BobQuest Day 1: Santiago to Caldera

Posted: February 26, 2014 in Travel
Tags: , , ,

I left Santiago this morning, getting on the road around 8am. Hopped up on Modafinil, I drove for 12 hours until I couldn’t take it anymore. I hadn’t eaten anything except for a couple of empanadas I bought just outside Santiago.

I forgot to bring my fleece sweater and my thermal underwear, but it seems I will not need them as I sit here at night in San Pedro de Atacama writing this, in shorts and a t-shirt. I also forgot to get cash for the tolls along the way. Lots of cash. You’ll see the total for tolls to the Atacama coming in the next post.

I ran out of Chilean pesos just a few booths into my trip, and I searched in vain for a cash machine at any and all of the roadside gas stations. It seems there are no ATM machines anywhere north of Santiago, at least when you are scraping for toll money. Having no pesos, I had to pay the booth guy in US dollars, at a usurious rate of 420:1 (official is 550:1) but what can you do when you are out of money and they don’t take credit cards? Thieves.

And right after that, guess, what? I found my ATM. Fuckers.

I had planned to stop in La Serena and get myself a good hearty lunch, but I got there in 5 hours and was making good time, so I figured what the heck, keep driving. Something will turn up, right?


The road between La Serena and Copiapo was like a race to see how fast you can get stuck behind the next slow, lumbering truck grinding up the mountain at 40kph. Hours and hours of this. It started to take patience I did not think I had, but I made it through. The landscape past La Serena becomes alien. Seriously, you are running through rocky wasteland that looks like where they filmed Alien and Prometheus.

The sun was getting low in the sky, and I decided to pull in to the beach just north of Caldera. I saw a camping sign and it was time. In Chile, you can camp on the beach and nobody bothers you. What a concept! I set up my tent and slept like a log. All I had to eat all day were those empanadas.



  1. ChickenLittleBob says:

    Woo Hoo! A road trip! But wait, Bob’s vehicle is “equipped for zombie apocalypse warfare and survival” but he forgot to pack critical sustenance in the form of food and pesos? Eeek gad! Bob! The lack of an available ATM on the first leg of your trip was a divine warning from the benevolent Gods to get your shit together. In Chile, the outstretched palms are from innocuous Toll Booth Zombies. But on the isolated northern roads of Argentina and in Paraguay the outstretched palms are likely to be from entrepreneurial Federales. Their favorite prey? “Rich” gringos driving solo in late model vehicles. Their game? Block the road, and demand you pay homage in exchange for passage.

    Always have pesos accessible but furtively squirreled away in several different locations in the BobMobile for such an event. These Federales are serious, irritable businessmen skilled in the art of the shakedown. They have the potential to turn your road trip into a vampire apocalypse if you claim not to have pesos.

    Obtener pesos y tiene un buen viaje.

  2. SKBob says:

    The beach looks awesome. How cold is the water?

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