Saturday, July 11, 2009

Back from the Desert

So the other half of a sweet vacation has come to a close.....Me and my friends started the journey by flying to Calama (a city in the north of Chile), and renting a car to explore the area. The thing is that, its the desert and temp difference between the day and the night is huge! And of course there is no heat in the hotels or hostels! It was usually below freezing at night and then about 60 or 70 during the day. It made for some very cold mornings, I am glad that I brought my sleeping bag. So the first day, we drove to San Pedro de Altacama, a huge desert area in the north with several attractions, including valley of the moon, valley of death, and huge salt flats. We also took a tour that left at 4AM to explore some of the gysers in the area (it was a 2 hour bumpy car ride). The town was neat, but a bit touristy. After seeing some great scenery and sunrises and sunsets, we drove to the beach town of Iuique, which is about 5 hours due west. Stopping along the way to explore what we wanted. One of the first cool stops was to take a tour of the worlds largest open pit mine which is still in production. So, I got to look into a mine pit that is a 1 KM deep. And to see huge trucks with tires as big as my head. This place was a huge operation, almost 20,000 people work there. It was quite neat......

After that, we drove up the coast to our hotel, which we couldnt find and it took us about a hour to find it at night, once we had gotten into the city. We really didnt do much in Iquique, it was pretty much just a launching point. On the forth day, we drove back into the desert to explore the ghost towns and ghost factories of Humberstone (A huge production in nitrate and saltpepper in the early 20s). Now it is just a huge pile of rusted tools and buildings in the middle of the desert. It was really neat and unlike the US, there are no fences or signs really, so it really feels like you stumbled onto the place by yourself.

The 4th day we drove back into the desert and saw a few more roadsign attractions. One involved seeing a rock display made about a 1000 years ago. After seeing the display, we wanted to drive and see these distant sand dunes in the distance. Well, everything was going fine until our truck got stuck in the sand.....I mean there was nothing for miles! Luckily, after a couple pushes and using the mats as traction, we got the truck moving again and were able to continue on our path. I didnt think it was too scary because the main road was about a couple miles away and we could of flagged a car down or something.....

The last day, we drove back to Calama and stopped at more roadside things. We discovered a bunch of old mines, which are totally left open. We didnt go too far as we didnt want to become a headline story....Today, we arrived back in Santiago for one more night of fun before my friends have to leave...but a couple of cool stats:

I saw or experienced:
The worlds most remote place (Easter Island)
The worlds dryest place (San Pedro de Altacama)
The worlds deepest open pit mine (CHUQUICAMATA)
The worlds biggest goyciphical structure (I know that is spelled wrong)

Not bad for 2 weeks!

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