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Cycling in the Atacama Desert

By on Jul 20, 2011 in Uncategorized | 6 comments

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The feeling was one of incredible freedom and tantalizing adventure. Sure, the tours had been good, the guides informative and the fellow tourists friendly, but being out here, just two of us on bikes, surrounded by mountains of orange rock, the desert took on an even more magical air.

The sky was a deep, cloudless blue; after four days in San Pedro, I still couldn’t get over it. The sun shone brilliantly overhead, creating a high-contrast interplay of shadows and light.

Several times, we had to cross the meandering river. Sometimes it was little more than a puddle and we could ride straight through it, but at other times we had to pass the bikes across, avoiding the drag of the current.

In this barren landscape, the sun was unforgivingly hot and the path often became overtaken by sand – an impossible surface to ride on. However, it was an energising and thrilling ride, as with each twist and turn a new vista opened up. There was also just the perfect slope that it didn’t feel as though we were going uphill, but we got the reward of the downhill.

Eventually, we reached the Garganta del Diablo, a narrow path which weaves between towering rocks. Once inside the Devil’s Throat, we had to abandon the bikes and continue on foot. It was absolutely silent and we were the only people there. Just us, between the rocks, shadows and sunlight. The path is so sinuous that it felt as if we had entered a mythical lair. We were drawn onwards, wondering if there would ever be an end. After half an hour, we climbed one of the smaller rocks, its volcanic composition crumbling beneath our feet. We looked all around us, but all we could see were more orange rocks and the brilliant blue sky.

“Well, shall we carry on, or shall we go back to the bikes?”

We grinned at each other and knew that it didn’t matter. Either way we were in for an adventure.

6 Comments

  1. Kate

    20 July 2011

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    Brilliant post! Loved it. I especially envy you the ‘perfect slope’ – every cyclists dream!

  2. Nerea

    20 July 2011

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    It´s been a while since I don´t read your posts and tweets. I´ve been away visiting my family in the Basque country and my internet connection was bad. The last time I read you, you´re in Arequipa and now, you´re in the Desierto de Atacama!!!
    Great post and pictures. The landscape of the desert is special, that´s for sure.

    • Katy Stewart

      20 July 2011

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      Hope you had a good time with your family :) I know, this trip is amazing! Every time I think I have seen the most beautiful place, I go somewhere even more incredible. The desert will take some beating though!

  3. Krista

    20 July 2011

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    How fun!!! I love exploring places like this – even with the sand traps and rapids slowing you down. :-)

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