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Day 10 (February 17, 2014) Today I woke up feeling a little tired; my body ached and my stomach was upset. After breakfast we loaded the bikes and rode north following route 1. Like route 1 (Pacific Coastal Highway) in California, the Chilean route 1 follows the Pacific coast. Our first stop was at the Tropic of Capricorn monument a few miles north of Antofagasta. Further north we visited the fishing village of Cobija and made a few stops for pictures before reaching Tocopilla, the city of energy. Tocopilla has a large thermoelectric power plant that generates energy for the entire region including the famous copper mine of Cuquicamata located 80 miles east. Tocopilla is also the birthplace of two football stars, Ascanio Cortés and Alexis Sanchez, who played for River Plate, the best soccer team in Argentina (el más grande lejos). Ascanio Cortés played for the River Plate team of the early 1940’s known as La Máquina (the machine). Because of the mobility of the players La Máquina is often considered a “predecessor” of the total football of the Clockwork Orange (la naranja mecánica), the famous Netherlands national football team that played the 1974 FIFA World Cup.

From Tocopilla we took route 24 east into the heart of the Atacama Desert. Tall high voltage transmission towers run parallel to both sides of the road. We made a stop at the intersection between routes 24 and 5 in a place so desolate and windy that it was hard to appreciate its beauty. We took cover under the shade on an abandon structure by the road. I was feeling pretty lousy by then. We continued east on route 24 towards Chuquicamata and Calama. The road slowly climbs on a gentle slope to reach an altitude on 3,000 meters (9,840 feet) and then quickly descends into Chuquicamata.

Chuquicamata is one of the largest (4.3 km ~ 2.67 miles long) and deepest (850 meters ~2,788 ft) open-pit mines in the world. Huge mounds of rock and dirt, which look like mountains from far away, are deposited by huge Terex trucks at the rim of the pit. The man-made crater of Chuquicamata is half the size of the volcanic crater of Crater Lake National Park. In the film The Motorcycle Diaries, Che Guevara visits Chuquicamata and is deeply upset by the treatment that the migrant workers received from the hiring official of the Anaconda Mining Company (which by the late 1950’s owned and operated two of the largest copper mines in Chile including Chuquicamata).

After a brief stop in Calama, a few miles south of Chuquicamata, we continued into San Pedro de Atacama. The road (route 23) climbs up again to reach altitudes around 3,400 meters. By the time we got to our hotel in San Pedro I was feeling sick with flu-like symptoms (chills, headache, extreme fatigue, diarrhea) so I went straight to bed. For dinner Adrián made Mountain House Beef Stroganoff. Delish!