November 29, 2002
We fly with Lan Chile airline across the pacific ocean from Auckland, New Zealand to Santiago, Chile, 11 hours on non-stop flight arriving at 1.00 pm same day. The Officer of The Royal Thai Embassy meets us at the immigration and gives us a support.
We are now at opposite side of the world, far away from our country "Thailand". The immigration officer does not recognise our passport, she ask her advisor "Donde Tailandia" (where is Thailand?). Only 20 Thai people are in Chile, this number includes all officers of the Royal Thai Embassy and two of us. With a great support from The Royal Thai Embassy, our gear and bicycles are put in the van. We are now in Chile, everything is changed from being in New Zealand. Mou gets in the car. He sits at the driver's seat. He has to change the seat to the other side. Chilean drives on the right hand, we believe this is the same in America Continent. We are now in South America, we are learning the new different things. First of all, Spanish language is used in Latin & Central America. The weather is totally changed. We had seen green environment in New Zealand and lots of rain. It is dry here seeing yellow grass and huge mountain of the Andes with no trees.
leave the airport at the west side of Santiago, capital of Chile. We see
small villages and old small houses. When the car stop at the junction,
some people sell fruits, drinking water and some dance to get money from
the car passing by. We are seeing the life of Chilean people. We arrive
the city centre of Santiago. We head to the east to Las Condes area seeing
big houses and beautiful garden. Las Condes is located on the bottom side
of The Andes Mountain (even with snow covering on the peak in summer time).
We arrive The Ambassador Residence. The Ambassador Pittaya Pookaman has
housed us staying in a small house behind his residence. The beautiful
big garden and nature are around. We meet a group of Thai teachers and
students who come here to show Thai performance for the ocassion of celebrating
our King's birthday on December 5, a national day at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
The buffet Thai cuisine is available during Thai Week event at the hotel.
On Dec 5 Thai Naitonal Day, The Royal Thai Embassy invites hundred guest from different ambassadors of many countries to the Ambassador Residence. All guests enjoy different Thai cuisines and seeing Thai culture and performances. All Thai people light the candle and sing a song especially for our King, everybody says "Long live the King". We help by cooking "Thai Boat Noodle", long line guest is waiting for us to cook & serve the noodle. We have a great time and were very tired. We are so happy to do for our King, "Love live the King".
Jan 5, 2003 we say goodbye to everyone and ready to go. We take our bicycles and gear on a van and drive us to Valparaiso. The reason is to avoid riding in a tunnel for our safety. Some people ask us why don't we start bicycling from south of Chile, we give the reason that Chile is very long country, 5,000KM. The southern part of Chile is something like New Zealand with cold and rain. We decide to start from central Chile and continue to the north (a desert area). Chile is the most south country in the world. The Andes Mountain is on the east.
Thank you very much to all staff of The Royal Thai Embassy for you kind support of driving us to Valparaiso, tour around the city, seeing the beautiful city view at the lookout, and taking us for a good lunch at a nice restaurant by the seaport.
We have a homestay with Koy, a Thai lady in Ren'aca. She cook good Thai food for us every meal. Her apartment is near the city centre of Valparaiso and by the beach. Many houses are on the hill with different bright colors living close to each other. Valparaiso is a tourist area. The earthquake is normal in this area. We scare of the small shake in the building. People tell us that it is normal here feeling the little shake. Earthquake is happened almost everyday here. The tall building is designed suitable for shaking.
We say goodbye to Koy in the afternoon on Jan 7, 2003 at Ren'aca. We start rolling again from Chile, South America toward U.S.A. Our plan is to bike along the coast on road Ruta 5 Panamericana Highway or Viapanam to La Serena, next to Copiapo, arrive at Antofagasta and take Ruta 1 road along the coast again to Iquique, turn to Ruta 5 again and head to north toward Arica, the most north city of Chile.
We bike along the coast of Pacific Ocean to the north. This is the new atmosphere compare to New Zealand, more look like the desert in Australia. We pass a small town, Concon. We are little worry of how people here welcome us. We see people smile and wave us on all the way. Our first day of riding is at 15KM. We find a place to camp. We tent in a camp park paying at 5,000 Pesos, quite expensive. We have no choice, it is all fence both side of the road. (Chilean currency, 700 Pesos = 1 US$ or 15 Pesos = 1 Thai Baht)
January 8, 2003
Our second day trip in Chile, we learn that it is quite difficult. The weather is hot and many steep hills. The road is along the seashore but no beach. The road is about up to 100 meter from the sea. We see no restaurant or shops. Unfortunately, we have a flat tyre at noon and need to fix it. We continue to arrive a small town of Puchuncavi and have food (only one shop in town). We have Pescado Frito (Fried Fish and rice) at 1,500 Pesos. The food is quite nice. The cost of living in Chile is about the same in New Zealand and Autstralia.
We then continue biking along the coast to Zapallar by the beach. We find a place to stay. A cabin cost 25,000 pesos (only one in town). We ask to set up a tent, the owner does not allow. It is now 8 p.m. and going to be dark by 9 p.m., we still have time. He suggests that there is a camping area, he writes down the name of the place to us "El Lilin", another 10KM. We have an easy ride to Papudo, a bigger city with tall buildings along the beach. We ask the police for a place to stay, he says "no accomodation" , "no camping area" here. The tall buildings are for Chilean people when they have holidays, not for tourist. We show him the camping area "El Lilin" on the paper, he said "this place is not allowed anymore for camping", but he said "he allow us to camp here with an exception only for today", we have a smile. The police say, next 1 KM turn left it is a camping area "El Lilin" in the forest by the beach. He point out far away. It is getting dark. We are very hungry. We couldn't see where to turn left. We ask people on the road, he said next 1 KM and turn left. He is so kind to walk with us to the gate of one village town, lots of buidling. There is no sign. He said "next 3 KM", the camping area is in the eucalyptus forest by the beach. We bike in the dark and see lots of teenagers camp here. We are not sure if this is a safe place. We hide and set up a tent by the big tree. We did not have a good sleep all night.
January 9, 2003
We continue 20km and reach Ruta 5 on Panamericana Highway, the main highway toward U.S.A. We see the sign on the road says "Viapanam", this highway is lead to Panama. These two highways are the same one. We see dry grass field far away. We climb long steep uphill and long descent with strong wind. It is really bright sunshine. We loose the energy and get sweat. We stay in Pichicuy, a small city by the beach. The road is steep descent to the sea. Houses are on the mountain near the beach. We see many fishing boats along the ocean. Hundred of people swim on the beach. We ask police for a place to stay. He said look for "SE ARRIENDA", a room for rented, some kind of homestay accomodation.
January 10, 2003
Last night, we did not take a shower. The water is limited here. No water facility until 9 o'clock in the morning. We tried to tell the caretaker, "there is no water". We couldn't understand much so decided to go to sleep. The water is only available in the pipeline at 9.00 a.m. everyday. We realize and understand that we are now in the semi-desert and water is limited. We continue on Ruta 5 and experience steep road in South America, lot of mountains, long uphill to climb, put a lot of energy. Some point is quite dangerous, a narrow bridge (more careful). We see a huge sand mountain and turn left to the city. We arrive Los Vilos with more than 10,000 people live in this city. We see thousands of people at the beach. We get in touch with Chilean life style.
January 12, 2003
We take rest for a day in Los Vilos after the difficult ride. We walk around town and feel that this town is really nice for a break. We see many people lay down on the beach and get sunshine in the evening. We wonder why thousands of people with all age are here. Today, we continue our ride on Ruta 5. We leave Los Vilos and have a feeling that we are slowly entering the heart of the desert. We stop and take a photo at the sign reads Arica 1,844 KM. We see the huge sand mountain behind the sign and think that the landscape ahead is interesting.
There are no tree and dry grass. We see few goat farms. People have many cactuses as a fence, quite interesting. It is difficult to find a place to camp off the road. We see fence both sides. We stop and ask policeman for the camping area. He said "next 4 KM" have a Camp Site on the left at Cta Pto Oseuvo. The policeman is not right. There is no Camp Site. We have asked few people. We see only few houses with a sign "No Enter". We have a conversation with one lady and ask her to set up a tent behind her house. We had a long talk and she gives us permission. We camp in the eucalyptus forest with many bull's shits on the ground. We are safe for the night here and thank you for our stay here.
January 13, 2003
Our trip is getting more difficult, long steep roads and dangerous corners. We have passed moutains lots of rocks fall down on the road. We see the net cover at side of the mountains to prevent rocks falling on the road. There is a warning sign of rock falling on the way. Sometimes, we get off the bike and walk uphill for few kilometres. We go downhill and feel unhappy, surely the road is climbed up many kilometers again. We have long up and downhill all day and so exhausting. We realize that bicycling in South America is not an easy ride. We are lucky that we find a restaurant. We could possibly get out from the heat wave and take rest in the restaurant. It was really hot in the desert. We had good food and fill up the energy. We continue our ride. Wan has a flat tyre during long downhill, quite scary. Bicycle is shaking, quite difficult to control. Mou wish that Wan is safe during the downhill with high speed.
We climb many hills untill the peak of the mountain range. The weather is nice. We see a little fog. We see more goat farms and people selling goat meat on the side of the road. We see one lady holding the fresh killed goat while the car is passing by. After she shows the goat she put it back on the table. We ask the price of the goat, she says "6,000 Pesos" (US$ 8). She also sells cheese (made from goat's milk) and Pan (Chilean Bread). We go again long downhill. We sometimes get off the road and take a break. We have been holding break for long time. We have a difficult time controlling our bicycle because the strong wind is blowing in between the mountain during the downhill. We see the beach far ahead. The road turns long uphill and long downhil again and again. We pass the huge Sand Dune. It is getting dark. We couldn't find a safe place to camp off the road. We see one farm having hundreds of goat. We ask the farmer to set up a tent under a tree near the fence (only one tree here in this area). Many dogs bark at us while we are waiting to meet the farmer. The farmer says "OK". We learn that villagers are so kind, even they live far far away.
January 14, 2003
We get up early and ask for a photo taken with the farmer. The road is still continued long steep uphill. Wan has a flat tyre again. We then downhill again until seeing one gas station and see many trucks stop here. We take a long rest and continue. We see big community here, small shops along the road. Villagers sell fresh grapes!!! It is very cheap at Baht 20/kg (US$ 0.5 /kg).
Grapes are very fresh and just cut from farm. We love it so much, it taste very sweet. We wonder, why big community lives here in the desert. We ride for few kilometres and see people lives near the river growing vegetables and have farms. That is why. We see the green fresh land far away and then back again on the dry desert. We have long steep uphill again and then road is flat for 10 km. We have been riding for many days and just have this easy ride here on the highland. We find again fresh fruits, many shops around this area. We ride downhill to Seca. We ask one lady at a small shop if there is a camping area in the city. She says "no facilities". We then ask her to camp in the area of her house & shop. She called her husband "Franklin", he says "OK". Franklin welcome us in his home and introduce us to his family. He gives us a cup of tea. We have a nice hot shower. Franklin brings a gas tank to boil the water for hot shower. We have a good conversation. Franklin work for House Construction. Franklin family is so kind to give us a warm bed for the night. We went to sleep after midnight.
January 15, 2003
Franklin gets to work with his father early morning. His father picks him up. We say goodbye to him and get a photo of the family. We get ready. Everyone in the family walks to the bridge and wave us until far far away. We have a good feeling like we are cousins. We plan to arrive La Serena today. People mostly live in the city, we rarely see people live between the cities. Our ride is not too difficult but quite a few big steep hills. We climb up to the peak of mountain and see the city view of Coquimbo and next city far away is La Serena. More than 100,000 people live in La Serena. We see lot of people holding a big sign "CASA" (house) along the road. They are offering accomodation for travellers. The descent road is end at Coquimbo. Many people from Santiago spend their summer holidays here, lot of accomodations are available. We have a difficult ride in the big city, no shoulder lane and very busy traffic. We see one accident ahead, a very sad one. One cyclist falls off his bike and all the loaded things are falling all over the road. Cyclist is very hurt and he has not moved his body. We feel very sad.
We wonder of seeing thousands of people walk across the bridge. What are they doing in this evening? They are going to the beach during this summer. Family go together and have a good time, carrying towels, wear light clothes. We see La Serera is coming close but have to cycle another 10km from Coquimbo. The sky is dark now. We put lights behind our bike and try to find a budget hotel in town for the night.
We rest in La Serena for 3 days and work on to do lists. We stay near Plaza de Armas, a city cetre area in every city.
Chilean people eat PAN, it is a bread but different bread from Hamburger bread. We always carry PAN on our bike for meals. The smell of fresh Pan is really nice when we buy PAN at supermarket or shops. Chilean eats PAN with cheese or ham or butter. For Lunch, it is a big meal (rice and potatoe). Different kinds of PAN are sold fresh daily in many stores in La Serena. It taste a little salty. We always enjoy Pescado Frito along the coast, a fried fish with plain rice. Therefore, most Chilean likes to eat meat more than seafood.
January 18, 2003
We leave La Serena and head to the next big city of Copiapo. The road is turned to inland. La Serena is in a semi-desert area and water is also limited because of large population. We are entering the heart of the desert. The grass and a tree is rarely seen, even a cactus is none. The four lanes road starting from Santiago is ended at La Serena. There are only 2 lanes now, sometimes with no shoulder. We still climb many big hills. The trip is getting more difficult because of the heat in the desert. We need to carry more water for 2-3 days. We see a small town of Los Hornos at the end of the road near by the sea again. Lots of cactus field are found. We see long steep uphill ahead and decide to rest for a night here in Los Hornos.
There is no accomodation in this small city. If we want to camp, we could possibly camp by the sea with other campers. We think it would not be safe to camp with hundreds of people in the camping area. We ask one owner of a restaurant, he is so kind to talk to his friend and open an old house for us to stay for the night. We pay 3,000 Pesos. This old house used to be a restaurant. There is no electricity. We light the candle at night. We hear loud noise of many groups of teenagers drinking and singing all night. We did make the right decision to be safe in a room.
January 19, 2003
We leave early in the morning and climb steep 2 big mountains until 1,300 meter sea level (m.s.l.). It takes us 5 hours on the long climb. Many cars pass by us waving to us and giving us the power. One car stop, a lady gives us fresh cold grapes. Her eyes fill with kindnes. We stop for food at Posada, a small restaurants for truck travellers. We met a police, he check us if we have a problem. We say, "everything is fine". He says, "the road is gently climb up for 45 km and then a very steep climb".
We gently climb and see at the back. We did climb up far away. We leave IV Region De Comquimbo and enter III Region De Atacama. We camp near the border region of these two states seeing the sunset to the sky.
January 20, 2003
Fog is all over in the early morning and our tent covering with little bit of water. Atacama Desert is quite interesting. It is the driest desert in the world with no rain has been recorded for more than 100 years. We see no animal and even no birds in the desert. Minerals are found in a large area. We are entering the Atacama Desert now. We again gently climb up the small hill. We stop at Posada for food. The road is getting steeper. When we shout out loud in the mountain range, they echo every word of us. We sometimes shouted to release stress from the heat. Here come the big steep hills twisting to the peak at 1,600 m.s.l. The road is descent. Strong wind is twisting in the middle of the sunshine, rolling on the hill. It was a difficult ride 10km before reaching Domeyko. We have a side wind made us a difficult ride. We get off the road many times and let the big truck passing by. With the speed of the truck passing us, the turbulence from the wind blow us close to the truck. We arrive Domeyko and are exhausted. Most of people involved with mining. The population of Domeyko is few thousands. We find a cheap room. The restroom door is open all time. We have to take turn for being a guard. The wall of the house is made from mud and the roof is made of grass but no worry with the rain.
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