Highlights of the Atacama Desert

Trip Start Mar 14, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Chile  , Antofagasta,
Friday, March 2, 2007

The Atacama Desert.... the driest desert on the planet sits right here in northern Chile, where I am now.  It's so barren and with so much nothingness, I haven't decided yet if I will bother to take a photo of it or not.   There doesn´t appear to be a single plant anywhere.  Just a big brown layer of dirt as far as the eye can see.   However, it's also home to another superlative;  the world's largest open-pit copper mine.  Ooh boy!   So basically, I traveled 760 miles and 21 hours on a bus to see the world's largest man-made hole in the ground.  And that's exactly what it was. 

So how the hell do I make this place sound exciting?  Let's see what I can come up with.... Well, the city of Calama, the major transport hub and support city for the mine, has nothing to offer except overpriced beers, which I thoroughly researched as there is nothing else to do.  And the town of Chuquicamata next door is a ghost town in the making due to some new blah blah blah regulation that states people shouldn't live right next to large holes.  So the mining company is moving every family into brand new homes a few kilometers away in Calama and the town of Chuquicamata will eventually be dismantled.  Don't fall asleep yet... I have lots of statistics and figures to throw at you! 

So what does this mine do?   Basically, a fleet of 80 monster trucks carry out 600,000 tons of rock per day, 1% of which is copper and other minerals.  The mine is HUGE.  It's about 3 miles long, 2 miles wide, and currently 2900 feet deep.  It's been around for 91 years and they expect it to keep producing copper for another 90.  In the next 15 or 20 years, the pit will grow to about 9 miles long and 3900 feet deep.  It was actually a pretty cool tour but aside from that, there's nothing much to report.   I gotta get the hell out of this country.  I'm off to the border to cross into Peru.........
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