For a week, (well, for Kirk three weeks) we explored the Atacama desert in the north of Chile. Kirk had work in the Salar de Atacama near the town of San Pedro. While Kirk drilled wells and met with some potential clients, I slowly made the 1500+ km journey up the coast with Scarleta.
The drive wound me along spectacular coastline and through some quaint towns, and I also witnessed the "flowering desert" which is a climatic phenomenon that normally occurs only in years with high rainfall, and usually in September through November. Earlier this year, this region of Chile I drove through experienced massive flooding, and despite the beauty of these fields of flowers, I also saw some unfortunate destruction.
We met up in the town of Calama (one of the driest cities in the world!) which is considered the “gateway to the geological and archaeological wonders of Chile’s high central desert,” a distinction that certainly rang true as we set off on our adventure. One of first areas we checked out was along the Rio Loa (the longest river in Chile). The petroglyphs in this region were amazing!
Next stop was the town of Caspana which sits at 3,264 meters above sea level. We were excited to check out some climbing potential and though we did find some, what was equally - if not more - impressive were the terraced farming systems (of Incan origin) and the dwellings and numerous petroglyphs in the canyon along the Rio Caspana.
Continuing along the road, we felt the affects of the altitude as we puttered over a 4000+ meter pass towards the Geysers del Tatio. Among the highest geyser fields in the world, these sit at an elevation of 4,320 meters.
Next up, we stopped in San Pedro de Atacama, a famous tourist town just north of the Salar de Atacama, Chile’s largest salar. We drove out to one of the lagoons, the Chaxa lagoon, right at sunset and caught perfect light to watch the flamingos and other birds feeding with a backdrop of 5,000+ meter snow covered volcanoes.
From here we drove a little farther south through the town of Socaire to check out a new climbing area. We found a beautiful and quiet canyon and enjoyed some of the established routes, and even opened a new route of our own. On our last morning there, we were met with clouds and hail (which made for a beautiful morning).
We both share a love of the desert and we were really glad to have been able to check out this region of Chile.