When I got a message last week asking if I wanted to go on a 5-day motorcycle trip through Chile, my first thought was literally to laugh out loud.
“There is no way I’m doing this,” I told my friends, who also laughed out loud at the thought of me riding through the desert on the back of someone’s motorcycle wearing an actual moto jacket, as opposed to the gold one I bought for myself in Buenos Aires.
But the more I thought about it (which, in fairness, was for all of about 15 minutes), the reasons I had for not going became fewer and farther between. When else was I going to get an opportunity like this? How cool would it be to tell my grandkids that I drove through Chile on the back of a motorcycle in my 20’s? Plus, HOW COOL WOULD MY INSTAGRAM CONTENT BE?!
“Fuck it,” I responded. “Let’s go.”
Cut to 48 hours later (and a lot of deeply concerned texts from my mom asking how many tattoos this motorcycle driver had), and I was cruising through the Chilean desert, thinking “HOW IS THIS MY LIFE?!”
The first leg of the trip took us 3.5 hours from Santiago to Zapallar (… apparently driving takes longer on a motorcycle? IDK.), this cute little coastal town on the hill.
We met up with some Remote Year friends who had an oceanfront AirBnB for the night, and gorged on Asado and so much Carmanere, which is a type of Chilean red wine that I had never heard of but am officially obsessed with, that we overslept our alarms by 2 hours. Whoops!
The next morning, we headed North on Highway 5. We drove up the coast through all of these cute little beach towns, and then eventually hit “middle of nowhere” territory. There were a few side-of-the-road avocado stands and one restaurant that sold exclusively cheese empanadas and papaya juice (both of which were surprisingly delicious) but that was it. We eventually made it to Bosque de Fraye Jorge National Park, which was an hour off the highway through the desert, and was depressingly closed when we got there.
Then we bopped to Coquimbo, a coastal city with lots of colorful houses and a cool viewpoint.
Our final stop for the night was La Serena, where we stayed at an adorable hotel overlooking the ocean (watching the sunset on the balcony was pretty 💯) and ate an obscene amount of ceviche at a local fish joint called Pica Mar Adentro. I drank two margaritas and fell asleep with my head on the Uber driver’s shoulder.
To be clear: By this point I was feeling like a full on biker chick, which was perfect timing because this was hands down the most hardcore “biker” day: It was 10 straight hours of driving through the desert (… I listened to Tiffany Haddish read the entirety of The Last Black Unicorn on Audible, which I would HIGHLY recommend).
We took the scenic route back down South, and were flying down dirt roads where we didn’t see another person for hours. At one point, we were literally driving alongside a pack of wild horses — the entire thing felt completely surreal.
It was a zillion degrees, and looked like we were on another planet. Frankly, the photos don’t do it justice (FYI: It’s not that easy to take a pretty picture photo while you’re holding on for dear life on the back of a motorcycle).
Apparently some of the roads were super sketchy and dangerous, but since I knew literally nothing about motorcycles I had no idea that I technically should have been scared. I was having the time of my life! @Josh: Thanks for not killing me.
We made it back to Zapallar (that cutie little coastal town we stayed in the first night0 around sunset and checked into a hostel that looked like a winter cabin, which happened to be perfect because it Christmas Eve. The only problem was that everything was closed, so dinner consisted of gas station Oreos and potato chips (… also what I had for lunch). Still, we lit a fire in the weird, beachfront winter cabin (where we happened to be the only people staying, which rocked), blasted Christmas music, ate some Pringles and had a jolly good time.
The last day of the trip was BEACH DAY. We cruised (… biker ppl say “cruised,” right?) to Valparaiso, a coastal town that people refer to as “little San Francisco.” It’s filled with colorful houses, incredible street art and enormous hills. Because it was Christmas, the town was completely empty, so we had the cool streets all to ourselves (i’m still a little bitter I didn’t get a picture in front of the graffiti, but w/e).
After bopping around Valpo for a few hours, we drove back north to Viña Del Mar, which is full of gorgeous beaches. We stayed at a gorgeous beachfront property on the edge of town called Hotel Oceanic, and I basically spent the rest of the afternoon drinking shitty Sauvignon Blanc (…. more than I would like to publicly admit) in my cool AF one-piece and playing with a drone.
All in all, this was hands down one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, and I’m SO glad I went. There’s a lot more to say about how this trip changed my life, etc. etc. (not the least of which is the fact that it made me want to get my motorcycle license), but that’s a story for a later post. In the meantime, here are a few random thoughts from my brain about motorcycling, now that I’m an expert:
- IT’S REALLY FUCKING FUN. (And not as scary as I expected)
- Riding on the back of a motorcycle for 10 hours really hurts your ass, hips, knees and back.
- It’s really hard to drink water, scratch your face itches and put on chapstick while wearing a bike helmet.
- It’s also really, really disgusting when a bug flies into said helmet and dies a bloody death a few inches from your eyeballs.
- Texting and motorcycling is dumb AF, even if you aren’t the one driving.
- Dirt roads, dark tunnels and rocks are apparently super dangerous on a motorcycle. Who knew!
- It gets really, really cold on a motorcycle. At one point, my entire body was blue, and I was a little terrified for myself.
- It also gets really, really hot (especially in the middle of the Chilean desert), and not wearing sunscreen will result in a sports-bra shaped sunburn
If you pop a tire in the middle of the desert, you are completely fucked, and you should always carry water JIC.
- You have to wear armored leather jackets, not Zara ones, when you ride
- Pants and closed toe shoes are a #must, because sticks and stones may literally break your bones
- If someone invites you on a motorcycle trip, SAY YES.