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Published: August 21st 2016
CHILE...When Snow Falls in the Atacama.
"I like to drive. I want to take you where there are no roads...where tourists do not go."
Then it started snowing.
We couldn't believe it.
The Atacama Desert is supposed to be the driest place on the planet. It doesn't rain they say.
Yet it's snowing...the barren desert daubed with fluttering flakes...until a blanket of white is laid out before us...draping volcanoes...a frigid wind biting our nostrils...our faces red with excitement...flushed from suddenly BBQ heat turned to freezing cold.
It's why we travel...on paths less trod...why the wind is our guide...and we groove to the blues as we ride along.
We thought by leaving Bolivia by the back door we were leaving Heaven and returning to Earth.
But somehow...we are returning to Heaven...Chilean Atacama Altiplano Desert Heaven. Ride on.
Who says Heaven is in the backseat of a cadillac?
We do not have a cadillac...but we've got each other...ride on.
Who's that knocking? I wake with a start.
It's Denise's iphone ringing.
Groping in the dark...I sense deja vu.
It's our daughter Anna-Louise ringing
from Sydney. "Oh, I'm sorry. I misread 10a.m.
" she says then hangs up. "Sure you did,"
Reminded me of the call we received in Mali, "Dad, I got into the car, put in the key and it wouldn't start." "What...What do you want me to do? It's 3:30am and we're in Timbuktu!"
Now it's 4:20am in Chile and we're in San Pedro de Atacama.
She rang again at 6:00am. A legal question.
Sometimes you can't leave the office no matter how hard you try!
10 weeks on the road and it's coming to an end. Home is calling but we kinda don't want it to end.
Dusty roads in San Pedro...funky eateries...tourists in the streets like surf rolling in.
Then we met Mario. Much more serious than Marko...but an air of I can take you to places you wouldn't dream of...an air of I will lead and you should follow.
So instead of taking us into more of the salt laden BBQ desert...he took us into the Atacama mountains...high into the Chilean Altiplano...over 5,000 metres.
A vicuna looks up at our
vehicle then looks down nonplussed. Anywhere else it would have shied away.
Then it started snowing!
The silence up here is more silent than silent...the brisk breeze having lost it's whistle...snow flakes caressing our faces...yet silent...the brown stony desert not ready to whisper the secrets of it's life up here.
And before we know it we are traipsing through heavy snow...royal blue pools...the comforting sound of snow crunching under our boots...sugar frosted volcanoes glistening...our hearts racing in the wonder of it.
I may have jumped in the air and clicked my heels if I had thought of it...but I didn't think of it. Probably just as well as the snow is too thick to get a liftoff. But at moments like this jumping is the furthest from one's mind.
It's a time to be still...to breathe in deeply...to exhale as steam from warm breath comes from within.
A time to half smile...silently laugh...maybe a grin.
Squeezing Denise's hand in shared joy...blowing bubbles of sweet nothings...into the wind.
For the next two days Mario spirited us into the Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos...a region of lagoons and snow draped volcanoes...of
wispy yellow paper grasses...of deserts with stone pillars as sentinels of the gateways to this Altiplano Heaven.
Then beyond where roads were just a memory...where only spirits and dreams lived...where we could only marvel...raise our eyebrows and smile...then marvel again.
I thought the Atacama would be so different.
Yet again...oh so pleasantly surprised.
An artist's palette where the hues of colour are so Chilean.
My travel mantra is that the colours in every country and continent are different.
Maybe it is the different species of grasses and plants...the rocks...the soil...the air.
Oz has yellows, tans, reds, blues and greens that mix to be so very Australian.
Argentina has different hues than it's lush neighbour Chile on the other side of the Andes. I put that down partly to rainfall.
The Atacama Desert has tans that are it's own. Maybe it is from the salts.
The Bolivian Altiplano with it's colours that are unique but the Chilean Altiplano at similar altitude would expect to be similar...but in reality so so different.
Vivid whites, wispy yellows, soft browns, light & gentle greens, dramatic blues, sweet oranges and burnt reds...nuances and shades
so very Chilean.
Let the panoramas and photos with the music transport you to this altiplano paradise...breathe in the thin mountain air...let the cool breeze tingle your senses...imagine you are there.
As we flew from Calama to Santiago we could not have been happier we had window seats on the left side of the plane.
Hundreds...yes hundreds of volcanoes lining the way.
Still up there as our most beautiful country in the World.
Who'd have thought it?
Still our most beautiful country in the World.
For scenery that is.
Then we fly into Sydney.
This holiday in the Americas was full of so many highlights.
First cocktails in Vancouver, Canada then with our son Simon in Toronto for Christmas...USA driving and flying with ravens through Utah & Arizona during a polar vortex with red deserts, canyons, goblins and Monument Valley in the snow...staying with Home & Away in the Colorado Mountains...BB King's Club in Memphis, Red's & Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale...down the Blues Highway to New Orleans in a Cadillac...bluesin', cruisin' & schmoozin' the Caribbean with
those Darn Binkleys...flying to Peru to travel with the Cloud...then playing the flute in Incan fortresses, Machu Picchu & Titicaca...following the Dakar Rally around the flooded Salar of Bolivia...climbing Volcan Thunupa & sunset stairways to Heaven then into the Atacama Desert of Chile to return to earth...playing more blues in the Atacama Altiplano while entering Heaven again.
Far out...what a trip...so many highlights!
Opens one's eyes that our planet...mother Earth...fantastic places everywhere...fabulous people to meet and fabulous places to visit.
But home is where the heart is.
Dorothea Mackellar's poem"My Country" ringing in my ears: "I love a sunburnt country A land of sweeping plains Of rugged mountain ranges Of droughts and flooding rains I love her far horizons I love her jewel sea Her beauty and her terror The wide brown land for me!"
And that makes my home Australia...the best place for me to be.
Relax & Enjoy,
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