The Missing Link
As I continue to retrace my steps through the Vuelta route, I keep meeting other cyclists. They are all riding a variety of different routes for equally different purposes. Ironically, regardless of their direction of travel or objectives, they all seem to complain about the wind. Befriending them by servicing their bikes, or sharing a meal I keep hoping to get the inside tip on some incredible roads to ride, but I end up disappointed every time. Most are travelling the panamerican highway or other major roads. There is nothing like the freedom of exploring a foreign land completely self supported on your bike, however I realize the true advantage to the support that our expeditions offer. It allows us to get off the beaten path and to explore the back roads and hidden gems of these fascinating continents. It took me 3 days of scouting to find what I call the “missing link”. North of La Serena, Chile there is a small town called Puento Choros. Its nothing more than a coastal village with a few accommodations, two restaurants and a soccer pitch. The people there are mostly fishermen who subsidize their income by taking tourists on sightseeing tours of the penguin and sea lion colonies or the whales during migration. According to maps the roads end in this town, but google earth would beg to differ. I had to work the route from both directions before I could map out the connecting route. Although the distances will be short to accommodate for the terrain, it will take us two days to reach Huasco the next town along the coast. The night in between we will spend in El Higuero, a ghost town nestled into a remote slot canyon. I believe it was a mining settlement but the western end was buried by a landslide, what remains are several buildings without roofs, a couple goats, a cemetery and an intricate system of relic dry stone walls. From there the road gets pretty hairy. Its not flat, but there are no monster climbs, however the switchbacks crossing the pass are so tight that our big support truck will not be able to cross, it will have to do a u-turn and detour around. A challenging ride for sure, in fact it may be the most technically demanding two riding days of any of our expeditions. Greater the challenge, greater the reward. This route traverses some incredible coastal dessert and canyon terrain, the scenery is spectacular. And other than some recent mining developments this territory would appear to be untraveled by anyone in a long time. Beating your own path is the best way to get off the beaten path.