More awesomeness in the north
Isluga Volcano National Park
Small church lost in the middle of nowhere. There was nobody around the place.
Village of Isluga
The village of Isluga is vacant during a large portion of the year. It is used from time to time for religious ceremonies by nomad family living with their herd in the surroundings areas.
The church dates from the 17th century, and it was built with adobe bricks.
I spent a night in this small mountain village.
Road from Colchane to Salar de Huasco
Here we go, I broke my altitude record with the motorbike.
The new score to beat is 5075 metres.
Termas de Lirima
Lirima is a nice place with several natural pools filled with very hot springs. It is forbidden to bathe in most of them in order to preserve their fragile natural beauty.
Only one pool is open for bathing.
Salar de Huasco
The Huasco salt flat, at an altitude of 4000 metres, is a very important wetland for flamingos and vicuñas. The lake is fed by salty aquifers and highly appreciated by animals. Moreover, the water sources are very hot.
I spend a night wild camping around the salt flat, then I return to the coast. I would have liked to continue more south, through the mountains, but I don't have enough fuel to drive on. I don't have a choice.
There are many flamingos at this place since a hot water spring emerge from underground only a few metres from the lake.
A surprise in the morning
The next morning, after a good night’s sleep next to the salt flat, I enjoy the warmth of the sun while I eat my cereal breakfast. When I am at high altitude (4000 metres in this case), or when the temperature is cold, I always take a few minutes to start the motorbike before departing so that it warms up a little bit. This morning, I did exactly that.
In between two bites of my breakfast, I start the bike, and I leave idling a little bit. I continue eating and I enjoy the scenery. Then, after a minute or so, I notice the motorbike is leaking oil. Disaster, I quickly turn the bike off, and I start evaluating the damage...
The oil poured through the oil filter cover. Looking at the photo, you see some oil splashed all around. Nothing seems broken, but in reality one of the three screws is defective. It has simply disintegrated; when I remove it, I see that the thread on it has peeled away. Is it only the screw that is broken or also the engine? For now, it doesn't matter, I have to get out of this predicament.
I start looking to see if I have another screw in my repair kit, unfortunately I don't have any. Thus, impossible to do an emergency repair. Even if I could have, I didn't have enough additional oil to replace what I have lost.
I must now go back through time and talk about the city of Arica, the first place I stop after crossing the border from Peru. At the hotel where I was camping, I met three Chilean bikers who live in Iquique. They invited me to share their food cook on a grill, and also some beers. There were very friendly. One of the bikers gave me his contact information and told me that I could call him if I needed any help. Often, I don't stay in contact with the people I meet, especially if I think I might never see them again... This time, however, I kept his information.
Now, back to the present. To get out of trouble, I try to contact Oscar, the biker from Iquique whom I met a few weeks ago. My phone battery is down to 25%, and I must get a hold of him before I end up without any method of communication (in fact, I also have my satellite device from Inreach which could be used to send messages). Luckily, there is a weak signal in this remote corner of the backcountry. The signal's strength varies between one and two bars out of five.
I manage to send a message on WhatsApp and I get an answer a few minutes later: “I am coming, I will be there in three or four hours with a pickup truck to transport the motorbike back to Iquique.” Wow! Here comes my rescuer. He didn't hesitate to leave work to come to my aid; I am 170 kilometres away from Iquique.
Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of my rescue...
Salar de Surire
Iquique to Pisagua