Caldera - Mejillones - Iquique - Arica
Trip Start Mar 29, 2009
127Trip End Aug 29, 2010
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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
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.
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
Saturday 15th May. Arica.
We decided to stay an extra day to sleep-in, sight-see and siesta!