Caldera - Mejillones - Iquique - Arica

Trip Start Mar 29, 2009
Trip End Aug 29, 2010

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wednesday 12th May. Caldera - Mejillones. 576ks.
It's true what they say, it's jolly cold at night in the Atacama Desert. I don't even think heaters have made their way here. The Atacama is one of the best places on earth to scan the night skies which are the clearest in the Southern Hemisphere and yesterday we saw a few of the worlds greatest astronomical observatories on top of some of the higher mountains. It's paradise for stargazers to view the constellations, some of which can only be seen from here. Colourful little fishing villages dotted the Pacific coastline as we left Caldera. Huge long foaming waves - perfect for surfing. Deeper into the desert the humidity dropped to a mere 8% and the temperature went up to 28*. The air was so dry we were thankful for the breeze at coffee stops. We drove into the frantically busy town of Antofagasta mid afternoon and because we felt slightly uncomfortable there, we pressed on to Mejillones - a port town surrounded by industrial sites and desert. Smog too. Thankfully it didn't take us long to find a wee hotel on the waterfront so we were able to take that welcome stroll before dark. Dinner was at a cafe on the waters edge and we had ever such an attentive waiter. We ordered our dinner along with a glass of wine for me. A short while later the lovely waiter passed me a large glass of a complimentary 'whisky sour'. Mmmmm, lucky me. Dave declined, but I did let him have a sip!

Thursday 13th May. Meijillones - Iquique. 376ks.
Away at 8.45 along the scenic coastal road. Not terribly scenic today as we were driving through mostly haze and smog and past industrial ports billowing dust. The huge breakers were a great sight, smashing up over the rocks. Seaweed is harvested in a big way up here - mile after mile of seaweed mounds waiting to be collected. In some areas of the ocean the seaweed was so dense the water hardly moved.
We spotted: Seaside villages on stilts, still lovely and colourful with their raised water tanks. Some solitary shacks built with various materials- corrugated iron, sides of wooden boxes, cardboard and canvas. Lizards scurrying crossing the road at great rates of knots. Sadly, lots of dead dogs, roadside. Bits of old tyres discarded by the truckies strewn all along the way.
Stunning hill formations and even a sandy desert golf course perched on a point, the greens made of oil compacted sand.
After checking into our pleasant hostel we decided to go Zofri, a huge duty free area for a USB camera cord to replace the one I unfortunately left behind in Caldera and to check out new tyres. We decided to do the long walk to Zofri, always in need of the exercise. We were almost there when a kindly lady accosted Dave and asked where we were going (in Spanish). "Zofri" we said. We soon gathered that we were walking through a dangerous part of town as we understood some of the alarming words she was saying. Most especially when she made a throat cutting mime with her fingers and MOST especially when she hailed a taxi and ordered that we get in! In hindsight we have to admit we were walking through probably not the most pleasant part of town. Yet another reminder not to get too complacent. Another lesson learnt.
Later we had an enjoyable chat with our hostel proprietor who was telling us, in English, that it never rains here and the fresh water is piped 250ks from the high Andes.

Friday 14th May. Iquigue - Arica
Away at 9am to a perfect day, 19* and a day of what has to be the most stunning scenery yet and a couple of real mirages! Oh my gosh, we find ourselves 7320' high and begin the longest descent following the edge of the deepest canyon we have ever seen. Sweaty palms - I don't dare take a peep.... until we near the bottom and see an oasis of market gardening. Such a surprise to see the greenest of vegetation in the middle if the sandy desert. Nope, it wasn't a mirage. The day went quickly and we bowled into Arica at 3pm pleased to have the rest of the day free to catch up on laundry etc.

Saturday 15th May. Arica.
We decided to stay an extra day to sleep-in, sight-see and siesta!

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vivienne on

what amazing experiences you two are having! love reading what your'e up too .you make it so interesting. All well here I'm off to Wanaka on Wednesday for a week. Love Vivienne.

nikki on

Great blog. Luving it.

Ben and Claire on

Hi Guys
Just caught up with your lastest adventure!! Wow it sounds brilliant and we will be avidly following you from our sofa in front of the fire!!

Take Care
Ben and Claire x

Barbara on

Woweeeee guys it all sounds & looks so amazing!! And yes please a big slice thanks (thats if there's any left!) Have a great time & keep blogging its always a fantastic read! Sending you both lots of love,Barbara & Hong Kong Aaron xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Barbara :D on

Eeeeeeeeek where's my picture gone!! I'll have to wait for Aaron to come home! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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