Las Coloradas... Leaving on a night bus....

Trip Start Dec 11, 2004
Trip End Jan 01, 2005

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Well, itīs our last full day in Chile. It has been better than I expected, but still everyone is telling us that we will enjoy Argentina even more.

We spent yesterday (Saturday 18th) with a private guide, Daniel Russ, in his little 4X4. He took us east, through the Elqui valley and up to the border with Argentina at >4500 metres (>15000feet). The road was paved for the first 100km, but then it started twisting and turning on narrow gravel cuts,up, up, up, up for a couple of hours. The Andes mountains are desert here, but full of colour. Wherever there is the tiniest trickle of water, there are small colourful succulents and cacti, leaving the slopes covered in vivid painted patches. As we reached the summit, there was some snow and small glacier patches, but mostly bare red and black gravel and sand. The sun was blazing, but the wind was icy cold and very powerful. The air was so thin that we could feel the blood pounding in our necks (especially when Bruce had to get out and throw rocks off the road to clear the one-car-wide track). Daniel tried to smoke a cigarette, but it wouldnīt burn very well! We took loads of photos, but they do not come close to catching the atmosphere of the place. It was the highest I have ever been on the earth, and definitely an experience not to forget.

Daniel was such an interesting guy; a Swiss German who was on a Tierra del Fuego to Alaska motorbike trip who got sidetracked by a beautiful Chilean woman, married her last month, and is now here to stay. He is a bit gritty around the edges (and made our hair raise a few times with his 4X4 antics), but very entertaining. After spending the whole day with him, we invited him and his wife, Judith, to dinner. They took us down the coastal road, almost to Coquimbo, to their favourite seafood diner. The food was delicious, but Iīm embarrassed to say, I could barely put a dent in it. The food is very rich, meat and cheese heavy and American serving sized. I had to ask Judith to apologize to the waitress, after she looked at my unfinished crab bisque with the worried look of a grandmother. They have invited us to their family home tonight for pizza before we leave.

We are heading back to Santiago on the night bus, leaving at midnight. We had hoped to cross the border here into central Argentina, but the pass is too dangerous for buses, and Daniel could only take us as far as Flores, from which there are no buses to other towns. So, back to the capital for us and then continuing on to Mendoza in Argentina tomorrow afternoon. Buses are the only way to travel around here, and unfortunately, the executive service (fully reclining bed-seats) sell out early. We'll have to suffer through semi-cama (semi-bed) for the next legs of our trip. Warning to others travelling in S.America: book early!

We are going to spend the rest of this quiet Sunday drinking beer and sitting under an umbrella on the beach.

love Vicki
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