19 February, 2007

Into the Atacama

Impossible to describe, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves as best they can and keep my babbling to a minimum! Mainly high on the tops most of the day where it was cool because of the altitude, then down to the beach to camp, where it was cool due to the sea breeze.

In the same way that the Mexican Gulf Stream crosses the Atlantic to keep the British Isles and southern Norway cozy and warm in comparison to other countries at the same distance from the Equator, so the Humboldt Current comes up from the Antarctic to cool this tropical coastline.

I went back to Santiago (quiet young lassie there, screaming baby on return trip! Not bad.) on the bus, stayed the night and returned with the rewound rotor. That wasn't it. Willie's son then pulled out everything in a panic as I searched the sky for an answer. Frustrated, I left them to it, and when I returned, they'd come up with this 'botch', which they assured me would get me to Lima so long as I remembered to detach the wire whenever I stopped, reconnecting it again whenever I wanted to drive away. No problem!
Leaving Illapel, I found I had to beware of crossing chinchillas reducing my velocity. I didn't see any!
This was the road that started as the smooth, wide and tarred one (above) through the Chinchilla Park! Not quite the sheer cliffs of Bolivia, but I wouldn't want to be pushing anything back up these slopes!
¿Shall I bring the desert menu? This us our finest Atacama. The purest desert in the world, it never, ever rains here and the only moisture comes from a "mist rolling in from the sea, my desire . . . " (Careful here kids - this is a 'play on words' look in the dictionary for the difference between 'desert' and 'dessert')
The fuel stops are few and far between with no roadsigns to tell you how far, and you can only guess how few - no map that I could find. This is strange because the signs warn you about almost everything else. These friendly Brazilian bikeys told me where the next one was.
Lovely campsite that night, shelter, barbeque, waves gently lapping . . . I think that sign is discouraging, but the locals were completely otherwise.
It's going to be a long, long day . . . Do you think if they really faked the moon landing, "back in the summer of 69", it might have been here?
At the next camping beach I was welcomed by David (left) and George. David's a student in Antofagasta (good name) while George works as a miner in the biggest copper mine in the world. He gets about 350GBP a month for it and is very angry that all the wealth of the country ends up in the capital, Santiago. See? It's just the same all over the world! They were camping with all their friends and family in a group of tents under a communal shading cover. Huge camps all along the beach looked like Atacaman Nomadic camps.
The huge, pretty and friendly city of Iquique keeks back from in front of this giant sand dune.
On top of the world!
Geoglyphs - pre-Columbian artwork lying by the side of the road. The artist just (ha!) puts darker rocks onto lighter ones. Not easy to get right on this scale though. See the lad climbing the ladder in the top right corner? AMH says this is in Peru, 'near Nazca' but in fact it's about 800miles south of that in Chilé.
This Customs House in Arica was designed and prefabricated in Paris by Gustav Eiffel, he of tower fame, and then shipped here to be assembled. They are very proud of it.

And that was Chilé. The Peruvian border next . . .


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