The "Mano del Desierto"

Trip Start Sep 13, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Chile  ,
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

After two nights at Bahia Inglesa it was time to leave, but not before I collected my washing from the owners.  Today we continued to head north, crossing the driest part of the Atacama Desert, where apparently some meteorological stations haven't registered any rain in over 50 years!

During the morning we stopped in the middle of a valley and took pictures of the stunning scenery, which trying to avoid being run over by the odd lorry that went by.  Afterwards we also stopped at the old cemetery of Oficina Alemania, which is one of the many abandoned Nitrate mining operations that were the main source of income for Chile during the second half of the 19th century.  I was a bit disappointed with a few members of our group who decided to walk between the graves in the cemetery; have they no respect for the dead?!

Our next stop was the "Mano del Desierto", or the "hand of the desert".  This is a big hand sculpture sticking upwards in the desert, made by the artist Mario Irarrazabel in 1992.  Apparently there is a similar one somewhere in Uruguay, so I'll have to see if I can find that one when I'm in Uruguay.  Unfortunately the hand gets graffited a lot and this was the case when we were there.  However, this didn't stop us taking loads of photos as good tourists do!

It was then onwards to Antofagasta, which is Chile's fifth largest city and the main urban area in the desert.  It is also one of Chile's main ports and is linked to Bolivia and Argentina by cargo trains.  It was originally established as a Bolivian port for the export of Nitrate and Silver, but Chile claimed it after they won the Pacific War in the late 19th century, thus leaving Bolivia without any coastline.

Before getting to our hostel in Antofagasta, we visited the La Portada cliffs and viewed the rock formations as the sun started to set.  Once at the hostel, Jorik and myself went looking for an Internet cafe, which was a lot harder than we'd expected.  In the end we found a few computers at the local supermarket and I was very pleased when I read that Derby County had beaten Southampton on penalties to reach the play-off final.

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