Cyclist Guide to water in the Atacama

When you cross the border into Chile from peru on the PanAm highway there will be a tourist information center where you can get maps of the country. There is also alot of info in Arica, the first town you come to in Chile. After Arica comes a long stretch of the Atacama desert..dry, savage, and remarkably beautiful and bikeable. Below are the names of places where I was able to find water and food, and the kilometer markings on the road nearest that point. Some of these places may change over the years, so be careful to check with locals as you go along. But in general the stretches between water are not that far. I was in the Atacama in March of 1999. I found it to be warm but not hot; dry, but not bone dry. I will add photos of the desert when i receive them from my friend back in the states, who still has them (grrrr...).

You may have heard that the Atacama is the driest place on earth, or close to it. How is it for cycling?? Great! Don´t listen to these buffoons who say ´put your bike on a bus!´ They are the same guys who are bored the in the US Midwest, where people are the friendliest in the world. By all means ride from Arica to La Serena and enjoy yourself. Cars honk, trucks flash their lights, people wave out of bus windows. Every time I stopped people pulled over and asked me if I needed help, or offered mangoes, or a ride to the nearest town, etc. I felt the Atacama was such a road community surpassed only by the network of riders and trucks on the AlCan highway, early last summer. For the benefit of those riders going this way, here is a summary of points and KILOMETER road markings where you can get food and water. Send me mail if ya wanna know more.

Atacama Guide to Food and Water

Arica 2070 Km.
Chaca-Khan Canyon 2025 Km
Camarones Canyon/Cuya 1970 Km
Hilltop 1931 Km
Oasis 1887 Km
Huara 1840 Km
Humberstone 1814 Km

Turn off for the coast here to Iquique, it is far more beautiful. Plenty of services available from Iquique to Antofogasta.

rejoin Panam south of Antofogasta Km ???
Escondida Road 1315 Km
Posada Rosaria 1281 km
Posada San Francisco 1178 Km NOTE 100 KM Gap!!!!
Tal Tal Junction 1148 Km
Posada Km 1100
Posada Bombas Km 1031

The desert really loses its grip after Chaneral and technically ends at Copiapo. Copiapo is a GORGEOUS small town with a great bike shop, BIMAN. Ask at the info office on the main square. Good time to clean your bike from 1000 kilometers of sand and dust.

Good Luck. 1