Tuesday, January 8, 2008
I am also moving this blog over to that website so will not be regularly adding new entries here. The new site will host my blog and allows for comments and more interaction. Because the site is easier to manage, this means I'll be posting news and updating images and site content much more frequently. Keep an eye on the home page for upcoming events.
Check it out at:
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
"All of us, living in ghost towns though we do not know it.
With the illusion that what we leave behind will not be swept away by the wind, that something will remain against the corrosion of time.
Hand by hand, hand in hand
Gloriously making believe we will outlast the desert"
Monday, October 15, 2007
August 28 -- map
Driving from the seaside port of Arica to the mountain town of Putre requires an elevation gain of 11,500 feet. Tours from Arica to Lauca National Park make the trip up and back in one day, which can be exhausting. I took my time driving up and stopped along the way. About two thirds of the way up the road passes by an abandoned railroad car painted in brilliant colors. A hippy couple lives here and will serve tea with coca leaves while they espouse their philosophy of living off the land.
August 27 -- Map
The landscape becomes more dramatic as the Panamericana rides along the edges of enormous valleys and approaches the coastline, finally reaching Arica, Chile's northernmost coastal city. Only a few kilometers from the border, the city here has more in common with Peru than with Chilean capital Santiago. In fact this land once belonged to Peru. The Morro overlooking Arica houses a museum celebrating the Chilean military's capture of Arica from Peru.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
My soundtrack while driving hundreds of kilometers along the flat, desolate Panamericana was the one CD I had purchased along the way, a tribute album to Los Prisioneros, arguably the most important band in Chilean rock history. The album contains 18 of their songs performed by a variety of contemporary bands, with styles ranging from ska to hip-hop to heavy metal.
Here's a classic Prisioneros video from the 1980s for the song We Are Sudamerican Rockers
Sunday, September 23, 2007
After leaving San Pedro early, I stopped in Chiquicamata, site of the largest open mine pit on the planet and the last stop for gasoline for over 170 miles. From here a pockmarked road cuts across 40 miles of brown sandy earth to the Panamericana, the main highway connecting north and south. Unexpectedly, this major artery is a narrow two lane road, patchy in spots, and sometimes diverted onto an unpaved dirt road for miles at a time due to construction. The surrounding landscape is completely devoid of any vegetation or signs of life.
This desolate image contrasts with the history of this region. While hard to imagine now, this corridor was once buzzing with activity, driven by the nitrate mining operations that brought in thousands of works and their families. Company towns were constructed alongside the higway, with theaters, schools, and housing, but most of these settlements have since been reduced to rubble.
Humberstone, the best preserved nitrate operation and town and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, was built in the 1870s. I happened to visit during the First Biennal of Art in the Desert. Artists had been selected to create installations in Humberstone, including filling the bottom of the old pool with oil drums and painting enormous white letters on the ground that could be read from the air.
Arte en el Desierto
Monday, September 17, 2007
See this location on a map
See the GPS track from San Pedro de Atacama to this location
View from Toconao Bridge
Sunday, September 16, 2007
The Atacama desert is the driest place on the planet. Hemmed in by the Andes to the east and coastal mountains to the west, some parts of the region have never recorded a single drop of rain. Spanish explorers referred to it as the "despoblado de Atacama," suggesting it was uninhabitable. Charles Darwin described it simply as "a complete and utter desert" in the Voyage of the Beagle. Traversing the landscape, he reported, "I saw only one other vegetable production, and that was a most minute yellow lichen, growing on the bones of the dead mules. This was the first true desert which I had seen."
Every evening shortly before sunset, a caravan of tour vans arrives at the foot of this sand dune in the Valle de la Luna. A column of tourists trudge up the path to the top to watch the sunset turn the surrounding pale rocks to deep red.
Valle de la Muerte - map
The Moon from the Southern Hemisphere
I took this photo during a tour of the stars led by a french astromoner who lives near San Pedro. Northern Chile is the site of numerous observatories, including the world's largest, because of the clear sky, minimal interference and high altitude. Note that the half moon is oriented horizontally instead of vertically, unlike in the northern hemisphere.