13 December 2019:
Iquique, Chile:
From Sea Level to See Level

By Corey Sandler

It’s hard to have more contrast in one day than we did today, and that’s an extraordinary thing. 

After a day at sea sailing north, we arrived early this morning at the port of Iquique in Chile, an uncommon sight in this place. They receive only about eight cruise ships a year here. 

And then I went with a group of guests from sea level– because that is where oceangoing ships generally sail– up into the altiplano, the high desert. About two hours drive brought us into the Atacama Desert and the spectacular Huasco Salt Flats.

The flats are at about 3,830 meters above the sea,  or about 12,565 feet.

We had a bright sun and tolerable temperatures and pink flamingoes and llamas and alpaca. Oh, and I took some pictures….

The altiplano is home to some of Chile’s abundant mineral wealth. It all began with saltpeter a century ago, used at first for gunpowder and then as a fertilizer. 

Today,  copper is king,  along with valuable metals and minerals including molybdenum and lithium. That last substance is an essential component of batteries for things like cellphones and tablets.

Our trip back to the port in the afternoon was delayed because of a convoy of some of the largest machines on land: mining excavators, gigantic dump trucks, and support equipment. 

They would make great beach toys. 

Here’s some of what we saw today:

The Cerro Dragón sand dune reaches to the edge of the growing city of Iquique, a reminder of how tenuous many of the coastal ports of South America are
The little town of Pozo Almonte sits at the foot of the altiplano, its history bound up in mining in the hills. The small place draws its name from the Battle of Pozo Almonte of the Chilean Civil War of 1891 between Liberal (Balmacedist) and Congressional forces. The Congressional victory eventually led the junta gaining control of all of northern Chile.
A monument to the men of Pozo Almonte who went to the mines…
and the women…

The Huasco Salt Flats (Salar del Huasco)

The Huasco Salt Flats, at 3,800 meters or 12,500 feet above sea level. The surrounding mountains reach thousands of feet higher, some capped with snow
The rumble of thunder in a place that receives very little rain

Rules of the Road

The copper mines built the roads into the hills, and regularly shut them down to move equipment

All content by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a copy of a photo seen here, please contact me.