After the adventure.
The days pass by after the Bolivia adventure, and soon the friends leave in all directions, too soon, while I am left in San Pedro de Atacama with a ton of work. All the Google map apps stuff on my site needs changing as Google released an update, deprecated the old version, to somebody who is not a programmer like myself such an event hits hard. On top the usual photos and videos need editing, the stories writing, that keeps me busy during the day. Else I am doing not much for 3 weeks, just like the tranquility of the wild west. When late afternoon the strong thermal winds transform this desert town into a little dust bowl, and this happens everyday around 6-ish, it is time to relocate to Chela Cabur Pub, a very local affair and many times I stay till closing at 1. Later nothing goes here, then this town is dead and even I head to my hostel for some sleep till early dawn when I am back to 3 cups of Nescafe and the computer.
The Sundays, come and go, my birthday comes and goes; I turn 48 without much fanfare, Christmas comes and goes, I am alone and happy. Once I head out and get to see Valley de Luna in white haze, once Valley de Muerto and its dunes and cliffs in mellow light and horses and riders and quart-bikes, just before sunset, once the steaming and erupting amazing Geysers de Tatio north on a cold early morning after a freezing night on 4,300m, once Garganta de Diablo and I understand why it is called the devils throat. Once I bemoan the killings and be-headings in Pucara Quito of Atacameños by the Catholic Spaniards and see the women who jumped from the cliffs with babies, in my minds eye, once I drive out into the Atacama desert to wonder the formation of the Ojos del Salare, the eyes in the salt, just salt water filled holes in the flat ground. On 25th the last group of Israelis moves out of my ghostly, friendly, so quiet and optimal for work hostel, but as summer holidays are starting, this all will change soon and transform Pedro into a lively and busy jet-set; it is high time for me to say Goodbye.
The Atacama desert a bit south and the lagunas between.
On 26th of December I find my work to be done and good, I drive south and up the altiplano east, where every mountain is a volcano and those who don't look like ones are ones too, the lava here is never far, and who knows which one blows up next. High altitude lagunas are nested in between them, and Miscanti and Miñiques, the two I bother to see are precious, the Guanacos grace at the shores, some Andean gulls come close and hope for tourist food, I stay for night and watch the change in colors before an almost full moon rises on 4,200m.
There is this picture I take of one of the last trees as I drive out into the salt desert, as I figure that this might be the last tree and then I see a stump at a road crossing and think, yes there must have been trees before.
Lagunas Miscanti and Miñiques.
Road over Salare de Atacama.
After a cold night I leave the Andean mountains, cross the white of the Salare de Atacama, its rough structured surface is so different from Uyuni's, the salt rock sculptures rise a meter high from the ground over the whole of the flats.
Around Atofagasta, La Portada.
The desert stretches all the way to the coast and I reach lively Atofagasta, the bird colonies of La Portada cliffs, the beach of Juan Lopez, and the barking fishermen dogs in La Constitucion that make sure I don't stay for night.
Atofagasta down to La Serena.
It is not warm on the beach in Atofagasta, still thanks to the Humboldt current; no stretch of coast since the north of Peru has been warm so-far, so no change since winter, which I had hoped for. Parking in Atofagasta would cost me 40USD a day, so I am headed on, south, and hug the coast on rough sandy roads, the water heater breaks and deprives me of coffees in the morning, I survive on one meal a day and it might be just an empanada, but beer at night gives me strength. I have a pre New Year's binge with Huasceños on the 30th in a local deep-down-and-dirty bar in Huasco. On 31st I reach La Serena, just shortly before a U-joint break brings down my cardan shaft, and the brave Chevy van ends 2012 in the garage, and it is in La Serena that I have left 5,000kms of desert coast behind me.