Sunday, 3 January 2010
Saturday 2nd January
Got up hideously early (3am) to head for El Tatio geysers; highest geothermal field in the world. The road was long...with many a winding turn...and yes, we got the truck stuck AGAIN! Having learnt our lesson from Thursday we had rope on board and asked the next 4x4 to pull us out. It is somewhat less entertaining when it is pitch black and -5 degrees C. Will try not to make it a 3rd, in Chile at any rate.
Incidentally if anyone has not read between the lines, DON'T OFF-ROAD A NISSAN PICK-UP TRUCK, even if it looks Grrrh, IT's NOT! It's a GIRL's CAR - pink and frilly underneath.
90K later (no further unscheduled stops) and the geysers at dawn were amazing. Also at 4500M, damn chilly. I would like to say we spent several hours watching the rosy-fingered dawn (2 points for all who got that reference, only 1 point if you thought it was Terry Wogan), enriching our souls with the beauty of Pachamama. Unfortunately it was too damn cold.
Today we start heading back South, the road is long....approx 1600K....with no winding turns....or any other features of interest.
....however...just off the road...we do find a deserted Nitrate Oficina at Chacabuco. Oficinas were company industrial towns set up for the extraction of saltpeter during the late 19th & early 20th century. When synthetic fertilisers came along the nitrate bubble swiftly burst, leaving many deserted towns throughout the region. Apologies for the history lesson if you are already in the know. Chacabuco was also used to house Pinochet's political prisoners.
Best described as spooky, followed by scary if you take into account the immanent collapse threatening most of the buildings (concrete girders swaying in the breeze) and the minefield round the perimeter. It was also fascinating to walk through a town which housed 7000 in its heyday and is now completely deserted. Most of the buildings were skeletons, some roofs/walls had collapsed, doors were swinging on their hinges and glass crunched underfoot. The place was silent. We walked VERY, VERY carefully.