Monday 26 May 2014

Day 35: To The Atacama

Time to return to Chile and start our 4x4 adventure in the Atacama desert.  First, there was the twelve-hour bus journey to get through but, far from being a chore, it served as a super-juicy appetiser (if super-juicy can ever be the right adjective for a desert).

As we drove over the Andean mountain pass from Salta the hairpin bends of the road strung out like spaghetti below us, leading to the border post at 4,700m above sea level (surely the correct height for eating pasta in a mountain hut, not filling in official documents) then coasting down a two thousand metre ramp into the backpacker town of San Pedro at 2,500m.  To our left rose Licancabur - a volcano so beautiful that, if Sauron had had an eye for symmetry, he would have modelled Mount Doom on it.

In the evening, we arrived in the watch-your-bags mining town of Calama and hired a red 4x4, which had been numbered and flagged ready to descend into the huge copper mine of Chuquicamata (not our destination).  We signed an unintelligible contract in Spanish, omitted to mention that we were planning to spend the whole week driving off road, and revved out of the half-built airport feeling both smug and scared.  Now for a week in the desert.

Salt flat ahoy!
Mining truck
Volcan Pili on the Chilean side of the border
Let's off-road!

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