We were stopped to the side of a compacted dirt road, tools laid out beside the back wheel, the sound of a chain fallen off had halted any further progress in our destination to Pan de Azucar. Three shiny, big, adventure bikes pull up beside Deb’s fading yellow GS650. It was the Chileans we met at the gas station who told us about camping on the beach at the national park.
The main thing we noticed once we crossed into Chile was that the people were instantly friendlier and helpful. I was so excited to be out of Bolivia, that I almost stopped to kiss the pole that held the sign which read “Bienvenido a Chile” as we rode underneath it. We were actually seen again. Other drivers noticed we were on the road too and instead of looking through us like we were transparent, they waved as we passed by on motorcycles or they flashed their lights in excitement.
And the other thing we loved: There was lots of free camping. We tuck behind rocks and bushes to hide us from the road and set up camp for the night. It’s also an expensive country, so it became a goal to not pay for any nights accommodations.
As the bikers dismounted their shiny new BMWs, we continued to crouch next to the drive train, our hands covered in grease, kneeling in already dirty suits, not caring about the layers currently being added to it. I was nervous as they stepped closer that they might get a spot of dirt on their pristine boots just by looking at what we were doing. They could see we were in the midst of fixing the problem, and offered what they could… unable to impart any experiential wisdom, they offered tools. If we had needed them, I still would have hesitated touching their newness.
As we finished up, trying to beat the extinguishing light of a setting sun, we rode to the darkened waves of the beach. Seeing the state we were in just moments before, they kindly invited us to share their campsite and brought back empanadas from the little tienda on the other side of the beach. As I ate the still warm pockets of delicious cheese and camarones, I hoped they didn’t notice how much black dirt was stuck underneath my fingernails. Days of camping and working on the bikes had yet to be scrubbed off.
This became our Chile night after night.
We succeeded to not pay for accommodations all the way down to Tierra del Fuego. Our days would leisurely begin as the sun rose, a brisk dip if water was nearby, breakfast as we packed our bikes, ride a 150-200km until we found a spot for lunch, ordering empanadas to test which town made them best, then ride until we watched the sun set, finding camp along rivers, under street passes, out in the middle of the desert. Night after night we camped under the stars and their shiny brilliance.