Day 26 Humberstone


I booked us a rental car so we could go to Humberstone for the morning. The Thrifty was a few blocks away and we picked up our little car.


It’s manual (neither of us has driven a manual for almost 3 years) and they drive on the wrong side of the road here and almost every street is a one way street.

We make our way out of town and up the dunes. It boggles my mind slightly they manage to put major roads on a sand dune.


We arrive at Humbrstone and get to wander around. It’s a deserted mining town that used to refine saltpeter (sodium nitrate) that is now an UNESCO site. The place is quite massive.


It’s an interesting illustration how a town built by one industry completely collapses. Chile used to supply 62% of the worlds supply until 1929 when the Germans development of the synthesis of ammonia which led to the industrial production of fertilizers. 30 years later works were abandoned and by 1970, even after much modernisation it was a complete ghost town.


It gives you an idea how they related job to living conditions. General workers were assigned tiny living quarters.


That had to fit a whole family.


Supervisors were assigned much larger quarters with 140 m2 of living and outdoor space.


Many of the building have deteriorated over time with the iron roof full of holes


or hardly any iron left at all.


Everything has this rusted, dilapidated look to it it would be a good set for a post apocalyptic movie.



The place hasn’t got many other people during the weekday (advantage of not taking a tour) so you feel like you’re the only one there.


Lots of bits of old machinery are still there.


The administration building looks like a grand plantation home.


Lots of trains around to transport.


Key bits of infrastructure still in place (and held up by many wires and concrete)


After awhile you start to feel like you’re going to need a tetnus shot when you get home.


There’s nails, wire, rusty old ladders and big holes everywhere.


Cart and fake horse remenants.


A grand theatre. This thing was massive!

Take back the car and after some google translating we confirm we’re done with the car. The Thrifty lady seems most amused at either we’re done in half a day or the fun of dealing with non-Spanish speakers.

Last real day of holidays. Tomorrow we head home on flight number 9,10 and 11. It’ll take us about 30hrs to get home so I’m sure we’ll be exhausted by then.

Day 25 – EarthQuake


After a good sleep-in after yesterday’s long bus trip we went for a wander around the town and to look for some lunch.


There’s a long ‘boardwalk’ along the coast. There’s a bunch of construction going on all along here which I’m guessing is getting ready for summer. They’re adding some nice timber walkways and other paths. It’s going to look pretty cool when it’s done. So you have a big main street with multi-lane divided, then a separated bike path, then what looks like it could be a running track (bouncy bitumen) then a tiled walkway, then a timber walkway.


There’s a bunch of high-rise and residential all packed between the water the the giant dunes behind.


After being in San Predro where you were spoilt for choice for restaurants every step you took, we walked for what seemed like hours till we finally stumbled onto this cool restaurant with great food and service with a nice view of the water.


After some food had a bit of a relax in the hotel and all a sudden it felt like the room was moving and then it was definitely moving and I could see the powerlines out the window swaying.

I’m pretty sure we just felt an earthquake. So I jumped straight on the USGS site and hit refresh every few minutes until my suspicion was confirmed – a 5.4 100 k away. You can see the details here. I was a good citizen scientist and contributed to the “Did You Feel It” section.

Then we booked a car for tomorrow as I want to check out the nearby Ghost-town but can’t bear another tour. On the way to dinner we checkout where the carhire place is, grab a few snacks and get some food.

Day 24 The Wheels on the Bus Go Round…


2Today we say goodbye to the canyons and desert as it is our bus trip to Iquique. We arrived nice and early at the bus stop at San Pedro de Atacama.1

The bus arrived, we put our luggage on, found our seat and off on the long straight road to Calama.


We were upstairs and right at the front which is cool but not so cool when you get into town and see how close they get to bikes, cars, powerlines etc.

We had a 20 min gap between buses and when we arrived there was only one bus but it was being worked on …hmm.

Another bus pulls up 15 mins later but it’s not going to Iquique and the broken bus pulls off…hmm….now there’s no buses but lots of people. I’m starting to think we’re going to spend the night in Calama and I don’t speak Spanish.

A lady come out and says says something about Iquique. People don’t seem angry or walk off so that can’t be too bad. A bus pulls up labeled Iquique but it’s for a different bus company. A bunch of people look like they run inside and buy a ticket for that bus …hmm.

45 mins later an unmarked bus pulls up and the driver gets out and mutters something about Iquique (I think this is out bus!) Ok..its our bus and an hour late we’re off to Iquique.

15 mins up the road we stop and sit for awhile. Then the driver comes back and says something about a mechanical issue so everyone gets out. It’s getting cold so we get back in.

Eventually everyone gets back in and I think they say something like we’re going back to Calama to change buses.


Back to the bus depot and we get on a different bus, move the luggage etc. and we’re off! For about 15meters to fill up the bus (you’d think they could have done this before we got there).

And we’re off again…2.5hours late. After a long drive we finally get to Iquique and we get ripped by the cabbie but I don’t care as it’s after midnight and I’m tired.

Day 24–ANZ Outage and Bus Change Fun


Sleep-in after yesterday. Tomorrow we head off but not till 9:30pm and have to check out at 12 so we’re trying to find options to keep us amused. Then I notice we could get an alternate bus but it’s not “direct”. We can’t book online which is really odd.

So we pop out for lunch and card doesn’t work…hmm…that’s not good. Try other card…fail…now that’s really not good. 3rd card lucky and tada!

Once we get back to the hotel it seems ANZ has decided to have all their systems off line for 6hours..which is fine in Aus when you’re asleep between midnight and 6am but for people travelling it’s really bad. See lots of people on social media unable to rent cars, pay for hotels etc.

So we decide to go to the bus terminal to change our ticket…but it’s closed. They shut between 1 and 4.


So John gets a bike and goes riding while I have the exciting task of trying to change our tickets.


He’s sussing out the canyon I wanted to see


and finding the bits that I’m not going to want to do.

The lady at the bus place doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish. Trying to explain I want to turn my San Pedro –> Iquique ticket at 9:30pm to a San Pedro –> Calama and a Calama –> Iquique ticket at 2pm tomorrow is quite challenging.

It’s lucky I’m really stubborn as eventually my perseverance paid off and I actually have the tickets we want.


I did a bit of shopping as there’s a few woolen things here


plus this guy that I really wanted but he was $70 AUS which I just couldn’t bring myself to pay.

Day 23–Tour Day

0V7C1001Today was a long day. We did a big tour of some of the main sites.


First main stop was at the old bell tower and we saw the nun from the church across the road climb the ladder and ring it.


Next up Tropic of Capricorn.


Pass some vicunas.


Next we arrived at some beautiful lagoon. We’re up really high now but the vegetation increases as we go higher.


The tour company supplied jackets but we almost didn’t take them up on it. Boy was I glad we did.


The wind here was so cold!


Stop at Red Rocks.


Great contrast between the red volcanic rocks and the frozen salt pans. The wind here was insane!


So cold and so strong I really struggled to close the door of the car.


Finally the salt pan.

0V7C1037It’s home to lots of flamingoes


which looks pretty cool with the volcanoes as a backdrop.


Finally we watched the sunset and the mountains get lit up by the setting sun.


Then back to the hotel to crash after 12 hours of driving around! Amazing contrasts of landscape but boy am I wiped!

Day 22 Checking Out the Desert

s2Saturday morning we had a bit of a sleep in after lots of travel it starts to catch up with you. We have the biggest bed I’ve ever seen. It’s like sleeping in a bed by yourself the other person is so far away and we’re used to sleeping in a King.


The afternoon was a bit of an explore.


Closed gates, avalanches and going to the wrong entry. I found a cool looking canyon you can ride through but found out after we took the bikes back it was further up..doh.


John made a new friend.

Day 20-21 Journey to the Driest Place on Earth


This morning we were feeling a bit drained from 3 days being tossed around a 4WD and we had a big journey ahead so we slept in, found the 24h House channel and generally chilled. In the afternoon we said good-bye to Quito and started our 24hr journey to San Pedro de Atacama.


We started with a 1hr drive to the airport, then flight 6,7 and 8 of our trip. Quito to Lima, a 1hr or so wait in Lima then Lima to Santiago where we had 6hr wait. We found the domestic lounge and made use of their comfy seats and I fell asleep. Then Santiago to Calama. There’s literally nothing in this town other than the airport and a giant minesite.

d1 So then a 1hr shuttle bus to San Pedro.


Looks like a few renewable projects going on also as we passed a big solar farm and then a bunch of wind turbines. Checked into our hotel and found a place to hire some bikes and booked a Sunday tour. Not too shabby on hardly any sleep.