We have just about recovered from 5 days camping in the driest desert in the world, although our bogies have remained on the crunchy side! Our route through the Atacama Desert in the North of Chile was not for the faint hearted, but overall it was an incredible life experience and Monicofamilytravels rose beautifully to all the challenges that came our way, and everyone pitched in with all the daily chores of camping life.
Our trusty steed was Diversity from WickedCampers. She colourfully represented our values and our sense of fun, and kept us safe for the duration of our mini-adventure. Sleeping in the rooftop tent was more than a bit like sardines, but technically we all fitted in. As the nights progressed we figured out that ‘prawns & shrimps’ worked best (ie head to tail) and it made a lot of difference how flat we were parked or we ended up in a grumpy heap in the corner!
Avoiding all the main tourist spots we took advantage of our freedom with Diversity to visit less well known natural landmarks, and camp away from civilisation. Sometimes this served us better than others, but it was beautiful regardless:
By day it was scorching, and by night the temperatures dropped to somewhere between 0 and -15 depending on our altitude. We figured out over time not to sleep above 3200M as that resulted in frost on the INSIDE of the tent, multiple bouts of altitude sickness and a 5am pack up and descend that was preferably not to be repeated. Other natural hazards included the wind (lots) dust devils (mini dust hurricanes – lots), and the sun (lots). Em rocked her own indubitable style to deal with whatever came her way:
The landscapes and colours were so spectacular it was hard to put the cameras away:
We visited some remote salt lagoons in the south of the salt flats that regular tourists rarely reach:
One day we bathed in a ‘hot’ stream – which was bliss until we had to dry off in gale force freezing winds.
Our highest point was this spectacular 4K M lake covered with flamingos which we reached via a 50KM off road track. The wind was howling up there, but its desolation only added to its beauty, and we managed to battle the gusts long enough to appreciate it for an hour or so before retreating to the safety of a descent in Diversity.
On the way up we saw some fabulous llamas which were gracious enough to stop and pose for us.
And some goats which were less amenable:
After one lovely picnic lunch spot by a picture postcard stream (and a game of ‘float and catch the flip flop’) we stumbled across the valley of the giant catcuses – there were some woppers to awe at:
For food we ended up cooking over our camp fire at night, before the obligatory chocolate bananas. Between us we managed some quite ambitious meals including chickpea and chorizo stew, and pork steaks with special fried rice. The fruit and veg we picked up was so spectacular, nothing more needed for lunch than a wrap with avocado and veggies stuffed inside. On the occasions when it all got to much (generally on the wind/dust front) I resorted to kiwi/yoghurt/granola……….topped with chopped marshmallows……….in the car.
I couldn’t blog about the desert without mentioning the sunsets. Whichever way we faced they were spectacular. I have about 1000 photos, but hear are 6 of the best:
And to the stars! 2 of the 4 nights we had a complete 360 view. Orion was always our first find, then Mars, but we had also learned a fair bit at a stargazing / telescope tour before setting out, so from identifying Orion’s shield, to finding Taurus, Pegasus and the great dog Cerberus (with bright Sirius in his collar) we had more to spot, and fun to be had with the stargazing apps on our devices. Probably our most exciting view was the Megellanic Clouds: 2 dwarf sister galaxies which orbit the Milky Way.
There wasn’t much in the way of wildlife – it was too dry. One of our camping spots in the Tambilla woods was festooned with dragon flies dancing around us. We saw the occasional tiny lizard, and plenty of llamas and donkeys and goats as we hit the higher altitudes, but that was literally it other than the flamingos. Despite all the hardships of the desert we got a full respite from mosquitos!
We took a fabulous hike on our last morning through canyons and dry river beds:
Our final hurrah was to get our WickedCamping ‘shot’…….its de rigueur to pose naked with your Wicked Vehicle apparently. Slightly hot business!
On our return it was hard to say goodbye to darling Diversity, but oooooooo that shower was good. Rivers of mud ran off us, but it was nice to be able to brush my hair again without a sledgehammer!