Day 9 (February 16, 2014) We spent the day today visiting areas north of Antofagasta. We went to La Portada Natural Monument and a few fishing villages nearby (Juán Lopez, Isla Santa María, Caleta Constitución). We also rode to the town of Mejillones (mussels) some 60 kilometers from Antofagasta. In Mejillones, we met a very interesting and friendly Bolivian fellow, Demetrio Heredia. Demetrio is originally from Cochabamba, Bolivia, but has travelled the world in search of a decent job. He has worked in Washington DC, Buenos Aires, Barcelona (showed me his resident ID), and now northern Chile. Currently Demetrio drives a bus to carry miners into the dessert. When we got back to the hotel this afternoon we changed the oil of my bike (I use Motul 3100 Mineral here because Rotella, very popular in the US among KLR650 riders, can’t be found down here).
A few facts about traveling in Chile. You may have to pay to use the toilets in places like gas stations. When we asked why, they told us that “people do not know how to use toilets”. Many roads are toll roads and there is no alternative route. Roads are in very good shape and well marked. Chileans seems to be very respectful of driving regulations (e.g. speed limits, passing markings), especially compared to Argentinians who are, for the most part, ready to break every rule. Railroad (level) crossings have stop signs so you must stop. Argentinians do not stop at any stop signs (ever). If you do stop, you are likely to cause an accident because nobody expects you to stop. Chileans respect stop signs. Chile has the best juices (called “nectars”) in the world! Our favorite was nectar de durazno (peach nectar). Gas stations, like in Argentina and in the US, have a mini market with food and drinks. Gas stations also sale very good maps of Chile. COPEC, for example, offers one called Rutas the Chile which is excellent—the front cover of the 2004 Rutas de Chile had a picture of an Argentinian road in Patagonia, oops! Traveling in Chile seems to be very safe. People has been very helpful and kind to us.