Immediately upon our arrival in Calama we notice this is one busy and prosperous city. With a population of 150,000 and who knows how many workers who travel to Calama to work in the many copper mines in the area including one of the largest open pit mines in the world. The truck traffic from points west and south of Calama reminds me of highway 63 between Edmonton and Fort McMurray with trucks moving everything required to keep multiple copper mines operational. Even the buses that move the employees from town to the mines sites are similar to Fort McMurray. A few Canadian companies have a presence here including KAL Tire and at least two huge Finning (Caterpillar) operations that we saw.
Our two days in Calama gave us the opportunity to have our laundry done, do a little work on the BMW and rest the knee and ankle. It's a town that has everything you could want except for a signal bulb for the BMW and a map of Chile.
We get an early start (6:45 am) for Chanaral. The highway to the coast is awesome but then anything is better than Bolivia's roads. Within an hour we are on a toll road with a speed limit of 120 km/h and need to do 140 just to keep up with the locals.
The Atacama desert is 1000 km long strip of land along the Pacific coast of Chile known to be the driest hot desert in the world. The soil in a region we drove through is comparable to that of the planet Mars.
The Mano del Desierto sculpture in the Atacama desert stands 36 feet tall and represents emotions like injustice, loneliness, sorrow and torture.
The Atacama desert is completely void of any vegetation but you can find abandoned shoes there.
The Pacific Ocean with soft white sand beach at Chanaral, Chile.
Lighthouse above the town of Chanaral.