Day 6 (February 13) Today we left Valparaiso and begun to move north. We left the fertile valleys of Central Chile toward the semi-arid scrubland of el Norte Chico (the Little North). It was a cloudy and cool day. We followed the rocky shore riding the Ruta del Mar (the Route of the Sea) through the towns of Viña del Mar, Reñaca, Concón, Zapallar and Papudo. We briefly visited Zapallar (which can be translated as pumpkin patch). The town and the coastal area around it reminded us of Pacific Grove near Monterey, California. From Zapallar we rode into Papudo and then took route 5, a toll freeway that runs mostly next to the shoreline. The wind was blowing hard and the ride was hard work. When I visited this area in 2004, the sun was shining brightly and the blue of the ocean against the whitish rock was quite beautiful. Not today.
At the COPEC gas station in Termas de Socos we met Claudia, a solo rider from Santiago on a BMW 650 GS who was going to the town of Puerto Velero. Claudia recommended that we take a short detour to visit the fishing towns of Tongoy and Guanaqueros south of Coquimbo. We followed her advice and stop at Tongoy to take a few pictures of the bay, crowded with fishing boats. We did not have time to visit Guanaqueros but the town looked great from the road. By the time we reached La Serena is was already getting dark. We tried to find a hotel on the shore but everything was booked. The traffic was very heavy and both motorcycles were running hot. The air-cooled BMW was having a hard time with the slow going so Adrián had to turn it off several times. We then went inland to La Serena proper and eventually found a room in a 1/2-star hostel near the intersection of Amunátegui and El Salto. The bikes had to sleep behind bars on the front yard of a neighbor’s house across the street from the hotel. For dinner we shared a chorrillada Terrible (see the picts for a description). Terrible was the actual name of the chorrillada probably in reference to the terrible amount of cholesterol provided by the combination of items included in the rich dish.