Through the mountains to Ollague

ihana.com - big trip - diary - chile - april 2003

The usual dust cloud trails the landy

Rivers and mountains

Bits of a dead vicuña, still furry

Salty water

Thursday 24 April

We set off northwards from the geysers up a little-used dusty track winding its way through the stunning mountian scenery. Its slow going at this altitude, the landy just makes a bit more noise and pumps out loads of black smoke if the accelerator is pushed down too far, no change in velocity! The long climbs are taken in stride though, low box making things easy. We've been at over 4000m for a lot of the time recently, which saps energy making the body and mind feel tired and generally shabby.

Skirting the...

...stunning border area...

...between Chile and Bolivia

Almost 5000m up

Railway to Bolivia

Flamingoes on the Salar de Ascotan

This area is pretty deserted as most of the traffic transits the main road further to the west. Our map is reasonable enough to identify the main mountains and work out which bit of track leads between the peaks and to the border, with only a couple of wrong guesses. Every turn in the landscape leads to another awesome view, which means regular stops for photos and hundreds of pictures taken every day. Just after we passed our highest point of the whole trip, skirting yet another impressive peak, we happened upon two guys searching for a new water source for a mine 20kms away. They had tons of equipment including cameras which they lowered down a deep shaft to inspect the situation down below. They were well impressed with our travles but were not much help in confirming our whereabouts as they didn't even have a map, simply navigating to their work sites by use of GPS waypoints.

Not much traffic

Nearing Ollague

Volcan Ollague with sulphur vent on the right

Ollague

By late afternoon we rounded a corner to be greeted by the impressive view of Salar de Ascotan and knew we were nearly at the 'main' road (a slightly wider dirt track but with lorries and buses coming at you around the corners) for the last dash to the remote border post at Ollague. Passing salt processing camps, we followed the railway line into the town. The lowering sun casting a magnificent light over the ramshackle buildings, set off by the imposing volcano behind venting sulphur smoke. The aduana was found at the edge of town and after a struggle to wake the sleeping customs agent he stamped our passports and waved us on towards Bolivia.

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