La Gira Andina 2012 travel blog

Entry to Humberstone

Chart of processes

The swimming Pool

A dwelling

At a customs check point





The desert plain used to be covered in these trees

Not all the driving is exciting

The distance for the day was 699km, but actually the road was fast as we headed inland behind the coastal mountain range and then parallel to the shore. Thi part of Chile used to belong to Bolivia in its hey day, when it had valuable access to the Pacific, but a dispute led to it and part of Peru being won by Chile.

There was dew on the cars when we set off from the hotel, but within 300km it was already very very hot in the sunshine. We had a couple of stops to look at ancient petroglyphs - the best ones being of llama on a hillside, then stopped at Humberstone. The town was built by and named after an English engineer who came out to Chile in the late 19th century to extract and process nitrates. He died in 1939 at the age of 81. The factory and town that he built in the middle of this desert was completely self-sufficient and provided housing, two theatres, shops, a hotel and an iron swimming pool built out of old ship hulls! It was a fascinating visit.

We stopped to refule with petrol near the largest copper mine in the world - having covered 592 kilometers from our last refuelling in Arica. We had averaged over 21 miles to the gallon, which may not sound a lot to you, but trust me for an Aston is pretty impressive. The last pass before the copper mine was up an unrelenting climb from 900m to over 3000 in sweltering heat. The picture of the rally was quite funny as around each bend we seemed to find another rally car going very slowly or stopped from overheating. Less than a kilometer from teh top we succumbed too - bottling out with ehte water temperature rising to 108 degrees and the engine stuttering occasionally as the petrol vapourised before reaching the carburettors. A 10 minute break to cool down was al that was needed and we were on our way.

We passed the Valley of the Moon and headed towards a string of high volcanoes, some snow-capped to reach our hotel at San Pedro de Atacama. The Atacama desert is the driest in the world, but our Explora hotel, which is our home for two nights is wonderfully equipped and before dinner they gave us a talk on the desert and all the things that we could do the following day. We opted for a walk through the desert and a an evening sessino in the observatory.

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