Day 4 Colchane to Pica, Chile

September 26, 2015

This is part of a 5 day/4 night private tour with Mayuru Tours from Arica to San Pedro de Atacama through the Chilean Altiplano. For their complete itinerary click here.

Chusmiza

Another clear, beautiful morning that starts with more amazing highland scenery before we begin the descent towards the coast. Most of the afternoon is spent at Humberstone, a former mining town and UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. We then head back inland to Pica, a desert oasis.

Our first stop is at a grove of cactus, cardón, similar to the saguaro, but which supposedly only grows above 3,700 meters/ 12,000 ft.

Outside of Colchane

Outside of Colchane

Cardón Flower

 

Village of Cariquima

Cariquima

 

Travelling the backroads toward route 15.

ChusmizaChusmizaChusmizaChusmizaChusmiza

 

El Gigante de Tara Paca

The Giant of TaraPaca a pre-Inka geoglyph claimed to be the largest in the world. Although there are several theories as to why it is here and what the figure represents not much is actually known. No one was at the site the day that we visited, not even a caretaker.

Heading towards the coast

Memorial for a Local Band

Heading towards the coastHeading towards the coast

Heading towards the coast

As we descend the landscape becomes dryer and dryer.

Heading towards the coast

At the crossroads of route 15 and 5 we stop for lunch in Huara at Flor de Huara, a nicer establishment than we have been lunching at. The usual vegetable soup, followed by meat, potatoes and rice. Portions were a bit smaller but better prepared with carrots and other savory vegetables.

Salitrera de Santiago Humberstone

We spent the afternoon at Oficina Salitrera Santiago Humberstone, a large ghost town museum and a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. The former nitrate mine and company town was in operation from 1872 until 1960. Typical of company towns of the era the company provided everything the workers needed and paid them in script good only at company stores.

Salitrera de Santiago Humberstone

The creepy complex offers a glimpse into the lives of the workers and their families. Unfortunately there is very little signage or explanation given.

Salitrera de Santiago Humberstone

From a visual perspective the decaying town is interesting to walk around and photograph. See below for more photos.

From here we traveled back inland, stopping at a large church in La Tirana. The town has frequent festivals and this Saturday was no exception.

La TiranaLa Tirana

La TiranaLa TiranaLa Tirana

 

Colchane to Pica-22

Pica in the Distance

We finally arrive in Pica, our destination for the evening. The town is an oasis in the desert fed by a large spring that produces enough water to supply the town, including a bathing complex for weekenders, and irrigate neighboring citrus groves.

PicaPica

Slept at Hosteria O’Higgins, centrally located on the main drag near the central plaza. I couldn’t find much about this establishment online. It’s not listed on TripAdvisor, but I wouldn’t recommend it either.

Pica - Hotel O'Higgins

The room was quiet, but the mattress too soft and the wall outside the bathroom was moldy. Otherwise the room was clean and smelled of bleach.

Pica - Hotel O'Higgins

Breakfast was the usual but with scrambled eggs, real butter and real juice for a change.

More photos from Humberstone:

Salitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago HumberstoneSalitrera de Santiago Humberstone

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