We have been gone for a month now. Have not had internet for a while now or if I have had I’ve been too damn tired. Dont usually get to bed until 2 am. We are in Antofagasta Chile. There is a beatiful boardwalk that runs for miles around the city and we have an esquisite view of the ocean from the apartment.
We went to San Pedro de Atacama and saw some amazing things. This is the desert and there are salt flats everywhere. We stayed in San Pedro a couple of days. This is an old old town which attracts a lot of tourists kinda like a spring break thing. Lots of young americans. On the way we stopped at Chacabuco, an old nitrate mine, quite common in that part of Chile but all out of business now since the Germans developed artificial nitrates during the war ansd so they were no longer needed for explosives. This one had been converted into a prison during the Pinochet regime. Very interesting and educational.
From San Pedro we visited the Valley of Jarez in Tocanao. This is a beautiful little valley with a small river and a rock mine, liparite, a very light volcanic rock that looks a lot like sandstone, and some petroglifs. Tocanao has an extremely old church built in 1744. From there we went to the National Reserve of the flamingos in Laguna Chaxa. This is in the middle of the Salt Flat of Atacama, the third largest in the world. It is amazing to pick up and taste raw salt.
We had contracted to go to the geysers at Tatia the following morning, this is the most famous attraction in that part of Chile but that afternoon a Belgian tourist had got too close and was critically burned by a geyser. As per custom they had to close the geyers for five days to investigate so we were out of luck. We decided to go to the Valley of the Moon, another very famous place but we got there too late and it was closed. SOOOO we went to Calama, where Carlos was born and from there took a tour to the worlds largest copper mine in Chuquicamata. We were all suited up with hard hats and respirators. Unfortuantely when we got up there at 9500 ft the wind was blowing at 60-70 MPH so they wouldnt let us go down into the mine. We were treated, however, to some very interesting talks about copper mining. Chuquicamata used to be a large company town with housing and many cultural things like theatres and one of the most advanced hospitals but in the early 2000s the government declared it to be an environmental hazard for people to live there so everyone had to move to Calama and now commute. As the mine grew many of the houses etc have been burried in rock.
We have spent two weekends in Punta Itata where Carlos has a beach house. It is barely spring so there is not much tourist traffic yet. This part of Chile is all desert and only gets a couple of milimeters of rain a year so water is precious. All of the water at the beach is supplied by gravity tanks so there is limited pressure. We cooked with Carbon chunks, not nice little brickettes but big chunks.
Punta Itata is next to Mejillones a little coastal town where copper is shipped from. They also have quite a bit of sea food there. Chile is famous for locos, known as abalone but it is actual a different species more commonly know as false abalone. Not nearly as big but otherwise quite similar. We bought 24 for $16.00 The guy there cleaned them for us and then “pounded” them by placing them in a mesh bag and beating them against the rocks. Chile is also famous for its osteones which are scallops. They have been over fished and tsunamis and other natural disasters have made them hard to find just now. We also ate erisa which is Sea Urchin and is also quite popular. There is a type of muscle here that measures about 7 inches long and is quite good also. They have good old surf smelt too 🙂
Next week we head for Santiago, one of the largest and most expensive cities in the world. We are looking at some day trips from there and on the 25th Pam and I leave from Valparaiso on a 14 day cruise around the horn to Buenos Aires Argentina. After that we go to Machu Picchu back in Peru and then on to Guayaquil Ecuador. After that who knows.. We spent the lions share of our budget here in Chile and I may have to come back to California for a year or two to work it off 🙂 K more later