Happy hitchhikings!

Hello out there! Yes, this message is in English! Up till now I´ve always considered my blog as an informational bulletin for my family and friends back home in iny tiny Belgium. However, since a long time other friends of different nationalities have been visiting my blog, some of them a bit disappointed by the fact they could understand the pictures, but not that strange language my messages were written in. Actually, it´s a French friend of mine who persuaded me to start writing my blog in English. He meant it as a joke, but thinking about it, I drew the conclusion that I had to change the language. I have the impression that a slightly decreasing amount of Flemish people are reading my blog. However, a growing number of other, non-Flemish speakers people are following my adventures in South America, so ... English! I even had to think about the language I'd have to adopt, but I quickly decided to start using English as the language for my writings. I suppose that most of my family and friends (probably all of them) understand that language well enough to read my messages. To make things short: there is a small minority of people who visit my blog who won´t understand a word of which is written here. Fair enough! That stillmakes many more people than before who´ll be able to follow Hello out there! Yes, this message is in English! Up till now I´ve always considered my blog as an informational bulletin for my family and friends back home in iny tiny Belgium. However, since a long time other friends of different nationalities have been visiting my blog, some of them a bit dissapointed by the fact they could understand the pictures, but not that strange langage my messages were written in. Actually, it´s a French friend of mine who persuaded me to start writing my blog in English. He meant it as a joke, but thinking about it, I drew the conclusion that I had to change the language. I have the impression that a slightly decreasing amount of Flemish people are reading my blog. However, a growing number of other, non-Flemish speakers people are following my adventures in South America, so ... English! I even had to think about the language I'd have to write in then, but I quickly decided to start using English as the language for my writings. I suppose that most of my family and friends (probably all of them) understand English well enough to read my messages. To make things short: there is a small minority of people who visit my blog who won´t understand a word of which is written here. Fair enough! That still makes many more people than before who will understand.
In my last message, I described how at some point in my journey I was doubting if I still wanted to travel the way I´m travelling now and how this feeling completely turned 180 degrees once I my eyes fell on the beauty that is the Cordobese mountain range. In one moment I realised I was doing the thing I actually wanted to do and that I should be glad for that. Starting from that moment, my trip took the turn it was bound to take: adventure, learning, happiness ... Since my last message, my travel spirit has kept on continuing in the very positive direction. I hope this will keep on going this way!
Those of who have ever travelled in the region I´ve passed through the last couple of weeks will understand what made those weeks so special, so beautiful. From Cordoba in the centre of Argentina, I travelled northwest to the provinces of La Rioja and Catamarca, progressively getting closer to the Argentine-Chilean border. From there on I went on to the Pacific coastal region of northern Chile. Later on, I hitchhiked through the Atacama desert (yes, indeed, the driest area in the whole world!) to reach the quite touristic town of San Pedro de Atacama where I have spent the last three weeks. In my last message I described how everything started changing once I got to La Rioja: the people, the landscape, the weather ... La Rioja and Catamarca also seem to be less densely populated than for instance Cordoba. And in between the villages: a feeling of total solitude, desolate deserts, amazing views. Luckily, hitchhiking has been going much better than before. I can even tell you that I´ve often been remarkably lucky! One day I was trying to get from Chilecito in La Rioja to Fiambalá in Catamarca. These two towns are not that far apart (a few hundreds of kilometers which in Argentina is nada), but there are some parts with very, very few traffic and you have to change roads a couple of times. Well, because it was already late when I wanted to start hitchhiking I decided to take a bus to a village some 70 kilometers away from Chilecito, just to be on the right road. The village I arrived in was completely untouristic. I wonder if there was even a hotel. But those are often the best places of all! I asked some locals where I could put up my tent. Remarkable answer: ´Pon tu carpa en la plaza central. Tus compañeros ya estan alli.´ (Put up your tent on the central plaza. Your buddies are already there.) So, I wondered who those ´buddies´ were. I was kind of surprised to realise that two other travellers were going to sleep on the same central plaza. Both of them travelled by bike. It was an absurd situation. In that small isolated village I met those two guys who had met each other on that same plaza the same evening. One of them was Canadian, the other one from Buenos Aires. Buena onda. Good vibes. Back to the hitchhiking story: the next day, after the two cyclers were gone, I started walking to the road that leads to the province of Catamarca. Once I got there, I sat down on my backpack and waited five minutes, ten, twenty, half and hour, forty-five minutes ... nobody passed! So, I already started wondering if I would ever get away from that village as hitchhiking does require ... cars! Just when I wanted to make a card with the name of the next village on it to somehow higher my already close to zero chances, a small car passed by ... and stopped! A married couple going to ... yes, indeed, Fiambalá! I almost couldn´t believe my ears!
So, three hours later I found myself on the central plaza of Fiambalá, the last village before heading towards Chile. It´s amazing how again the landscape changed over those three hours. In the beginning things started to become more tropical: more vegetation, a greener landscape. It always surprises me how climate and vegetation in South America can plainly depend on the valley in which you find yourself. You go one valley further, climbing over the mountain tops, things get dry and arid. You go one valley in the other direction: things get humid and hot ... Once we reached Catamarca we started heading westwards. Some 50 kilometers before Fiambalá lies a place called Tinogasta. And then you get to the last part of the journey, travelling through a surrealistic desert limited on both sides by mountain ranges of a few thousands meters high. Close to the mountains: areas with dunes. Sounds like a perfect place for the Dakar race? Indeed, it passed through Fiambalá this and last year ...  
Fiambalá is a small town built alongside a river that flows through this desertlike valley ... well, when it´s not dried out. Even though the town itself has not that many things to offer, it is still a nice, cosy place. Life is slow and peaceful, especially during the lazy afternoons. Temperatures can rise high. However, the heat is regularly tempered by sandstorms that reach the streets of the town coming from the neighbouring desert ... However, it is worthwile staying some time in this town as there are some good wine producers. On top of that, I happened to be arriving at the end of the grape harvest, just in time to participate in some wine indulging! As in other wine producing regions around the world the harvest is ended with some feasts: everyone invited! And then I´ll tell you that Fiambalá has some very nice thermal water springs at around 15 km from the village, that you can go walk around in the desert (but watch out for the sandstorms) and that the highest volcanoes in the world are actually there (though far away and very, very difficult to reach without a vehicle). It´s also the last village before reaching the border with Chile and because of that there is very few traffic. It has a bit of an end of the world feeling to it. You guessed it: the perfect place for a traveller like me ...
In Fiambalá lives Audrey, a French girl (or should I say woman) who is married to an Argentinian painter whom she has an utmost lovely child with, Sarita. She works as a teacher of French, but also has a small restaurant. Audrey is part of couchsurfing (I guess that most of you know about it), just as me. So, I asked her if I could stay some days in her house: no problem! Staying in her house and participating in the daily life was a very nice experience. Through Audrey I got to know some nice locals. That is always one of the best parts of couchsurfing; the feeling that you´re participating in the town´s life in stead of just being a mere tourist. Moreover, one day after me, two other couchsurfers arrived: Esteban and Lisa, an Argentine-Belgian couple living in Brussels and travelling in the best country of the world :-) It was so funny to talk with them in Flemish - and indeed it´s remarkable to see the progress Esteban has made in Flemish knowing that he has lived only one year in Belgium, in Brussels moreover where it´s not very much spoken. With these new friends I spent my days in Fiambalá, visiting the surroundings, helping out Audrey´s husband to make a shelter in their backyard, picking grapes at night, etcetera. I think that some of the best experiences must´ve been our unforgettable night annex day in the thermal water springs with the crazy Italians and with liters of wine and fernet, walking through the desert while a sandstorm raging around us, watching the truth revelating documentaries Zeitgeist I and II at three o´clock at night (I highly recommend everybody who wants to understand the absurdity of the world today to see these documentaries at least once ...), participating in one of the French lessons in the local school and Audrey´s homemade pizzas: fingerlickin´good, y´all! Aaaah, Fiambalá ... I´ll always have such good memories of that place: magical!  
Staying in Fiambalá was an easy thing to do. The real challenge was moving on to Chile! One: there are no buslines that travel via the San Francisco pass, the pass that connects Argentina with Chile in that area. Two: inbetween the last Argentinian village, Fiambalá, and the first Chilean settlement, Copiapó, are almost 500 kilometers, most of the route unpaved. Three: there is very few traffic via this pass. In Europe, we are used to interconnectability, we have the impression that borders no longer exist and there is a lot of traffic going from one country to another. Over here, things are slightly different. Nationalism as a state policy is still strongly established and the respective countries develop policies that are largely independent from the neighbouring countries´ ones. Result: from Fiambalá to the border at a height of 4700 meters above sea level, everyting is paved. From the border to Copaipó: bumpy and shaky, unpaved roads. In some other regions it´s the other way around ... Hence, international traffic is not stimulated. The attentive reader already understands what I am trying to say: hitchhiking is not a cup of tea in these conditions. Now, there are refuges on the way to the border because the nights get cold at 4700 meters´ height. Moreover, I stocked up food for for at least two days. So, I was fully prepared for the big challenge ... and things turned out much easier than I could have imagined. A few days before I left there were some Chilean tourists at Audrey´s restaurant. When they left, I informed them that I was planning to go to Chile. The day itself, I had been waiting for not even one hour ... and the same tourists arrived and stopped! They had actually been to Audrey´s house to see if I was there, but I had already left. Yep, I got lucky a second time! Alejandro, Juan Jose, Pia and Pilar took me all the way to Copiapó, driving alongside yellow-orange-brown-reddish mountains, occasionally dotted with yellowish grassy plants, turquoise lakes, snowcapped peaks and from time to time guanacos or vicuñas, nephews of the llama. What a great trip; a scenery you´ll never get to see in Europe! These four sympathetic Chileans left me in Copiapó, where I took the bus to Bahía Inglesia, the ´English Bay´, a seaside resort on the Pacific Ocean. Camping at the seaside seemed a much better alternative for me than staying in a city like Copiapó. It didn´t seem ugly, but on the other hand I don´t think it would´ve been that thrilling to stay there some days.

Some time ago, the national Chilean tourist agency did a sort of competition. Chileans could vote on the beach they liked most in their country. Bahía Inglesa ended second or third, I don´t remember that well. Fact is that it is actually a very beautiful place: white sand, rocks inbetween the beaches, turquoise water, lots of pelicans ... However, the North Chilean (and the whole Peruvian) coast is covered with clouds half of the year. The strange thing about this is that, although the clouds never seem to disappear, it almost never rains at these moments. The only thing is that there is always that grey curtain. In Chile they call this camanchaca, in Perú garúa. The result is that you can hardly see the sun (sometimes at intervals) and that it actually doesn´t really get warm during the day. It reminded me a bit of a European autumn. This camanchaca is a coastal phenomenon. Once you travel some thirty kilometers inland, the clouds disappear and you get blue, cloudless skies. Yes, more inland everything is ... DRY! The coastal region itself does have some vegetation though, especially cactuses. The camanchaca is the very sole reason why some very specific plants survive: not the rain, but the humidity does the work. The more one gets inland, the more sparse the vegetation gets, until no life is possible.

Bahía Inglesa is a good place to hang out for a day, but not more. I personally like beaches and the wide views you get at the coast, but they start annoying me quite quickly, at least when I´m travelling by my own. The good thing is that there are some other interesting sites close to Bahía Inglesa. Close to the tourist area there is a fish factory and there are some paths on which you can walk. It´s kind of a chaotic landscape. At times, when you are walking around, you seem to be far away from the living world, just to find an industrial fishing site around the corner. A bit later you arrive at a bay with a small settlement which you can´t even call a village: some wooden structures alongside the road that leads to nearby Caldera, a road that is frequented with trucks transporting fish and workers of the fishing plant getting back home.

Caldera itself is a small town a few kilometers up north. It is quite a nice town. The most interesting part is probably the fish market where you can buy what has just been caught in the open sea. Apart from fish, different types of seafood are sold. When I arrived there the fish stalls were all closed (what a pity), but one of the small restaurants inside was open, so I decided to try out two different empanadas (a fried snack that carries something inside). I tried one with cheese and squid and another one with another type of seafood inside of which I currently don´t remember the name. Tasty! From there on, off it went northwards to a national park called Pan de Azucar (Sugarbread) where you can visit an island with pinguins (pinguins? - Yes, because of the cold Humboldt ocean stream at those latitudes). And you already guessed it! Once again hithhiking seemed to be fairly easy. I think I got picked up after merely fifteen minutes! The man who gave me a ride was on his way to the north of the country. He lives in the outskirts of Concepción, some of you might have heard of that city lately as this is the city where the earthquake of the 27th of February was most strongly felt. Logically, we started a conversation about what happened that day and especially the first days after. The man assured me that those days after the shock were actually worse than the earthquake itself. Imagine: food shortage, no water supply, no electricity, no gasoline ... Imagine this happening in a small village: a pretty serious thing ... Now, imagine this happening in the second biggest agglomeration of this country (Concepción and the neighbouring Talcahuano): a completely disconcerting situation. All shops and supermarkets in the city got looted. People need food, so this was to be expected. However, the darker side of this looting was that people run off with washing machines, plasma TV-sets and the like, products that no one of you will classify under ´basic needs´. But just as happened in Haiti after the earthquake there and a few years ago in New Orleans after the hurricane, some people with bad intentions used these chaotic circumstances to rob whatever they could or to take over the streets. Sad but true. So, the driver explained me how he and his neighbours set up civilian guards at night to protect their neighbourhood. He assured me that he was very glad that finally the army arrived after a few days to reinstall order. Apparently, things start getting better. In comparison with what happened in Haiti, it needs to be said that the earthquake and the minitsunami that followed right after caused much less dead and wounded people. Moreover, the situation in Haiti must have been (and still is?) much more preoccupying seen the difference in aid structures. Haiti is by far the poorest country in the Americas and has been left without any trustworthy state structures after decades of rampant corruption. Chile is quite another case. Compared to other Latin American countries, it is actually remarkably well organised. Moreover, though there is certainly a significant level of corruption in the highest spheres of the state establishment, this is remarkably absent in the lower spheres. It is a well known saga among travellers in South America: dont´t try to arrange things in an alternative way with or to bribe the pacos, the Chilean police, unless you want to get trouble. Back to the hitchhiking ... Some 70 kilometers more north we arrived in Chañaral, another town close to the seashore. From there on it´s 25 kilometers to the village Caleta Pan de Azucar, as you might guess the most important village inside the national park. After he had already put me off, the guy came driving to the direction I was heading to, opening his window: ´Amigo, te puedo invitar a almorzar?´ (Friend, can I invite yo to lunch?) An offer I couldn´t refuse - how friendly ... I ate a tasty seafood soup. Good, but way too salty!  

From there on, it was the taxi to Caleta Pan de Azucar, a small fisherman´s hamlet on a rock, overseeing a bay full of fishing boats. So, I put up my tent on a camping close to the beach. The next day would be a mix of good and bad. Let´s start with the good. Caleta Pan de Azucar is a spectacular place. It´s set above a bay (as I told before) and on the other side of the bay one can see mountains that drop into the sea. At around 11am the fishermen come back from the sea with their catch. One can observe how fishermen cut up the fish and clean them. But you´re unlikely to be on the first row of observers. That one is made up by a flock of pelicans, patiently waiting till one of he fishermen throws some fish intestines in their direction, the moment when hell breaks loose. The pelicans all jump on the same spot, fighting over the parts that people don´t consume anyway. It´s a funny sight. Once the fishermen finish up, the pelicans turn back to the sea and the place refinds peace. Okay, now the bad part of the day.

This has to do with the pinguins and a lot of lying. To get to the pinguins that live on an island a few hundreds of meters away from the coast, you need to hire a boat. This is quite expensive, but there is a maximum of ten persons, so if you can get some people together you can split costs and that makes he whole thing a lot cheaper. In the village we were told that the best thing would be to look for other people. So, during the day I got into contact with most of the very little people who were staying in the village or on the camping. I had gotten together a group of nine persons (three UK dudes, a German couple, three Spanish girls and me), only to hear some excuse about the fact that the sea was too wild and that nine persons in a boat (plus the driver) would be too dangerous. Kind of a strange explanation ... I knew that the German couple would go anyway, even without the others, so the guy who was organising everything took these two alone in a boat, repeating that taking more people in one boat would be too dangerous. However, some minutes later, a Swiss camera team consisting of five persons showed up and for some awkward reason they could all get in one boat ... Right! Then, the remaining seven of us decided going anyway and were told that ´the boat is coming´. Of course it never showed up ... Later on, the Spanish girls already had to leave. Asking for explanations about the Germans, some fishermen told me that they wanted to go only by themselves. So, I checked this with the Germans in case, and this seeemd to be a big, fat lie, just as I had expected. So, in the end I was kind of sure that the organiser wanted to get double money, splitting us up in two groups. In the end, it wouldn´t harm him if the second boat didn´t set sail; he had already received the money of the first boat. He could only earn more than foreseen. During the large quantity of time we were waiting to set off, we were told a bunch of contradicting tales (read: lies) so when I finally realised that I wouldn´t get out to the island that day and thus having wasted all my time waiting for a boat that would never come, my blood started getting close to boiling point. So, when I perceived the organiser, I went up to him to express what I thought of him and his succession of lies. He didn´t seem to care too much though ... He did have the guts to propose that I would go the next day, but I answered that I didn´t even want to spend a penny on a liar like him. Yes, indeed, I was pissed off! Well, let´s say that this is the kind of money hungry tourism that I don´t want to support - and I can´t stand it when people say uninterestedly that well ... that´s the way it is - you have to accept the fact. No way! Earning money is one thing. Lying to and treating people like money machines is a totally different concept to me. So I decided that I would stay one more day, but that they could stick their pinguins up their ...

But then, those things always happen on a travel journey and make you appreciate even more the positive experiences. And those largely outnumber the few negative ones. And sometimes the negative ones are even quite funny. As I told you in my last message, somebody decided to rob part of my tent on a camping in Entre Rios, Argentina. The Chilean robbers are maybe a little bit more practical. Yes, it's true, a battery charger is quite a handy thing. That´s what a guy in Bahía Inglesa must've thought when he decided to rob mine. Inconvenient, but in the end: whatever.

Well, the next day in Pan de Azucar I did a walking tour that was really wonderful (look at the pictures underneath). And then, the day after that one it was hitchhikers day again ... and you won´t believe, but again I got picked up so easily. Some guy took me to the Panamericana (the international highway from Colombia to the south of Chile) and there a truck driver stopped and took me along through the driest stretch of land on earth: the Atacama desert. Humidity: close to zero. Annual rainfall: close to zero mm. Contrary to the coastal region there is absolutely no vegetation in the Atacama desert itself, only dead rocks and sand that is so dry it seems a powder. When you walk in that sand it goes up covering you in a cloud of powder. The whole day we travelled through the desert, passing a whole series of copper mines for which the nortern region of Chile is famous. The truck driver had to go to Calama, a hundred kilometers before arriving at San Pedro de Atacama, my final destination, the place where I was going to visit Gilles, a friend of Liège I hadn´t met in three or four years. So he took me along to Calama. When we approached the city at around 1 am he suddenly asked me where I was going to sleep. So I told him that I would pass that night in my (new) tent, imagining myself that he would spend the night on one of those typical truck parkings outside of the city. Well, no problem, he told me, but when we arrived he asked me again where I was going to sleep. I was amazed to realize that we were close to the very city centre ... how come that he couldn´t have informed me about that ... It´s not that logical to sleep in a tent in the middle of a city of 200 000 inhabitants, is it? Why couldn´t he have left me a a few kilometers outside the city? But I was too tired to go walking out of the city and to start nagging to him. In the end, he had been so nice to take me along all the way there, so I didn´t feel myself in the position to start complaining. So, I looked a bit around and got the idea to put the tent under the truck. This was actually not such a bad idea; I don´t think I would have had a better alternative at that moment. The tent was hardly visible from the street, but I must admit that I didn´t sleep that well that night being somehow preoccupied. Cities always attract some strange people with bad intentions. But okay, nothing happened in the end. Calama, however, is a strange city of miners and those cities are always a bit awkward. The Lonely Planet, often called the Bible of backpackers, warns that several reports of aggressive assaults have been made. Walking through the streets of the city, you realize you have to watch your things a bit ... without wanting to exaggerate. It´s a strange mix of popular barrios, shabby and sandy windswept open spaces, stray dogs and huge, American-style shopping malls. Chuquicamata, the biggest copper mine of Chile is only ten kilometers of Calama and is actually the only place of intrest in the surroundings, and I even didn´t visit it, because I was only thinking about getting to San Pedro, after, of course, buying a new battery charger.

So, the last three weeks I have been in San Pedro de Atacama and its surroundings. San Pedro is so close to Calama, yet so different. Sure, it´s a tourist hub, but that doesn´t take away the charm of this small town. Actually, all houses and even the local church are built in a traditional constructing material, adobe, a kind of clay-like substance. Houses of adobe preserve heat in cold weather and cold in hot weather. Moreover, it gives a much more authentic feeling to the village. The red-brownish colour of adobe mingles very well with the colours of the nearby desert. The town has a very interesting archaeological museum where my friend Gilles works, as well as his Chilean girlfriend Lorena. They have been so nice to host me the last couple of weeks. Of course, they have to work, so I have to make sure not to disturb them too much (travelling life and working life suppose different rhythms - I don´t have to explain that too much ...). But we still find enough time to talk to each other and to do some activities together. In the end, I hadn´t seen Gilles for about three, four years! Moreover, San Pedro has so many things to offer! It's amazing ... I already explained about the town itself, but there is much more to it. San Pedro is an oasis in a desert. It's quite close to the border with Bolivia. Actually, you can see the border as it is made up of a whole series of volcanoes and mountains. In the evening you can see the cars coming from Bolivia at a distance of more than 70 kilometers because of the dry air and the cloudless nights. For the same reason the surroundings of San Pedro are a perfect place for star observation. The sky at night is unbelievable - the Milky Way! I never knew there were so many stars. In the surroundings a very serious astronomical project called ALMA is being undertaken. In 2012 a spacial centre with the biggest telescopes of the world will be opened there.

From a historical point of view as well, the region is very interesting. In the surroundings, at some kilometers from San Pedro, there are pre-inca and inca ruins: a village, an administration centre, a fortress and a religious centre. Lots of archaeological artefacts have been found, often in very good conditions thanks to the arid conditions of the region. The Atacama culture, this is the local indian culture, had lots of commercial ties with the Tiahuanaco culture at Lake Titicaca on the border of Bolivia with Peru. Tiahuanaco was an important culture throughout the zone a few centuries before the Incas started conquering vast parts of the Andes. Very interesting indeed. It just makes you realize how well developed these cultures were before the arrival of the Spanish.

And then there are the indigenous villages in the surroundings where you can find pre-inca paintings, fields of geisers at the border with Bolivia, salt lakes in which you keep floating (a kind of mini Dead Sea), a salt plain, lots of valleys with very strange geological patterns and figures carved out by erosion ... The list seems neverending. That´s why you can easily hang out here for a few weeks, so much to see! And to do as well, today for instance I've been sandboarding in some dunes nearby.

Well, just to tell you that lately I´ve been spoilt! Met the right people, gazed upon amazing landscapes, had 100 percent of luck while hitchhiking, no routine that we're always trying to avoid in our lives, no 9 to 5, have learned a handful of things about the world we live in, about Chileans and Argentinians, about myself: I'm a privileged, spoilt baby! I greet you form the north of Chile! Next stops? the Argentinian north and later on finally Brazil? We'll see about that! Enjoy the pictures and ciao!


A view of the Valle de la Luna on the provincial border of La Rioja and San Luis.  


Another view of the Valle de la Luna.


Valle de la Luna. These 'balls' rise up out of the sand over thousands of years. This forming of balls is supposed to be a quimical process (it has to do with magnitude ...).


Spectacular views in the Valle de la Luna. This formation is calle dthe 'submarine'.


Valle de la Luna: flower power.


 Another view just outside of the Valle de la Luna.


Some cactuses on the hills above the town Chilecito, Argentina.


Close to Famatina, La Rioja, Argentina.


I don´t remember the name of this saint, but you can find small shrines for him everywhere alongside the roads in Argentina.



Wall painting in Famatina about the possible opening of the open air gold mine. Could be an ecological disaster! 


Famatina. In the background you can see the mountain with the same name. That is the mountain a Canadian company wants to exploit.  


 Fiambalá, Catamarca, Argentina. A view on the valley in which the town lies, seen from the hot water springs.


 Sarita! The child of Audrey who hosted me for about ten days in Fiambalá.


Nationalism! Every day the flag is raised in the morning and lowered in the evening. Very serious happening with the pupils of the school standing in a military way and looking bored. Remark the so beautiful view in the background!  


 Having a ball, y´all! This picture was taken during our funny, unforgettable night at the hot water springs: barbecue, wine, fernet and hot water ... enjoy!


 Australia-like picture of the suroundings of Fiambalá ...


The grapes are harvested, so it´s time for wine and a lot of singing (among others songs that were forbidden during the military dictatorship in the seventees).


 The beautiful desert around Fiambalá, Argentina. This picture was taken right before a sandstorm.


 In the house of Audrey. IN the picture you can see: Tania (in the background - she works for Aurdey), Esteban (from Argentina), Lisa (at the right edge - Belgian and Esteban´s wife), Céline (a French woman - blue shirt) and Audrey (also French - orange jumper). Buena onda!





On the way to the San Francisco Pass that connects Argentina with Chile.


 With the Chileans at Laguan Verde (Green Lagoon). From left to right: Pia, Juan José, Pilar, Alejandro. We actually made lunch over there: what a scenic place! 



Another view of Laguna Verde and its surroundings.




 Bahía Inglesa. Spectacular, but clouded ...


 Pelicans close to the fish market of Caldera - why would that be?


 Caleta Pan de Azucar.



 How do you do?


 A solitary guanaco a few kilometers inland.


 Same area. Why do all these cactuses grow in the same direction? No clue ...  


 Close to Caleta Pan de Azucar: watch out! 


 The pilot maybe didn´t watch out?  


 Close to Caleta Pan de Azucar ...



 Atacama Desert, a restaurant for truck drivers ... This is where I got picked up by the truck driver who drove me to Calama.



 Atacama desert.


 Calama. As you see, I put my tent under the truck ... quite absurd, isn´t it?


 A goodbye picture with the trucker. Suerte!


 A wall picture of Salvador Allende, the famous leftist president of Chile who got killed in the coup in 1973 by the US-supported Pinochet who installed the dictatorship. The text says: 'I want to insist that, because the people is the government, it is possible that today we say that the copper will be of the Chileans.´  


 The nice church of San Pedro de Atacama, built in adobe.



 Valle de la Muerte, a few kilometers from San Pedro.


 Pukara de Quitor. These are the remains of a pre-inca fortress.




 Valle de la Muerte (Valley of Death.) Actually, the original name was 'Valle the la Marte', Vally of Mars, which makes more sense because of the red colour.



 Some horse riders in Valle de la Muerte. As if you´re inside a western movie!


 Strange rock formations in Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon).



 The three Marias in Valle de la Luna. One of them (on the left) was destroyed by a tourist.  


 Valle de la Luna at sunset. 


 The bell tower of Toconao, a village at 35km of San Pedro. 


 With some local workers who dropped me off at the lagoons with the flamingos. Very friendly people who invited me to dinner and breakfast.



 Flamingos in plain action!







 Valle de Jere, a green oasis in the desert at 2 km of Toconao. A great place to relax and have a barbecue, as I did with Gilles and Lorena. 


 Another sunset ...


The centre of Toconao.


 The beautiful village of Peine lies at the foot of the mountains, overlooking the salt plain.


Pre-inca ruins near the village of Peine.


 In the surroundings of Peine.


 The almost absurd colours of the sunset in Peine; one of the most colourful ones I´ve seen in my life!


 Same sunset, other direction ...


 The cosy little church of Peine right after sunset.


 During a day´s walking in the salt plains aorund Peine.


 In the small ponds water rises to the surface. You wouldn´t expect it, but under the salt plain lies an undergroud lake. The salt is what remains after the water evaporates.


 Pre-inca wall paintings. If you look well, you´ll distinguish two heads. These paintings have to be studied in the light of shaman practises. A shaman was / is a sort of spiritual leader who tries to get closer to the gods by consuming drugs.


 Laguna Cejar, a mini dead sea. Yes, you can´t drown as you keep on floating.


 Me with a Brazilian motorcyclist and Gilles at the Cejar Lagoon. Look at the salt on my clothes!


 In Gilles´ house with (l-r) Lorena, his girlfiend, Gilles, Dorita (from Colombia, friend of Lorena) and me.


 One of the many, many geisers at Tatio, close to the Bolivian border. It was -9 degrees in the morning, just before the sun rose.




 A field of geisers.





 A geiser in full action!


 This geiser is called 'el matador', the killer, as four persons once got too close, fell in the boiling water ... and died.


 A hot water bassin close to the geisers. I am talking to one of the other persons in the tour. Enjoy and relax!


 Some vicuñas on the way back.


 100 per cent altiplano (high plain)! This is Chile, but could as well be Bolivia!


 The small village of Machuca on the way back to San Pedro ...


The small church of Machuca.


08:11 Gepost door Peter in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (1) |  Facebook |