Sunday, September 4, 2016

To The Chile-Peru Border

From that 14,600 foot pass seen in the last photo of the previous post, it was all downhill to San Pedro de Atacama.

We thought we would stay there a few days, but the extended weather forecast called for wind and snow.
Even though the locals didn't believe it, we left the next day and went west toward the Panamericana along an ever descending road to a town called Maria Elena. Just outside San Pedro, we passed Valle de la Luna, which features rock formations similar to those found in the US state of Utah.

high altitude road

high altitude lake shore
frozen lake
Above 13.000 ft/über 4000 m/Mas alto de 4.000 metros
Maria Elena is a pretty name, and that's it for that mining town (oh, and the lowest beer prices in Chile), but the next morning we saw the weather forecast confirmed: fresh snow was visible low on the western slope of the Andes. This didn't bother us down here, we stocked up on beer, and happily headed north to the Pampa Tamarugal National Reserve.
hight altitude drainage
On the way to/Hinunter nach/Hacia San Pedro de Atacama
Machuca, Chile
typical altiplano house
Altiplano House/Haus/Casa
Salar de Atacama
Salar de Atacama
This pampa is unique because it features woodlands of Tamarugal trees growing out of the salt flats. Their specialized root system allows these trees to thrive in the harsh environment of the Atacama Desert. We loved it there and spent three nights amid these trees which emit a distinct but pleasant smell.
We dropped the camper and visited the small towns of La Tirana, La Huayca, Matilla, and Pica. These are the kind of places and the kind of country we like, and Matilla especially is marked in our memory as a place to return to in the future and take a closer look.
Descending through the mountains/Abwärts durch die Berge/Bajando entre las montañas
rock folds
Valle de la Luna
Our permit in Chile was getting short on time, and so we scooted north along the Panamericana. But there was time for another side trip to a tiny village called Codpa, and it was worth it. It didn't look like it at first, because the Samkanjama Hostel we had chosen as our destination wasn't even accessible by car; we had to park above it at a wide spot in the road.
But we had a great time with our host Olga and her simple and beautiful little farm complete with old grapevines and fruit trees. We bought some bottles of her excellent home-made Pintatani wine -- google this one!

It was a befitting end to our wonderful journey through Chile. Some day we will return to this country!

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