of the day linking up salt roads trying to stay near the ocean.

Eventually I made it to the town of Huasco where I bough supplies and fuel, then back tracked again out of town to find a campsite. Luckily, I found the mother of all stealth camping sites (-28.41573, -71.19815). It was so stealthy that some people pulled up in a truck twenty feet from me and didn't even realize that I was there. It was also quite beautiful and even had a little rock wall that someone had built around the sleeping area. However, it was full of trash. Luckily, someon had left an old rusty shovel lying around and I was able to clean things up quite nicely.

Just behind the low rock wall on the bottom left of the picture is the little niche where I put up my tent. The spot where I parked my bike was hell to get into; once again, only a farily small bike with good clearance could make it in here. Event then, I wasn't quite sure if I would be able to get the bike back out in the morning...

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