Calama to 20 kms east of Ruta 5/Ruta 24 junction: Back on the road

Statistics for today
Distance 77.05 kms 47.85 miles
Climbed 785 meters 2,575 feet
Ride time (hours) 5.40 -
Avg speed 14.2 kph -
Avg climb 4% -
Max grade 11% -
Statistics for trip to date
Distance 7,007.60 kms 4,354.57 miles
Climbed 68,558 meters 224,928 feet
Ride time (hours) 528.56 -
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Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Up and out early again this morning for coffee and some pastries for me and the Italian guy. The pastry selection isn't quite what it is in Argentina but it works in a pinch. I shaved, showered, ate, folded and packed my clothes, packed the panniers, lubed the chain, and talked with the Italian guy (I keep saying Italian guy, never did get his name) for a while; after all that I wasn't on the road until noon. Hot, sunny, and windy as usual. The road to Tocopilla starts climbing pretty soon after leaving Calama, passing an enormous copper strip mine. It was a slow affair with the strong headwinds and steep grades (although it is all paved with a good shoulder until the top). A couple of guys in a pickup stopped at one point and asked me if I wanted a ride which I politely declined.

The climb gets up over 3,000 meters before leveling off on a plain where the shoulders mysteriously disappeared. I had to do some Argentine Ruta 40-style riding for a ways with my eyes glued to the mirror. Fortunately the traffic was pretty light. One last short climb then the road starts a long descent through barren desert valleys lined with high-tension transmission lines. I guess the mines are sucking up all this energy, I've never seen so many transmission lines in one place.

Around 5 I felt the back tire going soft. I pulled over, swapped out the tube with a new one, then tried to pump it up but the tire was going nowhere. For a minute I thought that I had screwed up the pump when I worked on it yesterday but it turned out that the tube was split. Since I never used it, and bought it new in Barcelona, it must have gotten nicked somewhere in its travels or maybe in the pannier. I patched it then was on my way for more descent into the headwinds. At 6:30 I pulled off and set up camp because I could see another long, flat plain ahead of me... this was the last place I could get decent cover for a good long while.

When I made dinner I realized I'm already tight on the water situation. I left Calama with 6.5 liters of water and a 1.5 liter bottle of Fanta, as I write this I'm already down to just 2 liters of water after what was really just a half-day. This hot, super dry, windy environment requires an awful lot of water. I'll probably have to make a detour tomorrow to stock up.

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Ready to roll with the new rim.
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Looking back at Calama.
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Huge copper strip mine outside of Calama.
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Lots of this today: desert with power transmission lines.
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Fixing a flat.