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When we do our last shopping in Mendoza we are approached by two women. They start a whole story and asked al about us and a signature. It turned out that we had been on national TV. She recognized us, the car and Cateau.
Now we also understand why the day before people said that they had seen us and nudged each other with "que los Holandeses". Our minute of fame without us knowing it.
Via Routa 13 we drive north. The road winds over the pass with beautiful views.
We have left routa40 because we want to visit the observatory "El Leoncito"
During the day we get explanation about the telescope and in the evening we can view the moon, various clusters and mists.
The telescope was not that impressive but looking through was very special.
We thought it would be a boring drive further north but nothing could be further from the truth. the Andes can be seen at its most colorful and highest.
Before we cross the Paso San Francisco to Chile we make a small D-tour.
We make a cut through Tafi del Valle. What makes this valley so special is, when you leave the Routa40 and go into the mountains, the environment changes drastically.
On the west side is the dry desert with cacti, on top of the pass it becomes greener.
During the descent to the east it becomes tropical.
The Valle de Atacama has a microclimate. As a result, a lot of agriculture is practiced here.
It looks strange after so much drought.
In Tinogasta we go to camping "Los Olivos" for a stopover. When we arrive there we are warmly welcomed by Monique and Carlos.
Monique is Dutch and teaches at various schools in town. In the evening she has to take the English exam and asks if we want to join. A peek into the kitchen of the Argentinian lesson system. It turns out to be a sad affair. The learning system is apparently very free of obligation because the exam candidates do not show up
The school is a big mess with old chairs, if they are present enough. It all looks very depressing.
Because Monique is quickly done with her work, we are going to eat something in the city.
The city has undergone a complete metamorphosis. At 2 p.m. we drove through and saw nobody. At 10 p.m. the city begins to come alive.
Monique also introduces us to a local guide to discuss the coordinates of an off-road trip.
Next day we are ready to leave.
We start the route in good spirits. We agreed with Monique to contact her after 2 days. If something went wrong, she would sent help from, for example, the bomberos, fire brigade.
We have to go through a valley after a certain point and cross the river about 60 times. Due to the heavy rain the "road" is hard to find and the river sometimes quite deep with fast flowing water. We are moving forward slowly.
When we get stuck with a crossing and are struggling for more than a hour to get the car off a huge rock, we give up.
It is going to take too long and we don't want to get further into trouble. We would certainly have gone further with two cars.
We try to reach the given coordinates of a thermal bath on the other side of the pass, but there too the rain has washed away large parts of the road.
Tired, dusty, hungry we go back to Los Olivos. Where we are immediately taken care of. We park this adventure at "It is pay, bit it is the way it is". Finally we left after 5 days. Takes a little effort to get back on the road. It is much too cozy with Carlos and Monique. And so nice and quiet.
The landscape is very special with desert on one side (where the Dakar goes through) and on the other side wyneries.
Wine is still grown at 1700 meters.
We spend the night at thermal baths. Very nice despite the heat. The next morning we can also take a bath.
The pass changes at almost every turn. We had the tip to go to Vulcano de Pisses. 3rd highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere (6792meter)
We go no further than 4720 meters and from there we have a wonderful view of the lagunas and the volcano.
We continue on the pass and at 4750 meters we pass the border of Argentina and Chile.
On our trip we have had a number of times that there was nothing. But nothing gets a different meaning here.
We drive further north along the coast. We have plenty of time because we can only go to the observatory on Saturdays. It is a pity that there is not much to do in this part of Chile.
ESO (European Southern Observatory) has the largest telescope with one mirror here. It is an impressive story. How all telescopes can work together to make even better shots.
We have wasted some days to be able to go here but it was definitely worth it.
That it lies in "the middle of nowhere" is an understatement. The road from Antofagasta to Calama is super boring and depressed. There are a lot of mines here and the landscape, which is already very bare, does not get any better.
We had really think of the Atacama desert differently.
From Calama to San Pedro de Atacama, the area becomes a lot more interesting. There is some green here and in the distance the white tops of volcanoes appear again.
San Pedro is a tourist village. From here there are many beautiful places to visit. It's so strange to see so many tourists again.
Valle de Luna is beautiful. Different rock formations and dunes.
Although the temperature on the meter is not high, around 23 degrees, it is not in proportion to the feeling temperature. The sun is particularly warm.
You can clearly see that the earth is cooking here at the El Tatio Geysers. Everywhere you see it bubbling and steaming. Here too we splash in a terminal bath. We do not smell very fresh afterwards, but that should not spoil the fun. Because everyone comes here with sunrise, we have the empire alone at the end of the afternoon.
On the way to the geysers you can clearly see that water makes life.
Only the flamingos also do well on the salt plains
We are rather indecisive about the road to Bolivia. Or at San Pedro immediately cross the border to Bolivia and do the Laguna Route, or the Paso da Jama and then via Argentina to Bolivia. We hear great stories about both routes. Only the Laguna Route is a very bad road and an attack on the car. Numerous tours go here, so it is not abandoned but the route and road is very challenging.
Ultimately we opt for the pass to Argentina. The drive is a lot more relaxed and we want to enjoy the car for a while. Also do not feel like being stuck with the car again. Three times in one month is more than enough.
We really do not regret having taken the route for wimps. Here too it is very beautiful.
We had heard stories about the border crossing to Bolivia and that it could sometimes take up to two hours. Apparently we are lucky in 15 minutes and with friendly officials we are in a whole different world; Bolivia.
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