We left Santiago at around 8:00am and followed the route recommended by the hotel which turned out to be OK but not quite perfect. After a short detour I navigated us in the right direction, more or less!
For the first one hundred miles there are hills and mountains in every direction I look. It is really beautiful and just as I am becoming accustomed to it we turn a bend and there ahead of us is the Pacific Ocean.
The first thing to strike me about it are the rollers coming into the shore, they are between 15 and 20 feet high although the ocean doesn’t appear to be generally rough. Further on and there are white caps everywhere across the ocean.
Off to the east I can see the snow capped mountains of the Andes and to the west the Pacific Ocean. I know from studying the map that they are converging and pushing in on the highway. When they actually come together, it will be interesting to see what happens to the road.
Bridget has been generally running well although I have detected a slight misfire over 4,000 revs. When we arrive in La Serena, a seaside resort town on the coast of Chile, I noticed a service area that does immediate oil changes and as Bridget needs hers changed I pulled in. They did a competent job but then I noticed that once again she had managed to shed one of her bolts that attach the exhaust pipe to the manifold. The Shell garage was unable to help so I have decided to stay in La Serena until I can get it fixed. The following morning I sourced a new nut and bolt and after fitting them ensured that all nuts and bolts are tight.
La Serena is a very pleasant place with a great climate, it is currently winter and the temperature during the afternoon is around 70º although overnight it drops to only just above freezing point. The people are extremely friendly and of course Bridget has made lots of new friends.
The ocean here, although calm, creates some fairly impressive waves onto the shore. I’ve have done a short photographic study of it and the sunset. I also noticed that as the sun goes down hundreds of sea-birds congregate on the shoreline, and to my delight flights of pelicans sweep across the sea only inches from the water. They remind me of the Dambusters on the final run in to the Mohne Dam.
We left la Serena at 8:30am and headed north once again on Route 5. The road is single carriageway but in generally good condition. It winds inland and very soon we were surrounded by hills and mountains. During the first fifty miles the ocean appeared at sporadic intervals but after that we climbed steadily into the foothills of the Andes as they came closer to the ocean.
We were in bright sunlight at one stage but immediately ahead of us the cloud appeared just like a huge white solid wall. Obviously once we got extremely close one could see a little way into it but visibility was down to around 50 metres. Then it closed in all around us and it became damp and quite chilly.
Bridget continues to perform well with only a hint of misfire when the revs are over 4,000rpm. She pulls well up the hills and there are plenty of them. Some excellent MG conditions with some really tight hairpins that, as we were travelling uphill, we could really lean into.
Only a short trip today of just over 250 miles and we stopped at Caldera. Just two more days to the Peru border all being well. The following morning and on the road again still heading north I decided to stop and take a photograph where the mountains meet the sea. As I was crossing the road to gain the best view I looked idly out to sea and suddenly realised I was watching a whale! I don’t know what type of whale it was but it was only about 50 metres from the rocky shoreline.
Of course, I had the wrong lens on the camera and so I raced back for the telephoto lens. By the time I got back it had moved about a quarter of a mile away and by the time I could see it surface it was too late to focus the camera and so I don’t have any pictures. Nonetheless it fulfilled another of my ambitions to see a whale in its natural habitat.
The rest of the days travel was interesting scenery and Bridget behaved well again. The journey through Argentina and Chile is proving to be just another Sunday afternoon drive from the car point of view.
The final leg in Chile has been 300 miles of desert. Most would find this part of the journey boring but I love wilderness areas so am quite content. Bridget has been showing off and continues to run well although once again she has tried to shed her exhaust pipe. Admittedly some parts of the highway today have been in quite poor condition, memories of India but on a much lower scale.
I decided we would stop over for the night at Iquique on the Chilean coast. It surprised me just how high up in the mountains the desert we have traversed today is. However the greatest surprise was after turning a corner and finding ourselves on a road approximately 1500 feet above the ocean and an almost sheer drop. Very spectacular, new trousers please!
Tomorrow we will cross the border into Peru and thus start another part of our travels.