Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Through Northern Chile

On June 22, one day after the winter solstice, we drove out of Vicuña, Chile. The Terral Hotel had been our home for three months, and we now have good friends and incentives to return one day.
We went to the coast and visited fishing villages and small towns like Caleta Punta Choros, Huasco, Totoral, Caldera, Chañaral, and Taltal. Between some of these towns, we traveled through the coastal mountains on unpaved roads, most of which were in an acceptable condition.
This is mining country, and we took a side trip to places like Inca de Oro and Diego de Almagro. On our way toward San Pedro de Atacama, we also drove past the world's largest open-pit copper mine near Calama; it is called Chuquicamata.
Punta Choros
desert view
Desert coastal mountains/Küstengebirge/Costa desertica
donkeys in the desert
mountain road
Descending to the coast/Runter zur Küste/Bajando a la costa
Huasco, Chile
Huasco, Chile
pelicans lunch
Take a number/Nummer ziehen, bitte/Tome una ficha
But before we got to San Pedro,  decided we wanted to visit some more small Andean villages. This was a stroke of luck, because the weather turned and produced 60 mph wind with lots of blowing dust.
We hunkered down in the tiny village of Pukara Lasana, situated in a steep canyon and protected from the blowing dust storm on the plateau. Right there are the ruins of a pre-Columbian fortress, built in the 12th century. It is well protected, with the canyon wall on one side and the river on the other.For three days, we parked next to these ruins on a family farm, which also had a restaurant and picnic area.
Pan de Azucar Park
cactus clusters
Snow peaks/Schneegipfel/Nevados
mining in Chile
Diego de Almagro, Chile
From there as a base, we visited nearby mountain villages. In Chiu Chiu, where the oldest church in Chile's still stands, it was blowing fiercely, but we caught some lulls in the wind to drive to tiny settlements, such as Ayquina and Caspana. On the way, we passed by Inca Coya Lake. Its presence is a bit of a mystery, because it contains saltwater. It may be fed by underground streams, and it is said that the famous Jacques Cousteau dived there, but could not reach bottom.
desert lines
Desert geology/Wüstengeologie/Geología del desierto
sand and rocks
Taltal, Chile
Taltal, Chile
Mano del Desierto, Chile
Give me five!
Finally, the road to San Pedro de Atacama took us up to a spectacular pass at 14,600 feet. And this pass is the last photo of this post, which makes one wonder where we might wander off from here...

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