Thursday, 21 October, 2010 – San Antonio de Los Cobres to Calama
I find San Antonio de Los Cobres quite a bleak place. Everything seems covered in dust carried here by an ever present wind. The high altitude (around 4,000 m) makes life more difficult, the only hotel in town is expensive both for accommodation and food. As soon as you set foot out of the door, there are people selling Andean craft work and children begging, although their number has reduced since 2008. Still, the town is a necessary step on the way from where we had come from to where we were going.
Not long after leaving S.A. del Los Cobres (as it is known on signposts) Juan spotted large globular plants to the left of the road, growing on rocks. Echinopsis (Lobivia) formosa! A very pretty, shaggy looking form of what used to be called Soehrensia. (S1944)
The remainder of the day was spent driving through flat plains surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the world, but only some 1,000 m higher than we were already. Llama, Alpaco and Guanaco were grazing peacefully, keeping us guessing at which was which. All images taken as we passed through the Pasa del Sico are filed under S1945. The SAG man (Ministry for Food & Ag.) was friendly and helpful in getting us to submit the paper work. A bonus! When we later arrived at the Immigration point at San Pedro de Atacama, the SAG man made everyone open their bags for a detailed inspection. As we already had the paper work stamped and approved, we could just pass through.
A quick stop to take a picture of an scenic church at Socaire turned out to take a bit longer than planned as we had picked up another puncture. We drove on carefully to San Pedro de Atacama, where they were once again selling Diesel at the only filling station in town. The tyre was repaired – we seem to have become expert at collecting nails, even if there is no building in progress anywhere near by.
The sun was setting as we entered Calama and eventually managed to find Hotel Quitor where we had stayed in 2007.