Following is the story of my trip across Chile, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina, please feel free to comment.
First, let me present you my travel mates:
Olivier (Oli), a French Canadian dreamer, is keen on his fiancée, wine, and safety. His typical phrase during the trip was: "Hostie c'est pas sécuritaire!" (Fuck, this isn't safe!)
My second ally, Gregory (Greg), is a French "tradi", who artfully combines a desire of new experiences, with a strong family way. His typical phrase was: "Eh les mecs, vous trouvez pas que je suis plus roux que d'habitude?" (no translation available...)
I kept a travel diaries , here is what I wrote on july, 8th (day 9), 2008:
"The weather is cloudy, the sea lays in front of us, the mountains split us from the civilized world, pelicans are swimming some meters away from the beach where I'm lying, the head on my dusty backpack. At the foreground, I see my foots, dressed with plasters, and... a lizard just passed through my leg!... We can see some sea-lions appearing out of the water, those are the enemies of our fishermen friends. These friends are sleeping on their boat, anchored on that same beach. Just a few hours ago, we were on that boat, sharing their food and conversations. Greg is telling me that he is going to defecate, Oli is sleeping, the head on the sand.
We are in Caleta Chica, in the Tarapaca region of Chile, on the ninth day of our trip.
The initial plan was to make a 2 days trek in the region, but let me explain what led us here...
Day 1: Departure
On the same day, I had to pass my accounting final exam, to pack my things for the trip, to ask for a visa extension, and to take the bus to San Pedro de Atacama. After many stresses and rebounds, I managed to survive this marathon day, and here starts a month long trip across South America.
Day 2 - 3: Atacama
After a 25h hours long bus ride, we eventually arrived in San Pedro around midnight. Everything was closed, even the camping, so we had to pitch the tent in some random field, full of shit...
That was our first night on our 2 person tent (photo), or better said, our first 3 hours, as we had to get up at 3am to begin a tour at the Tatio geysers (photo). After the tour, we rent some bikes with our new Spanish friend Raoul, and went to the Valle de la muerte (photo). The landscapes were sumptuous but the sandboard disappointed us. Back to San Pedro, we pitched the tent in another random field, cleaner than the first one, and had a fire. We had planed a trek on the Lascar volcano the day after, but the transport to go there was too expensive. We finally decided to cross the bolivian border to trek around the Licancabur volcano.
Day 4: In Bolivia for one day
We arrived in the morning at the border, near laguna verde, and we were told that we couldn't pitch our tent in the national park. We had to let our backpacks in a refuge. Then we went trekking and got hit by the mountain sickness, as it was 4400 meters high (photo). We came back to the refuge and tried to sleep. All of us had dinner with 2 timid Bolivians, who answered that La Paz was far away when we asked them about Evo Morales. We were back to sleep when Oli got sick at the middle of the night, and spent the rest of it in the frozen toilet...
Day 5-6: Iquique
Weakened, our little trio left for Iquique, to arrive during the night. We slept in a nice hostal, after going to a club where we had less success than expected... On day 6, we went in town to get informations about our next trekking. We wanted to do it along the coast, for a couple of day. The lcal people kept telling us that we couldn't do that kind of trek because the coast was full of hills, and there were no water. Finally, a taxi driver told us that it could be done, with difficulty though, as he has only seen the coast from his boat. I had plan this trek with the help of Google Earth, in which I could clearly see a track along the coast (but not everywhere between the 2 villages we wanted to link up). After a moment of doubt, we still decided to stick to the original plan, an go to Pisagua where we were to begin our trek.
Day 7: "What you wanna do.. not even the military have done it..."
That was the phrase of our driver that left us at Pisagua! That's when Oli said "This shit isn't safe" and was talking about aborting the trek. We had to talk to the captain of the Pisagua port, who confirmed the existence of the track on...guess what?...Google Earth and told us that we were 6 hours long from a fiching camp. We had to leave soon to be able to arrive there before the night. Oli stopped screwing around after 10 min when he saw the landscapes. Those were impressive indeed (photo).
After trekking 6 hours with our 25 kg backpacks (we had to bring 6 lts of water each), we still weren't seeing the camp. Greg and Oli started screwing around again, as the doubt started to show out. We were exhausted, when we eventually saw 2 fishermen, just as one can see the prophet...
The camp was populated by fishermen that sell seaweeds to Japanese clients for a living. The camp chief received us with great pleasure and offered us food and a big tent for the night. We spent some time with these great people (photo), watching TV, playing cards, discussing of everyday matters, before going to sleep.
Day 8: We are lost
In the morning we had the opportunity to watch how thew work, as we had to wait for a guy that knew about the second part of the track. The thing is that the captain helped us for the first part, but didn't know about the rest of it. The guy we were waiting for seemed to be the only one that knew the path. He explained it to us and it seemed pretty simple, at one point, we had to climb a hill an keep walking from there, he even draw us a "map". The chief saved us a couple of hours as he took us with his car (which has been brought in kit form) (photo). He left us in Caleta Chica, where some fishing boats were anchored. We then walked for 2 hours before seeing the hill we had to climb. It seemed a pretty easy climbing, but as we were climbing, the second part of the hill appeared...and it was a much more difficult part. The guy told us that it would took us 1h30 climbing it. 3h after starting climbing, we still wasn't sure of what expected us behind it... That has been some hazardous time (video) . At the top, just before dark, we had our last bad surprise of the day: we were lost at the middle of a ton of hills. We had a day left of water, so we decided to pitch the tent for now, have a sleep, and come back to Caleta Chica the day after to try to get a lift with the fishing boats.
That night, the wind kinda scared us as we thought it was some animals stealing our food...
Day 9: The fishing experience
Back to Caleta Chica, we talked to the fishermen on their boat, as they invited us for lunch. They explained us that they couldn't take us to Caleta Camarones (where we were supposed to end our trek) because they were to stay a fortnight in the area to full their fridge of fish. But they also told us that the day after we probably could get a lift with some boats coming back from Pisagua. They kindly invited us to fish with them during the night (the fish schools only move with sunset and sunup). We accepted and in the meantime, went back to the beach to have a sleep. That's when I wrote these lines..."
Next episode coming soon
Full photo album here