Copiapo to La Serena – 17 January 2013
By the time that we were awake Meyer had been out to the store to buy a few rolls for breakfast. He added these to the excess meat that we had brought back from the restaurant the previous evening. There was a mountain of food and both Gus and Neil were keen on some tea. Gus, always ready to camp, pulled out his stove and Neil his kettle and before we knew it the water was on the boil. In the mean time we also requested coffee of our hostel keeper and she obliged with six piping hot cups of coffee. We sat in the garage adjacent to our bunk room and chatted about our ride so far. There was no hurry as La Serena was an easy ride down the coast. It was good not to be rushing. We had decided not to go back the 60km to watch the special stage of the Dakar but rather to watch them in the liaison stage.
Once the bikes were packed we hit the road. It was a bright sunny morning with moderate temperature expected all day long. Daniel also decided to ride with us unsure as to when he might pick up with Carlos again.
Apart from a few wrong turns as we negotiated the one-way streets and early morning traffic we were soon on the road heading south on route 5. Meyer led the way once we got out of town and set the pace at around 100kph as this seemed to be the best pace in order to prevent his bike from stalling.
Mike stopped to adjust his music player and soon our group was split into two. Daniel, Mike and I were riding together while Neil, Gus and Meyer were in the leading group. We stopped a few times either for a comfort break or because Meyers bike was playing up. At one such stop Meyer and I continued without stopping wishing to keep going due to ten slow pace. The others would likely catch us before too long. With this bike plying up yet again and wishing just to stretch our legs we stopped along the coast still waiting for the others to catch us. We waited and waited but they didn’t come. I suggested that Meyer wait at the stop and that I backtrack to see if something had happened. Just then the other group arrived. Apparently they had not seen Meyer go past and decided to backtrack to see if they could find and assist him. All a good lesson to stick together and to pay attention to the rider immediately behind you. Anyway no harm was done and so we headed on into La Serena.
As we approached the outskirts of town we could see the newly constructed bivouac that would be home for the rally that evening. Flags of different countries as well as sponsors were flying around the perimeter of the encampment. There was a real sense on excitement and anticipation in the air. Many bikers had travelled up from Santiago and we chatted to a number of them as we refueled the bikes near the bivouac.
We had been warned that accommodation in La Serena would be difficult to and Neil was experiencing this as he called hotel after hotel in an effort to find a bed for the night. Instead of having everyone play follow the leader through the city it was decided that Meyer would attempt to fix his bike at the service station while a smaller group went head to look for lodging.
I stayed behind with Meyer and we moved to the back of the station to try to find a quiet spot where we could remove the fuel tank and carburetor of the KTM. No sooner had we started than we had to move as a tanker wanted to refill the fuel tanks of the station. Once out of the way we continued with our efforts. The fuel tank came off easily but the carburetor was snugly seated in a small and inaccessible area of the frame. We battled a while until Meyer noticed that a vacuum pipe had become dislodged. We reconnected the pipe and checked all other fuel and electrical connections that we could find. The began the process of putting everything back together again. An hour later Meyer fired up the bike and reported that everything was fine. We washed up in the local bathrooms and then returned to the forecourt where they had a convenience store as well as a little fast food restaurant. Some cold water to combat the heat of the day and a seat in the shade was the perfect recipe as we waited for a call from the others.
Sound 40 minutes later Meyer got the name of our hotel from Neil. He plugged it into the GPS and we set off on the last leg of our journey to the hotel in Coquimbo, a small town right next to La Serena. In a few minutes we would be able to enjoy a cool shower and a drink with the boys.
That was not to be. The GPS showed three separate locations for the same address and these were 20 km apart. We choose the most apparently correct one and headed for thy hotel. It wasn’t the correct one and for the next two hours Meyer and I rode backwards and forwards in Coquimbo as we tried to find the others. Calling them didn’t help much but we finally found a beach bum who could speak some English. We were directed back to where we had come from and given some visual clues as to the location of the hotel. Fifteen minutes we pulled into the reception area of the hotel where our fellow riders had already checked in, showered an dead a few cold drinks.
A cool shower and cold drink and all of the troubles were forgotten. Besides, it seemed as though we had fixed Meyer’s bike. The rest of the trip would be trouble free.
Dinner that evening was in the hotel restaurant and access to wi-fi meant we could catch up with the blog and emails after such a long time of being off the grid.
A few of the others decided to visit the hotel bar for an after-dinner drink. Great to be in a comfortable hotel again