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  • Day15

    Chilean highlands

    January 18, 2018 in Chile ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

    It took a little convincing from Jeff, but we took an excursion into the Chilean Highlands yesterday. My hesitation came from the fact that it was a 3 hour ride each way to an elevation of 12,000 feet. Now come on, we’ve all seen those pictures of buses dropping off roads in South America, but I must admit that it was a pretty decent road. That certainly did not take away from the drama of the incredible landscape.
    This area of Chile is just south of the border from Peru and the Bolivian border is just to the east - Chile is skinny like a chili pepper! This region has a population density of 1 person per 30 square kilometers and that includes the city of Arica which is 160,000. In other words, it is pretty desolate. By the way, the second largest town is population 1,000. It is also the second driest populated place on earth at 1/2 millimeter of rain per year-that isn’t even what we would call a trace!
    In 1868, a magnitude 9 earthquake struck the area killing 70,000 people. Between the earthquake and the ensuing 2 tsunami waves (the second one was 90’ high), the city was literally reduced to rubble, the waves then washing everything away, including any remaining foundations.
    We saw some fabulous geoglyths that are about 170’ tall and we’re done between 100BC and 1500AD. There is very little know about why they were done, but they have found around 17,000 of them throughout this region.
    As we were driving into the Andes mountains on a 2 lane road, passing other vehicles in our bus, our guide mentioned that they experience earthquakes here about once per week! It took everything I had not to ask if the last one was yesterday or a week ago.
    We drove through an incredibly dry valley that was followed by a more lush area that looked up at 2 snow-capped dormant Taapaca volcanoes. The town of Putre, founded in 1580, lies in a shallow valley at about here at 12,000’ of elevation. There’s not too much air to breathe here!
    We had a wonderful lunch at the Canta Verde which served Pebre which is the Chilean version of what we would call Pico de Gallo. Jeff enjoyed it more than everyone else and they brought him an additional plate of it! They use it as a condiment for soups, meat and bread. Also, I was searching for a bathroom and was excited to recall my high school Spanish class to say “Donde esta el bano?” What a thrill - I was speaking fluent Spanish!
    We have 2 sea days before arriving in Valparaiso, Chile for some Chilean wine-tasting. Our captain has informed us that the waves are building and there will be some “pitching and groaning” tomorrow. Never a dull moment!
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