Sadly we were on our last few days in Chile, but as they say all good things come to an end. Lucky for us though we are traveling North and still have loads of new adventures, new countries and new places to visit.
From leaving Chuquicamata Mine we decided to take the coast road to Iquique but soon had to turn back due to protests on the road, unfortunately the inland road to Iquiqui was rather boring but at least it was pretty quick. Iquique itself is a major resort in Chile and is dubbed Chile’s Miami, with apartment blocks, seafront hotels and restaurants (good for sea-food) as well as the beach. One of the other attractions here is that many people are drawn by the duty-free (Zofri) shopping. Its quite a big place as we drove all the way through it, thousands and thousands of vehicles for sale, also vehicle related supplies and services, no matter which way you looked. There is an electronics section which we didn’t even venture into. Too afraid a new camera might be purchased, lol.! We spent only one night here but managed to park our truck in the FlyPark School, next to where the para-gliders land. It’s a pretty cool place, loads of 40 foot containers converted into living accommodation ( all welded together and fixed very solidly to the ground so as to protect them from the many earthquakes that Chile experiences ) for clients interested in paragliding. They also provide toilets , showers, cooking areas, table-tennis ( had a re match with Merv, was like being back on Grimaldi) and of course hammocks to lounge about in after your hard day. People from all over the world come to Iquique for a couple of weeks/months each year only for this . Anyone interested please look up www.parapenteiquique.cl for more information. They also take some overland trucks, have showers , toilets , electricity, small little kitchen which you can use and a great plus you can fill with water when leaving.
We spent a great day visiting Santiago Humberstone and Santa Laura. Both these places represent the nitrate industry in Chile, long finished now and these places are ghost towns except for the visits made by tourists. You can wander freely around and in Humberstone you can see the remnants of the Industrial Sector, The Plaza, The Company Store (Pulperia),The School, The Market, a Hotel , a Theater, The Hospital, Living Quarters for the employees and Professionals. In fact there were living quarters also for bachelors and as in all employment different levels of accommodation depending as to what level you worked at. I must say it must have been an okay place to work as after all it did have a tennis court, happy days it got something right! In Santa Laura you can see the huge liquefaction plant and the massive crusher that still stands there, a pretty impressive sight . A very good museum which displays the everyday items of that era can also be visited in Santa Laura. In particular I loved the handbags of that era, hopefully someday I might be able to buy one similar to add to my collection. We asked the security guard was it ok to park overnight here, he said ‘sure’ no problem ,but just make sure that you are in your truck by 6.15pm as by 6.16pm he lets the dogs out, all six of them, yes all six of them and their first stop was our truck. First time we had been locked into a secure area, surrounded by six guard dogs for the night, we were as safe as a house!
Who let the dogs out comes to mind!
The next seven or eight days we spent traveling up through Parque Nacional Volcan, Salar de Surire and Reserve Nacional Los Vicunas ,stopping off at some great remote places along the way. For example a dead-end road brought us to Puchuldiza geyser field with pools of very warm water. One of the geyser’s is active 24 hours a day and every few minutes you can see the colours of the rainbow through the water. As it is winter here we were able to see the ice that forms due to the down wind around the geyser. Another lovely place to stop at, and even park overnight was Termas de Polloquere , you have the entire place to yourself , with the flamingo’s and Vicuñas close by keeping watch. We used this place for some maintenance, we had to replace a hose so as to have hot water again. All in a days drive I guess. The Salar de Surire was entirely industrial with big trucks taking out loads of salt, and from here to the Bolivian border the road was a little quicker as it was slighty better maintained for the use of the trucks. Many little churches along the way , one in particular really took our fancy, so cute and quaint like. Really the scenery and views the whole way to the border were stunning, but it was not all maintenance free as we had to do another stop to replace our dirty diesel filters, luckily we had two with us, and within an hour we were moving again. Merv, the mechanic could not believe the truck needed a fuel filter change as the old ones were only in there a matter of weeks!! Dirty diesel I guess.