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ruta del desierto
Written by sophie et jeremy   
Sunday, 01 April 2018

Surprisingly, the well-named « ruta del desierto » starts for us long the ocean, between beaches, cactus and sand dunes. We'll see later that it runs all along the northern third of Chile as we won't leave it for the next 3 weeks.

route du desert 1 route du desert 1 route du desert 2 route du desert 2

Leaving the coast around Copiapo on an hair-pinned highway, we head east, to Argentina, via the famous paso San Franscico : 400 kilometers of desert, canyons, colored mountains and high snow-capped volcanoes and turquoise lagunas. On top of that, the road is pretty good, even if the fully loaded car is a bit slow in the climb because of the altitude. And all the life we'll meet is a few wild animals.

San Franscico San Franscico San Franscico 8 San Franscico 8

San Franscico 1 San Franscico 1 San Franscico 5 San Franscico 5

San Franscico 2 San Franscico 2 San Franscico 3 San Franscico 3

San Franscico 4 San Franscico 4 San Franscico 6 San Franscico 6

Once the border crossed, we stop in Fiambala, a thermal city where we enjoy the open air hot pools.

Fiambala Fiambala

We pass again on a short stretch of ruta 40 we passed by already few months before, and we notice that the heavy rains of january have washed out some parts of the road and have added to the desert landscape few green bushes. We then climb to the altiplano, for more than 1000km in self-sufficiency, as there won't be any water, fuel and very few villages and supplies there. We also will have to climb progressively as we will have to spend a few nights at more than 4000m of altitude.

altiplano 1 altiplano 1 altiplano 2 altiplano 2

altiplano 8 altiplano 8 altiplano 4 altiplano 4

For 5 days, we will be alone in the world, in a unrealistic landscape of salars, volcanoes, lagunas and colored rock formations.

altiplano 5 altiplano 5 altiplano 6 altiplano 6

altiplano 15 altiplano 15 altiplano 16 altiplano 16

Here, we'll meet only lamas and vicunas (their wild cousin), few flamingos and broken roads.

altiplano 9 altiplano 9 altiplano 10 altiplano 10

altiplano 11 altiplano 11 altiplano 12 altiplano 12

We also visit a disused mine and the attached ghost town, but what have stroked us the most was the « oros », some kind of multi colored circular water hole in the middle of the desert.

altiplano 7 altiplano 7 altiplano 3 altiplano 3

altiplano 13 altiplano 13 altiplano 14 altiplano 14

After a last stretch of road 40, certainly the most damaged of the country, we are back to Chile. For once, we cross the border without any fear as we have eaten all our fruits long ago. We are back of the desert road, which we will follow up to San Pedro de Atacama after an impressive straight downhill of 2000 meters in less than 30 kilometers.

altiplano 16 altiplano 16 altiplano 16 altiplano 16


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