Published: January 11th 2012January 10th 2012
Ok that was a long one but the again reading is not compulsory.
Tilcara in the morning without rain or people did not makle us want to stay so we left, we got as far as the petrolstaion where we waited for 1/2 an hour to fill up, incredible queueing up for petrol.
Finally of to San Pedro De Atacama in the Atacama desert!
We went back to Puramarca from whence the road to the border and San Pedro started.
It was like up,up and away for a long time, the neverending chain of curves leaving us at the Paso de Jamas, spectacular views all around.
Getting through Argie customs to but one hour, and the we were in Chile.
No customs nor passport control until we arrived in San Pedro though.
But before customs the road wound ever higher, second gear and 40 km/h flat out!
Altitude does unspeakable things to a car, thank God the girls and all their gear was gone other wise we might have had to push the Chariot the last few km.
Suddenly we were above the clouds, in harsh sunlight cruising at 50km/h and then
there was snow along the roadside and in the front of us a spectacular view of loads of snowclad Chilean volcanoes.
Indeed a sight worthy of gods, what a pity that no photograph could ever make this incredible view justice.
N has tried, but there's no way the pics will be even close, we do try though.
After the longest downhill slope ever we arrived in San Pedro, a desert town with dirt roads and prices to match the majesty of the mountains.
Holy sh.t 250 US for a crummy room, we ended up with the crummiest of them all for 40US, and that was a real dump.
San Pedro is indeed overpriced, everything was like double standard Chilean prices.
3 $ for a small can of beer, I had a big anxiety attack there and then.
The town is a bit quaint, for those of you who have been to Khao San road in Bangkok it was a bleak copy, loads of "tour operators" and bars and restaurants and people walking back and forth trying hard to look cool.
You can't even have a drink without having food, so the waitress
puts a pizza on your bill until the actual bill arrives in case the Bill comes along.
The evening is cool and the star and full moon amazing in the thin air.
According to the tour operators all travel to sight must be in a 4x4.
The moon valley is hyped like hell, but a Chilean has to do what a Chilean has to do, make money.
We have checked out of the rat's nest, our room in the White House as it was called, Casa Blanca.
All our gear's in the Chariot and unanimously we decided to leave San Pedro for the coast.
Topocilla is the closest town on the coast so after consulting a map we bought half way, in Calama, so we go there.
Endless desert roads TOTALLY barren not a straw in sight ever winding up and down, we finally arrive in Topocilla, not he most charming of coastal towns.
Arriving there was breathtaking though, there was like a quick drop off from the high plane through a load of sharp curves, no beach just rocks and an industrial town, a mining town, Chile is big on mines
copper, mines everywhere.
We consulted some locals 'bout where to stay and were advised to leave as Topocilla was a dump, anywhere but here the guy said.
How about Caleta Boy we asked just down the road and on the coast, yes the Caleta is nice so we went there or rather passed by as it looked more like a shanty town, built out of scrap boards and planks, people living in containers, it was worse than our place in San Pedro so out came the map andanther 2 hours away was a city called Mejillones, sigh!
Well we've already done 5000km plus so what's a few more hours in the car.
Mejillones was small, but OK we found a room and trotted off to get some food, one large bowl of Ceviche, fish cured in lemon juice, and another bowl with seafood soup and a couple of beers we were happy and sated.
Walkabout and bedtime.
Next morning we went down to the beach, from the jetty we could spot sea lions swimming about, jumping out of the water and behaving as if David Attenborough was standing on the jetty instead of 2
N tried really hard to get some pics and some might have turned out nice.
A walk along the water told me there was no way that I'd get more than my feet wet, holy mackrel it was freezing.
So back to the hotel to pack our bags and off to Antofagasta, not a particularly nice city.
Nothing much to see, some old colonial houses and nothing more.
The ruins of an old melting plant for silver and that was it.
Oh I forgot that the bivouac of the Dakar rally was outside Antofagasta so we spent some time there lokking at bike and cars coming in and got a bit of a sunburn as well, thank god for me 'at.
Loads of bikes and there I was with the Chariot green with envy, a lot of campfollowers turned up as well on bikes, more drooling.
The small fishing port gave us a close up of hungry pelicans watching the fishermen cleaning fish and eating all the offal.
The fishmarket had little containers with fresh ceviche so there I got my breakfast, yummy!!!
A few nectarines
and breakfast was complete.
Next stop was Paranal where the European space authority has some observatories, we went there with the hope that we could sneak in, we couldn't.
The sky in Chile is incredibly clear, you can see very far away and the moon and the stars shine with twice the normal intensity. Quite amazing.
Suddenly after a couple of hundred km the desert was not barren anymore little tufts of grass and bushes started to show up, very nice after 3 days with no vegetation at all, rocks ,sand, gravel, mountains yes nut not one molecule of clorophyll to be seen.
Impressing in it's austerity but after a while you long for the green stuff.
Finally we arrived in Taltal a small tow with a very nice restaurant where we had some very nice fish steaks.
The place looked as if it had a lot of English influence, and I think it had there were a lot of English here during the mining booms and Taltal lokked like aplace from where ore was shipped to faraway shores.
The restaurant had a large picture on the wall of sailing ships lying out
in the bay waiting for cargo.
We are now up to date so i will now have breakfast, here they have Paila,which means that you get a small casserole with either a couple of fried eggs or scrambled ditto and some bread and nescafe. What's wrong with noodlesoup.
Written with two fingers and a lot of swearing, I must learn how to save :-(.
There are more photos below