Provincia de El Loa

Here you’ll find travel reports about Provincia de El Loa. Discover travel destinations in Chile of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

135 travelers at this place:

  • Day5

    Gourmet Food in Atacama

    February 19 in Chile

    This post is for the foodies.

    After a long day, we decided to head to the “best restaurant” in San Pedro de Atacama. It is called Baltinache, and it is just outside of town. I assure you that no one would just happen upon this place, as it is down a bunch of desolate streets, in the middle of nowhere. But, with my trusty guide at my side, we ventured on. When we finally found the place, they asked if we had a reservation, which was surprising, as the place was pretty empty. As we waited, we noticed that many of the tables had signs on them, which we concluded meant that the tables were reserved. But, they found us a table.

    We started with a Pisco Sour Rica Rica. This is a Chilean Pisco Sour (no egg whites), which is sprinkled with rica rica, which is a green plant that grows locally. Quite yummy and refreshing.

    Next, we had some type of local biscuit, and a mixture of tomatoes, garlic, onions — rather like a salsa. it is served everywhere, and people usually put butter on the bread first. Imagine a bruschetta, but without the grilling.

    The rest of the menu was essentially fixed, with two options for each of three courses.

    For the first course we both choose a quinoa salad, which had smoked salmon, goat cheese, and small pieces of apples and pickles. It looked beautiful, but there was just too much going on. The pickles, in particular, were totally out of place.

    For the second course, we choose two options. Arie had pork ribs, with chimicurri sauce and roasted potatoes. The ribs were overdone, and a little bland. I had fish kebabs with three kinds of fish, puréed pumpkin, and fava beans. It was served with a mustard sauce that had some type of fruit (I didn’t catch the type.). It was tasty, although one kind of fish would have been sufficient.

    For dessert, Arie had a Bavarian cream with “red fruit” (berries). It was quite refreshing. I had a brownie, with a quinoa caramel filling — it was terrible (dry and tasteless).

    The service was kind, but inattentive, which is par for the course in Chile.

    But, the total bill, including drinks and service was $60. All in all, not bad for a little place in the middle of the desert.
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  • Day5

    Late last night we arrived in the Atacama Desert — which required a two hour flight from Santiago, and then a drive of an an hour and a half.

    The flight was actually interesting, as the vast majority of the passengers were men from the age of 20-50. It seems that the city of Calama, into which you fly, is very near a large copper mine. The men work shifts of 7-10 days, and then fly home to be with their families. I suspect that the job probably pays well, but the life is likely brutal.

    The drive to San Pedro de Atacama was unremarkable, as it was basically dark for the most of the drive. As we arrived in the “town,” I was surprised at how basic it was — adobe buildings, and dirt roads. A paved street is a relative rarity. The whole reason for the town’s existence is to give tourists access to the incredible natural wonders in the area, as the Atacama Desert is one of the driest locations on earth.

    We are staying a nice hotel called Terrrantai, just off the center of the town. Actually, in any other location, the hotel would have seemed wildly overpriced for what you got. But, given that everything needs to be shipped in, and the town is very small, a quiet place to rest, on comfortable beds, with a wine and cheese hour seems beyond civilized!

    In the morning, we rose before dawn, as we were being picked up at our hotel between 6:30 and 7:00 am. The van arrived at 6:45, and we boarded with a dozen other people who looked bleary-eyed, but excited. Thus began our 12 hour journey into the desert.

    We started at Salar de Atacama, which is the second largest salt flat in the world — 200 kilometers by 90 kilometers. It beautiful, in a moonscape sort of way. It is also the home to both Chilean and Andean Flamingos. You can tell the difference between the two because the Andean flamingos walk in a straight line and dredge up the water and disturb the brine shrimp that they eat, while the Chilean flamingos walk in a circle. Of course, the Chileans say that their flamingos “dance!” In either case, the flamingos are beautiful, and if you are fortunate enough to see them fly, they are stunning. (I must admit, the sight of the flamingos was not as stunning as when Ogen took us to see flamingos outside of Merida, Mexico, but it was still pretty cool.).

    After staring at the flamingos, we walked through the salt fields. The ground looks like snow, rather than salt, but I assure you that a small taste of the crystals confirms that it is salt.

    Then, our tour guide fed us a lovely breakfast of bread,cheese and avocados. So much for avocado toast being the province of hipsters and foodies!
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  • Day5

    After leaving the Salt Flats, we got back in the van and wound our way further into the Andes. As you climb in altitude, the thin air makes you incredibly tired. I had a hard time keeping my eyes open, as did many of the other passengers in the van. So, I have no idea whether we drove 10 minutes or an hour . . .

    But, our next stop was Aguas Caliente, which was a large body of water which is apparently shallow and not hot at all. At some point in time it was hot, however, as it was fed by some type of hot spring. The view was both beautiful and desolate.

    We continued to wind our way into the mountains, stopping at various vistas to admire the view. And, after quite a few hours in the van, we arrived at Laguanas Miscanti and Mineques — two large bodies of fresh water that are fed by melted snowfall from the volcanic peaks directly behind them. We got out of the van, and our guide said that we had the option of hiking from one lake to another, or walking around a bit and then driving to the second lake. Everyone opted to walk, as the guide said that it was only 40 minutes, and that only one part of the walk was a bit of a hill. Of course, what he neglected to mention is that we were at almost 14,000 feet. So, while the distance was trivial, the air is incredibly thin. (According to my own personal Dr. Science, there is 40% less oxygen at this elevation than at sea level. From a practical perspective, the air feels thick and your lungs burn with even the most minor exertion.). The walk was incredibly beautiful, but most of us walked very slowly, particularly on the uphill slope! Thank goodness that we had the excuse of taking pictures, as that gave everyone an opportunity to also catch their breath.

    After our stroll, we were treated to lunch al fresco — bread, cheese, sliced meats, tomatoes, cucumbers and smoked mussels. Arie and I like the smoked mussels, which they eat with a squeeze of fresh lemon!

    We then headed down the mountain. But, our guide had one more stop — the sign marking the Tropic of Capricorn. At this point you are on same latitude as Sahara Desert and the Australian outback. I got a real kick out of taking Arie’s picture at the sign.
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  • Day6

    To truly understand the town, you have to walk the streets and understand the demographics. The town is almost 2 hours from Calama, which is not a thriving metropolis, but is a mining town. Calama is the nearest hospital, so residents in San Pedro will tell you that no babies are born in San Pedro.

    The natural wonders of the Atacama Desert were introduced to the world by a Belgian Priest, in the 1970s. However, Pinochet took over Chile in 1972, and privatized many of the sites, like the salt flats which were mined for salt. The growth of the town began around 1990.

    The sole reason for San Pedro to exist is tourism. Approximately 5000 people live in town, and they all service they tourist industry — as shopkeepers, hotel workers, and tour guides. Everyone that we met was from someplace else in Chile and mostly they are pretty young (under 40). The tour guides are predominantly male (one of the guides told me that the ratio is 70/30, but we didn’t encounter a single woman who worked for a tour company who was doing anything other than office work.). I suspect that being a guide is a pretty appealing life for someone who likes to be outside, and is gregarious. Working in a shop . . . Not so much.

    The town itself is small, and you can walk through it in less than 30 minutes. Mostly it is filled with hostels, a few nice hotels (like where we stayed) and some super high end resorts ($1000 per day, all inclusive, with tours). And, many tour guide outfits and restaurants.

    The streets are mostly unpaved and dusty. There are stray dogs everywhere, which is actually a “thing” in Chile, as there are no leash laws or prohibitions against abandoning dogs. There are street lights on wooden pole, which sometimes work. Really, there is not much to recommend the town, other than being a gateway to the beautiful sights of the Chilean Andes.
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  • Day6

    In the afternoon we took a tour that featured beautiful vistas, hiking, climbing down enormous sand dunes, and a nice sunset.

    First stop was Piedra del Coyote, which features a rock overhang that looks like it comes from the roadrunner/coyote cartoons. Unfortunately, an earthquake has recently cracked the rock, so you are no longer allowed to walk out on the ledge. But, I thought that the real point of interest was the incredible vistas. From this plateau, you can see at least a dozen peaks in the Andes. Most of these are extinct volcanos, although a few have been active in the last ten years. The nearest peak is Lican Cadbur. The farthest peak that you can see is Llullaillaco (the “ll” is pronounced liked a “j”), which is 143 miles way and the second highest active volcano in the world. Even though it is 143 miles away, it seems much closer, which is due to both the geography (very flat between here and the peak) and the crystal clear air quality.

    Second stop was Mars Valley, which is also called Death Valley. This is a valley, which has been caused by erosion. You start at a road beyond the edge of the valley and hike up to the rim. Again, while the distance is relatively trivial, the thin air makes the “hike” a bit of a challenge. (One of our group actually had some altitude sickness, which made me feel lucky to only be suffering from shortness of breadth.). Once you get to the top, you hike around the rim and admire the vistas.

    As we walked, we also had a chance to see an Apacheta, which is an Incan pile of stones in honor of the Patcha Mama (Mother Earth). These Apachetas marked the Inca trail, which wound from town to town throughout the empire. As a traveler came to a pile, the traveler spit out his chewed coca leaves onto the pile of rocks (some of the Apachetas still have green leaves visible), picked up a stone, circled the pile three times and then laid down the stone. Laying the stone down brought the traveler’s life force to the stone pile.

    After walking for about 30 minutes, we climbed over the ledge into an enormous sand dune. According to Dr. Science, the dune slopes down 200 meters, which is the equivalent of a 20 story building. A few hardly souls ran down. The rest of us did a fast walk, which was actually incredibly fun. By the time I hit the bottom, my shoes were filled with sand, and there was an enormous grin on my face.
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  • Day6

    Valley of the Moon

    Yesterday in Chile

    Last stop of the day was the Valley of Moon, to see the sunset.

    Our first stop in the park (yep, Chile has its own system of National Parks, but there is no blue book and no stamp at each location) was the Three Marias. These are three stone formations that the Belgian priest thought looked like Maria. I could explain why, but even with an explanation you’d have to be a true believer. And, one of the formations was knocked over by a tourist who got too close, so now there are only 2-1/2 Marias. Honestly, a whole lot of nothing. Although I did enjoy the formation to the left, which is called “Pac-Man,” for obvious reasons.

    We then walked through the valley, and saw a formation known as the “amphitheater.” Very beautiful. Of course, the ever present Andes are in the background, with their snow covered peaks.

    We then hiked up to the top of a rim, to see the sunset. There were 100s of other people around, camped out on the ledge, anxiously waiting to see the sun fall behind the mountains. It is a funny site to see so many people perched at the edge of a cliff! The sunset was lovely, and the reflection on the hills behind was even prettier. I particularly liked seeing clouds descend on the mountain peaks, like little sombreros.

    The end of another long, but lovely day.
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  • Day42

    450 km stehen auf dem Programm, von Colchani nach Calama. Es prasselt erneut die halbe Nacht auf das Wellblechdach des Hotels (wenn man es als solches bezeichnen mag). Internet ist weg, Dusche ist kalt, Frühstück um 6 Uhr nicht fertig, trotzdem Abfahrt um 7 Uhr. Selbst, wenn wir eine durchschnittliche Geschwindigkeit von 50 km/h erreichen, bedeutet das 9 Stunden reine Fahrzeit. Plus Grenzübergang von Bolivien nach Chile. Plus keine exakte Information darüber, wie die Anteiligkeiten "mud", "gravel" und "paved" sein werden.

    Wir starten dick angezogen bei 6 Grad. Die ersten Pfützen sind tief, aber gut fahrbar. Doch schon nach zwanzig km wird die Piste zur seifigen Schlammfahrt. Marc erwischt es hart, er dreht eine Pirouette, verbiegt sich Koffer und Seitenspiegel, tut sich aber zum Glück nicht weh. Zu viert richten wir sein Bike wieder auf, er ist hart im Nehmen, weiter geht es. Martins Schutzblech schüttelt sich los, ein entgegenkommender Jeep saut ihn tüchtig ein, aber seine stets gute Laune kann nichts erschüttern. Erst nach etwa 150 km trocknet die Piste ab, und nach weiteren 100 km erreichen wir die Grenze zu Chile mitten in einer Vulkanlandschaft, die in Europa mehrere Nationalparks und touristischen Hochbetrieb begründen würde. Doch hier sind wir stundenlang mehr oder weniger allein unterwegs. Und genießen es - genau ab der Grenze - die restlichen 200 km auf wunderbarem Asphalt (großartige Erfindung!) zu cruisen.

    Ein paar Landschaftsbilder findet Ihr in diesem Footprint, aber sie sind nur eine ungenügende Widergabe des Liveerlebnis. Denn man kann sich an dieser Landschaft einfach nicht satt sehen.
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  • Day43

    Wie der Name schon sagt: Unser heutiges Ziel, San Pedro de Atacama, liegt in der Küstenwüste Atacama, in deren Zentrum es manchmal jahrelang nicht regnet. Wir nutzen die frühe Ankunft, um einen Nachmittagsausflug in das "Valle de la Luna" zu machen. Die Mischung aus Dünen, Dürre und Salzverkrustung vermittelt tatsächlich den Eindruck einer Mondlandschaft. Und auch wenn es sich auf den Fotos einsam darstellt - es beginnt hier in Chile - im Vergleich zu den bisher bereisten Ländern - etwas touristischer zu werden. Auch andere Dinge fallen auf: Es gibt Wifi, große Tankstellen und kaum mehr Straßenhändler. Das korrespondiert zu einem 4mal höheren BIP pro Kopf im Vergleich zu Bolivien.

    Und übrigens: Warmes Wasser gibt es in Chile auch, in den Duschen und auf 4.400 m Höhe, denn vormittags fahren wir eine Schleife über ein Geysir-Gebiet names El Tatio. Es ist nicht gerade Yellowstone, schon gar nicht was die Besucherzahlen anbelangt, aber es sprudelt und dampft in der Hexenküche durchaus ordentlich. Vor allem aber gibt uns der "Umweg" (macht das Wort Umweg auf Reisen überhaupt Sinn?) erneut die Gelegenheit, weite Hochebenen und herrliche Vulkanlandschaften zu betrachten.

    Beim Schreiben fällt mir auf, dass wir im Moment mehr Landschafts- als Menschenbegegnungen haben. Das könnte für den geneigten Leser langweilig werden, denn man verliert schnell die Geduld, wenn andere von Landschaften schwärmen, die man selbst nicht direkt erlebt. Deswegen erst einmal genug für heute und herzliche Grüße in die Heimat!
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  • Day94

    Glück im Unglück

    February 11 in Chile

    Unser Weg hat uns weiter in die Wüste geführt, aber auch auf Höhenlagen bis 4600m. Ein hoch Platon zu Übungszwecken für die Lagunen Route.
    Bei der Abfahrt Richtung San Pedro de Atacama hab ich es dann geschafft meinen Tank Schutz etwas zu deformieren. Dieser Zwischenfall verlangte dann auch die Demontage des selbigem was uns ca. 30 Minuten Arbeit und Zeit auf ca. 4300m Höhe gekostet hat. Als ich gerade fertig war und mich meiner dreckigen Klamotten entledigt hatte über holte uns ein Koreanisches Pärchen wie sich später herausstellen sollte. Nichts desto trotz fuhren wir weiter vorbei an Atem berauben den Anden Panoramen, Lagunen mit Flamingos und Alpacas. Kleine Dörfchen mit Lehmhütten und wieder diese Berg Panoramas. Der Straßenzustand war für uns ganz Ok obwohl man aufpassen musste mit der Geschwindigkeit und den Wasser Durchfahrten( welche auch schuld an dem Tank Schutz Zwischenfall). Weiter unseres Weges kamm dann das Glück welches sich nur durch unseren Zwischenstopp zu tragen konnte. Eben jenes Pärchen in ihrem Pickup war von der Strasse abgekommen hatte sich über schlagen und hoffe auf Hilfe mitten im Off. Erst begriffen wir nicht was passiert war doch als wir sie sahen Blut über strömt wussten wir das hier Hilfe benötigt wurde.
    Diese leisteten wir mit bestem gewissen uns wissen und brachten Sie und Ihn dann die 50km in die nächste Stadt, alles mit einer Angemessenen Geschwindigkeit den die Kopfwunde die sie hatte war nicht einfach mit einem Verband behoben das sahen wir, und wussten das das Ärztliche Aufmerksamkeit bedarf. Wir sind nun in San Pedro de Atacama auf einem Campingplatz mitder Gewissheit das die dame in ein Krankenhaus gekommen ist. Wir wurden noch kurz von der Polizei befragt dan durften wir gehen, ungeachtet der Verstöße die ich beging wobei hupen und beschimpfen noch die netteren Dinge waren.
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  • Day146

    Stop Over in San Pedro de Atacama

    December 22, 2017 in Chile

    We had originally planned to stay a little while in the north of Chile but a tour of the Bolivian salt flats became available and we took up the opportunity. This meant hot-footing it across to San Pedro de Atacama, a small town 240 kilometres east of Antofagasta and forty minutes from the Bolivian border. The town has a very different look and feel to the rest of Chile, largely because this was once part of Bolivia in the nineteenth century. It still has a nineteenth century feel to it with dirt roads, mud-brick houses and only a few street lights.

    We also noticed the change in altitude, as San Pedro sits at 2403 metres above sea-level. As soon as we got off the bus, we felt that we couldn't breathe as easily, and any physical exertion left us out of breath. So when we got lost trying to find our hostel, we were less than thrilled. Not only had we been travelling all day but we desperately wanted to find our accommodation before we collapsed, as we walked at a snail's pace, carrying our 15kg backpacks. We were also fast running out of time and daylight to get supplies and money for the three-day tour of the Bolivian salt flats the next day.

    We found the correct street of our hostel but trying to find the correct property wasn't so easy. The street seemed to go for miles from one side of town to the other. Normally hiking across town wouldn’t be a problem but with the change in the altitude and lack of sleep, the task seemed to be defeating us. Eventually, we were pointed in the right direction, which meant traversing back through familiar territory to get to our destination. We had changed directions because it appeared that the numbering of the houses were increasing. Who would have guessed that 19a came after 590!

    We had little time to explore San Pedro, although it felt like we had already walked all over the small town. While the town only has a population of about 4000 people, the population swells with tourists who are either about to go on a tour of the salt flats, like us, or have just finished a tour. We knew that we would have very little access to modern comforts, including clean, fresh water so we needed to stock-up. The small shops in San Pedro were no bigger than a broom closet with a small number of items on their selves. Once we had our supplies for our tour, we then needed to mentally prepare ourselves for 3 days without internet! We were also a bit worried about how we might handle a further increase in altitude. We were reassured that the tour guide would be carrying coca leaves, which would assist with altitude sickness. Nevertheless, images of mountaineers being pulled from mountains half-dead ran through our minds. Will the next stop be our last stop?

    Next stop: Salar de Uyuni and Uyuni.

    For video footage, see:
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Provincia de El Loa

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