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At 6 a.m. I´m in Taltal. Nothing is open, not even the local bars. So I have breakfast on the little Placa des Armas and hit the road. Five kms past town the pavement ends. Ruta Una is unpaved for the next 200 km. I stop for lunch in Paposo and get pasta and eggs at a small store in the village. I have no idea what to expect from the next days, but load my bicycle with 20 liters of water.


Food in Paposo

Despite the close Pacific Ocean it´s 35°C and the sun in Febuary is directly above me on a clear sky. 20 km north of Paposo a pick-up is parked next to the road with gear box troubles. The truck is loaded with 1.000 liters of water, I´m happy to get a cool shower and fill my bottles with another five liters of water. The track is getting worse. There is no traffic on Ruta 1 and I don´t see a single animal all day except a dead sea lion. At dusk I see an abandoned Subaru parked on the road. It had travelled at least 20 kms on it´s broken rear wheel, when the spare tire blew.

Pacific coast

I set up my tent on the small and rocky beach with a fantastic panorama of the Pacific and the La Silla Mountains behind me. Surprisingly two old fishermen show up out of nowhere. They collect seaweed for the Japanese market for 100 US $ per ton, which takes them one week. My efforts to save water and cook my pasta with sea water fail miserably. Not even the fishermen´s dog wants to eat the salty stodge. So I go to bed hungry.

The next day is even warmer. The air is milky and the track is one to two km away from the ocean. Many sand pits make cycling hard work at 35°C. I have to push at several spots for short distances. At noon I stop at a poor settlement and stay in an abandoned shack for the hottest hours of the day. There are dead fish and rubbish everywhere. The kids are covered in rashes. The locals invite me to a fish meal but I refuse. Stories of cholera in Chile seemed unlikely in Santiago and the South but not here. The fishermen tell me about a high pass after Caleta el Cobre, apparently the coastal road ends there.

Ruta Una

In the evening I reach Caleta where I hope to get water and food. I´m shocked and disappointed when I reach the small harbour. There are only empty shelters and mining gear that has been left years ago. Everyone has left the village. My Chilean map is useless here, there is no direct road from the coast to the Ruta 5 and the distances on the map are much too short.

Caleta El Cobre

Welcome to Caleta El Cobre. Do not destroy, we will be back

I sort out everything I won´t need for the next two days. Müsli, pasta, fruits, cheese, spare tire, second chain and most of my tools. I have enough water for one day before I have to be at the junction to the Panamericana (Ruta 5). Rustling mice keep me awake at night, they have a big dinner from my supplies.


Two hours before sunrise I´m on my bike and look for the road that leads to the pass. There aren´t any signs and many tracks end in abandoned mines. After two hours I´m passing a small graveyard at the side of the road and stop for breakfast. Shortly after this the road splits and I don´t know which fork to take. One km further uphill both tracks merge again. At 10 a.m. I´m at a pass and happy to be at the top. But after a short downhill the road is climbing again.

Copper mountains

Two hours later I´m finally at the highest point and find a small shady spot. From here the road levels but is very sandy. At 1 p.m. the road is improving and I can´t believe my eyes when an old burnt out bus is at the side of the road. Here I can hide from the sun. I´ve hardly ever been so happy to be out of the sun and sleep soundly for one hour in the shade. In the background I can hear cars and trucks passing. The junction with Panamericana must be close.


To my big disappointment this is only another dirt road that leads to the observatory Cerro Paranal. At least it´s downhill from here and one hour later I reach the junction with Ruta 5. From here it´s another 60 km on smooth tarmac to Antofagasta. But there is a strong headwind. In the evening I have a big dinner at a Mexican restaurant in town happy to have done 120 km and 2.000 meters in elevation gain in one day.


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