2018AnimalsChileLandscapesSouth America

Again over 4,500 vertical meters: The Chilean Altiplano with the Salar de Surire

We stayed for just one day on the Peruvian coast, so as not to lose our painful developed altitude acclimatization, because we will go back to extreme heights. After a tedious border crossing from Peru to Chile already the drive up from Arica through a wide strip of desert towards Bolivia is fascinating.

Shortly before the Bolivian border, we turn off to the Salar de Surire, which our Chilean friend René warmly recommended to us. And indeed: Compared to the sometimes quite busy lagoon route and the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, here we only see two cars in two days over a distance of 250 km of tracks. We can camp in fantastic scenery, under snow-covered 6,000 volcanoes, directly at the salar near to the flamingos. The weather also plays in our favor this time – luckily because the rainy season has taken its toll on the tracks, with washed-away bridges giving us some thrilling river crossings, and deep, but mostly dry mud ruts. We enjoy the loneliness, but the night at over 4,300 meters is unfortunately a torture – especially for Karin, who is also “suffering” the whole next day. The acclimatization has probably not stopped and we seem to have lost quickly our previous level. Therefore, we decide after a trip to the geysers of Pulchudiza (again in spectacular scenery, also without a human soul), to visit more healthy heights. In this region we would like to have stayed a few days longer.

We drive towards Iquique on the Chilean coast and quickly lose altitude. In every second curve, a car or truck is lying in the deep slopes. Maybe they will not be taken away as warning signals for more cautious driving. The night at only 1,800 meters allows us to sleep again.

The next day we drive to Iquique, the northernmost large city of Chile, which impresses with unique location (squeezed in between the Pacific Ocean and over 300 meters high dunes) and a colonial old town with many magnificent buildings of former, rich saltpeter barons. Once again we are impressed by the diversity of Chile and enjoy a stylish lunch by the sea, organize the transport of tires for Shujaa from the local forwarding warehouse to the MAN workshop and look for a safe and quiet place for the night. Iquique is due to its proximity to Peru and Bolivia one of the unsafest area in Chile with many burglaries also amongst Overlanders. Again, we have no problems and also the tire change and the service with filter changes for Shujaa at MAN the next day runs smoothly …. No problems are diagnosed and Shujaa has again fresh filters to breathe and drink, so we can leave Iquique in the afternoon. From now on we head north again along the Peruvian coast, with warm weather and no extreme heights.

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