• 16 September 2019

Continuing from Antafogasta in Chile to Atacama San Pedro and then towards Bolivia

Continuing from Antafogasta in Chile to Atacama San Pedro and then towards Bolivia

Continuing from Antafogasta in Chile to Atacama San Pedro and then towards Bolivia 1024 768 Gürkan Genç


When writing again after a long pause, it is worth to remind what happened. Why did I stay in Chile for such a long time?

I had set off for my South America journey from Buenos Aires on January 2017 and had arrived in Santiago after one month on February 2017. At that time our ambassador Gokcen Hanim (Mrs/Miss in Turkish) had hosted me. I had some opportunity to learn Santiago. Thanks to embassy secretary 2Basak, her husband Yigit and our consulate employee Recep who helped me in many issues. Then, I set off and arrived in Ushuai, the town at the southernmost of the continent in September 2017. Afterwards, I had returned to my starting point to Buenos Aires. Then, rode through south of Brazil, Paraguay and north of Argentina respectively before returning to Santiago once again in March 2018. This time I was to stay longer and thank to our ambassador Gulin Hanım who hosted me. Together with Mine Poge we had decided to finish the children’s books composed of 4 series, which we started to write in February 2017. In May 2018 I learned that my father had cancer. I left all the projects I was doing and returned to Turkey after 6 years on the road. My father got sorry to my return and was crying: “Why did you return?” I just smiled. I spent two months just with my family and then returned to Chile on August 28th 2018 and went to Eastern Islands which my father wanted me to visit before heading to the north of the country.

 I had to return to Santiago due to a bicycle damage just 500 km away from the border, November 15th. I chatted every day with my family, especially dad 5 days long. On November 20th, 2018 my father passed away in his sleep at night. He was buried the next day in family cemetery at Golbasi in Ankara.

The date I’m writing this article is February 12th, 2019. I was away from my father for years due to my world journey. My childhood and youth had passed also this way. He was working out of town during my prime and high school years and then I was out of Ankara during my university years. Then after we were always apart from each other, but our connection was always strong. At every single opportunity we had, we were traveling together, chatting and thought over various things. Now, I can’t send him messages or don’t receive any messages from him. He had sent me books to read just before he passed away. You may ask: “What did your father left for you?” That’s all, 15 books. I had such a father. To know that I’ll continue on my world trip without receiving any messages from him, to know he won’t be among the people who will welcome me when I’m back at home makes me feel sorrow. It is hard to get used to the fact that I’m not going to see him anymore. I had written him that I had fallen so many times in this journey, but this now wasn’t a physical fall. It is hard to put yourself together when you have a psychological fall. What can I do? I’m ready to depart, being on the road would help me. It always helped me, whenever I feel bad cycling does good. I would like to thank our ambassador Gulin Hanim, our diplomat Yeliz Hanim, undersecretary of internal affairs Ahmet Bey and our consulate employee Recep Bey for supporting me during that time. Also lots of thank to Elif, Gonca and Viviana who never let me alone.

Some people think that I’m also made of iron due to saying “Gurkan Genc the man with iron horse”. “Why are you in Chile? Didn’t you stay more than enough in Chile? Why Chile?” If you don’t read my articles, you may not know what’s going on. Well, nothing to do. In the end, I’ll keep on my journey the way after my own heart as I do for years.

This time I returned to Antofagasta on my own. After a long time, I’m hitting the road solo. However, I always say that I’m traveling solo. Before giving that long break/ARA I had pedaled with Johnny for a while. The I stopped at Santiago to finish the books with Mine where I had stooped for while before. This was my second long stop-over in Santiago. During this time our ambassador Gulin hanım (mrs in Turkish) hosted me. With the bike the welder messed-up we could only arrive Antofagasta the last big city in the north and from there returned to Santiago together with Elif. I returned to the point I had left. Since I didn’t have time to stroll around in the city at time, I decided to stay more for a couple of days.

It is known as the capital, the biggest city of the northern part of Chile. A long shore line with a nice bicycle lane stretching along the shore, nice fish restaurants, a big port and a bad smell with the port. Just after 3 meters away from the coast the altitude rises and just after a kilometer you start to climb side streets with 10% slope in the city. During my few days’ stay I strolled around in the city and looked far-off sitting at the seaside. Antofagasta was a place where I watched the see for a longtime, doing nothing without dreaming, questioning or thinking.

Returning to my room I touch my bike:

  • Are you ready to depart? A tough/hard route to travel is waiting for us. If you are ready, let’s depart Nazlı (in Turkish, meaning delicate).

Of course, it would be nice if she would answer. Neither she nor me don’t know what we’ll experience on the road. By the way, I named Nazlı, the third and last bike frame Kron had produced for me in 2011.

The exit of the city directly starts with a climb; from sea level to 1450 m altitude initially a comfortable climb, then to 1800 m altitude and till Calama the road slightly climbs.

It is possible to find safe camping places along the road through I-overlander app. At the village just before Calama, the place I had lunch made a discount hearing that I was traveling on bike, then gave me a place to stay for free, and also didn’t take money for dinner and breakfast.

Though some people say “Chilean people are not hospitable”, Chilean say for people from the north “they keep distance, they are not warmhearted as southern Chileans”, as seen in this case it doesn’t matter from which part of the country people are. Let me say once again, I really like this country. This was a country which I enjoyed riding a lot and spent really a good time. But dude, it is an expensive country, really expensive

Arriving in Calama I got a message from Birgul from Australia on a trip in South America:

  • “Gurkan, if you’ll arrive in a few days in San Pedro, I’ll be there. Let’s meet”.

Viviana also sent a message: “I would also like to see San Pedro once again. I had last visited this town 20 years ago”.

To arrange these meetings, I’d to hit the weekend and then leave Calama. I stayed one night at the fire station as usual and rode to a camping site located in Calama the next day. The distance between Calama and San Pedro is one day’s ride on bike.

There were two caravans in the camping site: one with German plate and the other with Argentinian but the people around where not seeming from this continent. I had some conversation with them.

Ursula and Robert setting off from Germany traveled almost through entire South America. At last the radiator of their caravan was worn through/got a hole while driving from Uyuni in Bolivia and San Pedro in Chile and managed to come to this place. They were staying for the last 20 days in this camping site since nobody was able to fix this problem of their Fiat brand vehicle. So they had to order a new radiator from Europe. www.welt-erleben.ch. You think that a brand like Fiat would have a service and spare parts network throughout the world but in neither a big nor small town near this famous touristic destination (Atacama Desert) this problem could be solved. All the four people at the next caravan were Germans who bought their vehicle in Argentina where they started to travel through South America. During my stay in this camping site they invited me once for a dinner. Our talking topic was countries’ politics, European Union, Turkish-German relationships besides road stories. People get curious about what I’m saying for these topics. Generally, I listen to people about their opinions about my country. Rather than talking about the problems or developments happening in my country, I try to explain the facts, if there are any document based false known truths in their thoughts or sayings, I try to explain them as I usually do.

The road between Calama and San Pedro really boring till you climb to 3366 m altitude. After that, you descend through an area which is nice. Especially, the sunset is a must to see. I was lucky to catch the sunset riding through Moon Valley where the landforms resemble that on the Moon. The entrance was not free, but I told the officer at the entrance gate that I run out of money and not in the position to return to this position to catch this beauty. On top of it the doors were closed and vehicles were not allowed to enter but I wheeled my way into and managed to take the photo of the sunset.

It is impossible not to recognize the curious looks of the people. The ones a bit nearer whistle to the ears of next standing people things about me. Mostly, they asked which country’s flag it is that I’m carrying to their fellow standing next to them. If they don’t know, they come to me to ask and get information about my travel. The Europeans mostly take a photo of my bicycle only. If they are going to take my photo, they initially ask for permission. I don’t like to be photographed if I travel together with another person. But, under such circumstances I enjoy this. I remain in their mind as: “We met a Turkish guy traveling around the world on bike”. Most of them forget my name but this sentence remains. Well, as I mentioned, this a process/phase which I enjoy/take pleasure.

I arrived in San Pedro after darkness (after darkness had set). I got surprised, well the streets in the city were untouched, everywhere was covered with dust and dirt. The appearance of the city and the untouched streets resemble a cowboy town. Well, if you want to achieve authentic look, at least pave the streets with cobblestone dude. At some parts of the town the streets were already paved with cobblestone, I hope they complete in future. Well, the same time it is the most expensive towns in the country and you leave the city covered with dust and dirt.

I’m going to the Pangea Hostel which I’d arranged to meet Birgul who is on the road in South America and Viviana from Santiago, so I’d arrived a day before. Later, we found out that also Birgul had arranged this hostel ahead. Reasonable, because this was the cheapest hostel in the city. There

While we were staying in this city, we walked up to 4300 m altitudes to see the volcanoes, lakes and flamingos. One day we went to see the glaciers.

Since we went there at 4 a.m. the view was spectacular. Viviana kept asking me: “Why don’t you feel cold? How come you walk around with such thin/slim cloths? It is impossible to describe some special moments. It wasn’t easy to adopt this body to cold. Anyway, San Pedro de Atacama is an expensive touristic desert. It is a place where the visitor could partly feel the desolateness. The visitors would surf on internet to get information about this place. The best working place is the French Café at the exit of the city towards Argentinian and Bolivian border. I guess the most profitable business in this city is selling bred and breakfast. The shop is always full of crowd and people going on tour buy their bred here. Congratulations.

I exited San Pedro at 2400 m altitude on May 6th. I set up my first camp at 3640 m facing the volcano Licancabur. That was an easy climb. Of course, the tarmac/paved road was a big advantage. The next day I climbed to 4666 m to the border gate. Wowww. The border gate was constructed one year ago. Before that, the stamp was applied before exiting the city. Now, there exists a very modern border gate. I’m taking the Hito Cajon pass riding to Bolivia and entering this country which I’m very curious about. Let’s see…

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