Friday, August 23, 2013

Arica to Putre – Chile 11

Heading north from Arica, we left the Pan American Highway to start the climb over the Andes on Chile’s Route 11. This really steep winding road is the main highway between Arica and La Paz, Bolivia and it is reckoned that more than 600 trucks every day drive this route. Given that and the fact that this is only a two lane road for most of the way, we knew it would be slow going but our schedule is providing for that. We know we need to acclimatize slowly. The first part of the route takes us by the Rio Lluta and through the Lluta valley and we start looking for the markers that indicate the Lluta geoglyphs. Also known as the Gigantes de Lluta, they are carved into the hillside along the way. The idea is at the markers, pull over and examine the mountain for the pre-Colombian figures that supposedly include birds, llamas and stick figures. Well, maybe the sun was in our eyes or maybe I have no imagination but I couldn’t make out much but some lines, maybe! We were tempted to stop at EcoTruly, a Hare Krishna ashram for lunch but it is getting late and there is a lot of traffic and we want to get to the posada before dark. The road is now in a steep incline and we are rapidly climbing through switchbacks and steep drop offs. We are concerned about the motorhome but all seems well and it is not getting too hot nor does the transmission appear to be slipping. We know we are pulling a lot of weight for our engine and the steepness of the grades is incredible. We are also counting the kilometer markers on the road as the posada we are intending to stay for the night is supposedly at km88. Online and in books, it says that this is a beautiful posada with great campsites and that the owners are welcoming with “freshly baked bread on your arrival.” Well, all that information needs a big updating! Because the posada is now called Pueblo de Mallku and as the name suggests it has been repossessed by an indigenous group. The main building is now little more than a shack and when we arrived there were only four children between say eight and fourteen running the place. They told us that their parents were in Arica and did not know when they would return. There was no electricity so we just pulled over onto a flat parking area for the night. We are now at 10, 233 feet (3,200 meters) elevation and taking Winston for his walk, I felt the breathlessness from the altitude. The disappointment at the posada was tempered with a feeling of relief that the motorhome seemed to be doing ok in spite of the grades and elevation but we know tomorrow will be a bigger test. Putre is at 14,000 feet elevation and the road to there is supposed to be an even steeper grade.

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