It's been a while since any of us was out in the Atacama Desert, but the reasoning is not for it's lack of charm and riding opportunity. Simply put: The Patagonia motorcycle touring season has kept us so incredibly busy that its 6-7 month riding season keeps us so occupied year-round, that the northern areas of Chile and Argentina just sort of "slipped" out of focus for a while now.
It never should have though! The adventure riding possibilities around San Pedro de Atacama and Bolivia are so great, that Ulli, Andres, and Andres Perez have been out exploring and reconfirming route conditions and such, because as of now, we have BMW GS's and Honda Africa Twins based in Antofagasta, Chile. This will make rental options and tours for the Atacama area much more reasonable to start from than Santiago or points further south. The idea is to have a small portion of the fleet there in Antofagasta from about May through September each year.
The guys made some quick notes on what they've been doing and seeing, and sent these pictures below to help show what it's like. Yes, Patagonia has always been the most popular riding area for our customers, but northern Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia still have so much to offer, anyone looking to ride our bikes between May and September should keep this in mind.
Here's a little update from Andres:
After 2 days in the truck with the bikes on the pickup we finally arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, a pretty and small town in the middle of the most arid desert of the world, the Atacama Desert.
San Pedro will be our operations center for the next days and from here we start and finish the tour through the north Chile, Argentina and part of Bolivia. We are riding three adventure bikes: 2 BMW F800GS Adventures, and 1 KTM 950 Adventure, (a classic that will always remain a pleasure to ride.) The KTM is privately owned by Andres Perez who join us on this discovery trip.
Arriving at night in the desert, we had a nice hotel waiting for us and a great dinner just around the corner with live music and fun people to talk with (and of course a Mojito or 2 tasted great out in this arid climate.)
The next morning, after checking all our gear and taking care of basic maintenance, we enjoyed a short ride to Laguna Cejar, which is part of the Atacama salt flats. This lagoon is incredible, because the water has a high concentration at 80% salt (more than the Dead Sea) so you can float like you're on a feather pillow. Right after that, we rode to two big perfectly round holes fill of fresh water. Local people call these the "Eyes of the Salt Flats" (Ojos del Salar Tevenquiche) where folks can rinse themselves of the dust and salt they've accumulated.
With 10 more kilometers and we were at the border of the main extension of the Atacama salt flats with an incredible view of the desert, the brightest-blue sky, the cloud formations, and the Andes Mountains all home to the Licancabur Volcano.
Riding back to town for lunch, we went on to see the Valley of Death, and a road nestled between rocks and sand hills where travelers are Sandboarding down one of the dunes. On to the nearby Valle de Luna (Valley of the Moon) it really looks like you're on the moon! Such subtle, natural beauty with colors and rock formations unique to the Atacama Desert, all beneath the clearest, bluest skies in the world....we look forward to more riding tomorrow.