September 26, 2015
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.
Village of Cariquima
Travelling the backroads toward route 15.
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.
As we descend the landscape becomes dryer and dryer.
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.
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.
The creepy complex offers a glimpse into the lives of the workers and their families. Unfortunately there is very little signage or explanation given.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Breakfast was the usual but with scrambled eggs, real butter and real juice for a change.
More photos from Humberstone: