0140712 BLOK (Calama to San Pedro de Atacama)
We're 'on the moon,' from Calama up to San Pedro de Atacama, where I'm booked at SonChek Hostales. Calama is the industrial community that supports the copper mining industry). San Pedro is all about tourism.
We glide up to San Pedro in our Jonah-whale-like bus, the terrain bereft of a single blade of grass. This is the driest place in the world! I feel 'at home,' being raised in Arizona , U.S.A. In High School, my nickname, 'the Lizard!' So, Dick I'm here resuscitating myself!
It's something like 100KM to S.P.de At., about 90 minutes in the bus, a full day on Mr. Fetes. Here I sit observing the terrain, the highway carefully, as know I'll be cycling it one of these days.The snow-capped Andes in the distance contrast the red-colored dry earth. It once rained here... You think I'm kidding.
I'm suddenly happy, my first Chilean bus ride coming to an end, after an interesting night. I've been longing for desert dry, after 'too long in the rain, too long in the wind, taking every comfort that I can.' (an old song lyric).
At the TUR BUS terminal in San Pedro, I put Mr. Fetes back together again, like Humpty Dumpty. Several travelers, who I surmise are Chilean, watch from their benches. I sing, 'Too many people with nothing to do, too many people with nothing to do! They all sit around, and smoke cigarettes! Too many people!' This raises a smile on their faces, as in 'another crazy gringo!'
Mr. Fetes goes back together again easily, a small brake problem, but no major damage. I don't like how they pack and unpack bicycles on buses, one of the reasons I rarely submit to… But, I needed to get near and into the mountains, in a better climate soon. Life is always a compromise, nothing perfect (the middle) for long… Nee enantiodromia, the infinite seeking of opposites, a 'vibration,' creating the cycle, like a 'reciprocating' engine! It, the 'Tao,' is the 'engine!'
I ride off singing…
I searching for the SonCheck Hostales, I know the streets, Calama and something, but I pass it the street without realizing. On the otherhand, when I'm cycling I 'let go' and 'let It' take over… A supposed 'mistake,' can turn out to be a bonanza of discovery!
Roxanna greets me, a smiling Chilean woman, I'm sure something like the 'manager, jefe' at SolChek Hostal.
It turns out to be much more than I expected, run by a Slovenian woman named Majca (there 17 years now).
I rent a small room (no toilet) for 11,000CLP / $22U.S. It's well organized, but the room so small I can barely more around in it (with all my gear). Because this weekend a holiday (that I didn't know about( I have to move in the morning and share a room, then on Monday, return to this 'closet,' or something larger (for more of course) -- they've overbooked. I have traveled on Friday the 13th, and arrived in a tourist town on a national holiday -- not very smart of me!
Ah, it's all about money ultimately! Note, this is what we need to change about the world! Let's 'dethrown' it from being 'God,' to just being 'Jesus,' or 'Mohammed,' or 'Zoraster,' or 'Buddha,' or 'Lao Zi!'
I park and cover Mr. Fetes for the night, then get settled in my closet room. The Honeymoon continues!
Yo 'mucho ambry! or very hungry!' so I move quickly to the adjacent restaurant, 'Carmen's.' It's so popular I have to wait in line for a table! I meet several tourists from Brazil, and learn that 'Brazilian people like this restaurant, the food.' I'm also taught how to say, I'm very hungry!' in Spanish, or 'Mucho Ambry!' A large white dog greets me!
This is the type of environment I love, and intend to settle down in (after all these years). It has an ambience made of the the following elements:
Sophistication (artists, bums, worldly people -- please, no Fundies allowed!)
Tourists, or a multi cultural (different languages) element!
Big dogs, with an occasional horse head in the door. An aside as they write… A story about trekking in Nepal. I'm eating dhal bhat, in a cozy group of trekkers, somewhere at the top of a pass. I look toward the open door and a white horse has stuck its head into checking us out. The Horsehead Inn.
My kind of food.
Good bran muffins.
Open fires at night.
Musica in the aires,
And L.M., por favor,
I will learn Spanish. 'Donde esta comprar…?'
The waiter takes my order and then says, 'Excuse me!' (in English). I've order vegetarian lasagna, and uno cervesa, 'Cristol' (that I've been seeing signs advertising everywhere -- it works). But, the woman brings it a can, and doesn't pore it into the glass (sorry, have to 'grade down' on this one). I want to learn in Spanish, 'Is it possible that you might have a warm beer?' Oh my God, blasphemy!
This lunch is dinner to me, so I don't label.
People should eat when hungry and not when not. We are habit-forming types, fall in the pattern of breakfast in the morning, lunch at mid day and dinner in the evening. Smaller meals, more often better for the digestion!
The children at the next table stare at me, as an old man eating alone, and writing on paper no less! A complete oddity, I am.
When my food comes, I'm wildly appreciative, as so good! The restaurant lives up to its reputation, 'Good food at a reasonable price!' Remember this place, 'Carmen's' on Calama in San Pedro de Atacama (if ever here).
The bus trip last night, some 20 hours in length (1100KMs / 775 miles)… The first in seven years in cycling around the world. Interesting to say the least…
The morning in La Serena, had gone perfectly, a sunny day, and out of there on schedule, in fact my usual early. It's difficult for me to be late for deadlines (the old TV and military school influence).
The bus from the south (Santiago) is late of course.
I have to take the wheels off as mentioned when purchasing the ticket. I have a total of 13 pieces that cost an extra 10KCLP / $20U.S. The total trip $75U.S.
Finally in my window seat (#23) next to a young Chilean man. He's focused on his small screen with ears plugged for distraction.
People seem to live in 'virtual reality' in this day and age, unable to deal with the noise, congestion, and confusion of modern everyday life. I soak it up on the other hand. I also seek peace and quiet!
I think to myself as we glide through space with no effort on my part… How easy, how comfortable, and it seduces you… GET OUT THERE AND CYCLE I WANT TO YELL OVER THE P.A., WE'RE KILLING MOTHER EARTH! Instead a Hollywood movie, this after the short TUR BUS intro video (safety, etc.). Most are all ears having ridden buses many times. If there's an accident we're suppose to sacrifice for children and older people. I would actually do this, thinking better to safe a child's life before it, rather than mine that's already had 72 years!
But, I certainly would think twice about the little girl sitting directly behind me as obnoxious and unkempt by her mother. Besides nonstop yelling and screaming, she pounds on the back of my seat. This after the mother complained about my shade not shielding her eyes from the setting sun.
I dart in and out from behind the curtain, staring out at a stunning sunset, red against the blue sky, whispy cirrus lingering in view. The snow on the distance Andes pink in the fading light. This is what most people miss hypnotized by that small screen. Most people more 'machine,' than 'human.'
I drift off…
In Vallenar, a small town, the bus stops. For some reason, even though there is a lavatory on the bus, I decide to use the one in the terminal. It costs 300CLP you purchase a special key at the food counter. It takes too long. I manage to get in and out, but I'm surprised… My bus is departing, backing out, the door still open, and I manage to run and jump into before the door closes! Later, I can't imagine missing the bus, my things aboard in a country where I barely know enough Spanish to get by. So, you learn a lesson… The bus isn't going to wait for you…
Safely back in the bus my comfort level rises and I drift off, lights flying past, a Hollywood movie on the screen.. Then it goes from enjoying the twilight zone, to challenging…
Somewhere in the night, on Ruta #5 between Copiapo and Autofagusto, I'm awaken by the Chilean guy. The bus is parked by the side of the highway. 'We have to get off,' he informs me. 'What? Why?' We're out in the middle of nowhere at 0200. I'm having a dream... No, it turns into a semi-nightmare… We're out there in the cold and wind, falling down in the dirt, shifting my 13 pieces including Mr. Fetes, into another buscar (coach). Then, all of a sudden we're shifting it back to the original, buscar. I'm confused, as get no answer, these guys no hablo mucho Ingles. Finally, I find out from my Chilean seat partner, we've moved my stuff, without checking if there's a seat for me, and guess what…? So, back we go as they want to keep me with my things. O.K. welcome to TUR BUS, with their million Euro Mercedes Benz. We have movies and the seats are comfortable, but nobody has taught us how to think (biggest problem in the world today, 2012). Just go by the rules, like robots!
Back in the buscar, we wait, there's me and three others, I not sure of what nationality as the young woman speaks some English. After not too long, maybe 30 minutos, I'm gestured out of the buscar and we do the the 'drill' again: move the 13 things uno vez mas into the 'new' buscar. This, on Friday the 13th! No reason for Triskadecaphobia! One very good thing, however, when I'm outside I look up to discover the clearest sky I've seen in years, the Milky Way, a white ribbon from north to south! There is the Southern Cross, lying on it's 'side.' At least I know the directions (you can tell true South from the stars in the Southern Cross)! We can navigate by the stars, don't have nor will have a GPS.
The new buscar is a 'Semi-Camas' model, the seat more like a bed. Suddenly, I'm sure what just happened was a dream! I sink back into the lap of 'buscaria' luxury. But, there's always something in the land of the 'Shambala Demons, in a Water Dragon Year!' The guy next to me, an overweight Chilean worker, fast asleep, is snoring. Not only that, but his earphones blasting out some Chilean music. As soon as the bus begins to move, I move away to a single by the window. I get back to my new found decadence… I drift off into 'reality,' or is it 'dreamland,' hoping all the of 13 are with me!
People wonder why I prefer traveling on a bicycle to taking general transportacion? Then again, it is getting to the point, where I'll be taking more buses, hoping for no mechanical problems in the middle of the night!
So many hours later we stop in my favorite named Chilean city so far, Autofagusto! I'm eager to find out what this means!
Onward through the night, and back to a wonderful sleep… And some irony… I sleep better in trains and buses than when still -- I need to be rocked!… I need to be moving!. We have much Chi!
And then dawn, the sun blasting through the window, the 'Big Bang,' in the here and now, and now back to the future…
Somehow the 13 have managed to make it all the way (in the luggage compartment of the bus) and soon I'm putting Mr. Fetes back together again…
To be continuned...