Well, after the expected chaos of getting through Chilean immigration in Santiago (U.S. citizens have to pay an up front $160 “reciprocity” fee, which I call a “revenge” fee, since evidently this is what Chileans have to pay to apply for a U.S. visa), I flew the 1000 miles back north to Arica without incident. One of the tour guides picked me up at the airport and we drove back into town to the hotel. Axel is my age and lives in Innsbruck, which I visited a few years ago and really liked. He’s pretty technically savvy so I think we’ll get on well.

The hotel is very nice by local standards and overlooks some great crashing surf coming into one of the public beaches. There’s a pleasant bar out back with a terrace by the pool, overlooking the coast, and they make a nice Pisco Sour. Actually, it’s my first ever Pisco Sour, so I really have nothing to compare it to, but I’m not much of a drinker under normal circumstances and this turns out to be a drink I could get really friendly with, so that’s really saying something. (Pisco Sour = some sort of grape brandy mixed with lime juice, egg white, a whole mess of sugar and ice, and blended frothy. Good stuff.)

All the bikes are BMWs. I’m personally riding an F650GS (the derated twin from the F800, not the thumper G-model) and it looks like a nice easy bike, much smaller and lighter than my RT. I helped Axel put my GPS mount on, and looked over my ride for the next few weeks. It’s definitely seen a lot of action, so the pre-existing damage form is pretty loaded up with scratches. Keys were handed over and now she’s mine.

At 5, the main tour guide Klaus, and Axel, held our first rider meeting and gave us a brief description of what to expect over the course of the trip. Most was what’s already in the detailed tour book we were mailed, but they started to point out quite a few things to be careful of. Mostly, they fall into the category of “Peru is a 3rd world country, so expect the unexpected. And definitely don’t do anything to attract the attention of Peruvian police.” Chile, on the other hand, is much more economically developed and more comparable to Europe in many ways and we’ll be able to be a little more relaxed in the riding during the 2nd half. Lots to look forward to.

A little more time to rest, dinner will be at 8:30 at a well-recommended restaurant a short walk down the beach. Border crossing is first thing tomorrow morning, and then this trip really gets going.

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