Can’t Wait To See The Sea

29th Oct 2016

PreparationHaving woken up for the third morning in a row with a headache, I cannot wait to see the sea as I will then have returned to sea level! That is some 240km away and 3,700m downhill but before then we have more sights to see on our four day tour of the Chilean Antiplano ending in Iquique. First the vehicles have to be prepared for the day outside our hostel. Luckily ours just needed more diesel but the other one had a flat tyre overnight so a replacement was wheeled in.

Who is up the tower?In line with other days we visit a nearby village, Cariquima for a quick tour and see the church which had a tower big enough for Dave to climb up. Even after seeing so many little villages, it is hard to imagine living there. The villages are all very similar in layout and construction with a church, maybe a police station surrounded by single storey houses and a simple cemetery on the outskirts. It is just so far from anywhere and so barren.

Huge columnar cactiDriving on for an hour or so through the stark landscape, we suddenly see huge columnar cacti. It is not until Dave stands next to the nearest one do we really get to understand how tall they are. Off he chambers to get some close ups. Dave is still unaffected by the altitude and we ladies are jealous.

Vegetation in the middle of the desertAs we journey on through the brown landscape Benjamin begins talking about a nearby village where they grow great vegetables and fruit. I thought the coca tea had gone to his head as we has seen absolutely nothing growing for miles and miles. Sure enough, round the next bend and across the valley, there was a large patch of green with houses in the middle. Apparently it was built on an underground river which provides the water for the crops to grow. However, this was Saturday and there was some serious partying going on as we could hear music blaring right across the valley to us. There must have been a village here for ages as some of the crops were being grown on old Inca terraces.

Large petroglyphThere was one last stop before lunch to see the largest Petroglyph in Northern Chile. At first we could only see a mound about 500m from the main road. However after driving off road around to the other side we saw a figure made from stones on the hillside. It looked like it had wings and it is replicated in souvenir shops.

_DSF3143Back in (relative) civilisation we stopped in a small town called Huare at a restaurant advertising WiFi. After two days completely cut off we hoped to catch up but it was not working. Hey Ho. We had now joined the main highway and we actually saw other vehicles.

They even made moulds for the toiletAfter being the only tourists at each of the attractions for the last few days it was odd sharing the ghost town of Humberstone with other tourists! This was a saltpetre mine which was in production until 1960. When the place closed everyone left and only the buildings remain. It has been turned into a museum showing artefacts from from its heyday.

Empty swimming poolThere was even a expansive swimming pool lined with metal and complete with multi-platform diving board, . Now drained of water it looked very odd indeed. This village was quite self sufficient.

Back to schoolWe wandered along the main street in and out of buildings including the hotel, market and school. The desks were still set in rows facing the blackboard. Time for Dave to go back to lessons. Benjamin was a bit bemused by why anyone found this place interesting but still showed us his favourite parts.

Old bandstand and heap for saltpetreWe were interested to hear that the brown mound behind the village was where the saltpetre was found. Water was poured over the surface and the saltpetre dissolved into it. This was siphoned off and the saltpetre collected. Most was exported to be used in fertiliser. Dave was a bit disappointed as he knew it was also used in gunpowder but this fact was not mentioned anywhere,

Iquique squeezed by the seaFrom here it was not far to Iquique but there is only one road in, which wound it’s way down hill, and one road out. The town is on the coast separated from inland by one huge sand dune. Apparently the sand is of such quality that the Chinese offered to buy it to ship back to China! Unfortunately we had to queue for a while but our frustration turned to sadness when we saw the remains of a hang glider on the road. We were soon dropped off at our hotel but not before promising to catch up with Alma and Lea in San Pedro de Atacama next week.

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