The rock that came alive - and other formations




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Letter 8

Chañaral 18.07.02

Caldera-Chañaral 103.18 km
I was already falling asleep when I lay down on the bed to try it, so when I return after the meal, I go out like a candle.
I'm out to try the water temperature at 8 a.m. It's not getting hot, but now I know it's because the pilot light is not on. Shall I try to
knock them awake? I choose to start packing the bike while I wait. When I'm almost finished and just await my shower a man comes
in a bathing wrap with a box of matches and I have my shower. No problems with mixing temperature, just turn up the hot water - perfect.
The breakfast consists of 3 cookies, which was left from yesterday, but soon after turns my tostada, which is not big, up, but maybe it IS
butter and there's marmelade, which I asked for. Normally tostada con café is 500, but now it's matbe a little extra? I hear the wife say the number
'ocho centos', 800 and reckon that's the prize. Well, that's it. The wife is the snabby type, especially this morning, while the husbond is soft
and kind. When I have to pay it is quite right 4.300 and I pay with a 5000 bill. The wife rummage about in her purse and gives me 600 back.
But that's not enogh!? She thinks so, she hasn't got any more, but here steps the husbond forwards, and - I get my 100 pesos.
He speaks some english, but english or not, I drag him along to the dining room, where is a stilleben, this mounting of fruits we know so well, this
is only a photostat and it's local fruits. So by pointing I have my spanish vocabulary expanded according restaurants and food. A green peppar shows
to be a papaya, the one I've had in my cazuela several times and that I first thought to be decoctioned carrot.

The road towards Chañaral from yesterday continues. Gravel and sand on both sides, at one single spot a white color drags a cone shaped track
into the country from the bottom of a bay, there is white sand too. A light drizzle follows me out of town.

Against all expectations it turns out to be a wonderful day. The drizzle turns into just moist in the air and the road by turns incline and decline: 10m, 55m,
70m, 30m, 100m. The landscape which certainly IS deserted, is varied anyway. On the hills the rocks are left, this is where the sand is produced.
Where huge clouds of dust in the universe turns into "star-factories" by help of gravitation and assembles to stars and maybe planets, the situation is
the opposite here. The big rocks are demolished by wind, water and shift in temperature into minor pieces, which end up as gravel and sand, which blows
down the hollows.
The rocks turn into strange shapes. Especially at one spot which I immidiately baptise the scull rocks, is fascinating. The erosion produce nostrils and auditory metus's,
sometimes just shells are left. Order turns into disorder, while it was the other way round in the Eta-Carinae-cloud, we had pointed out at Mamalluca Observatory.
Once I pass 4-5 sheds made of iron plates, where some dogs and a childs voice reveal human living. On a homemade sign is a name, but it's apparently not official.
I wonder if these people are in any register?
At a time the rocks turns into lava fields, sometimes partly covered with sand. For a traveller of my speed it is an experience to see all these form of the landscapes,
which eternally changes. Then red cliffs, grey, black and where rainwater has gathered the dryness later made the clay crack in natural mosaic.

At another time the sun breaks through and I suddenly stop. At the top of a rock at the other side of the road sit two extraordinary birds. They are not the big black birds
which I saw yesterday when they jumped from the TV pylon to hover in the wind with outstretched flight feathers. Ravens? No, these have a very strong lightly bowed
beak, which is whitely but orange at the root. A black cap on the head, a white 'face', that turns into grey down the neck to end in a phesant like pattern on the back. I watch them
through my binoculars and am allowed to get quite close to take pictures.
Now when the sun once more breaks through and I eat lunch, I've just seen a rock in the ocean, that exactly looks like captain Nemo's Nautilus. The enlighted 'eyes' in front
shows seen from a closer range to be whiter rocks, birds trash? I don't see any.
The rock formations continue, something to speed up your fantasy: eagle heads, the pockmarked devil, the dumping ground and a inhospital planet.
The dumping ground is an area, where the stones lie pile on pile and where the changing colors between red, grey, white, black and brown make it look like the mentioned. The inhospital
planet is an area, where almost vertical layers of slate stick up meters high giving it this rough look, it will be hard to land here.


"Dødningeklipperne" To fugle på vejen

Chañaral must be behind the next projection, but for once the mountain reaches out into the ocean, so we have to twist upwards a bit. At a spot holds a red car, and from down the rocks
is the sound of inarticulate roars. I think, that somebody is down there trying the eccos, but how do they do these deep roars, and why no human sounds? With no answer to this question
I roll on. Birds are seen down there on a brown rock in the water and I take out the binoculars to have a look. The brown rock comes alive. It's spotted with sealions, they are making the sounds.
All the way to the top they lie. Some are in the water too. At the top sits a pelikan and some minor birds. On a smaller rock next to lies a giant one. Once a normal size is seen near it. It is four
times as big! Can it be a male? Or is it a seaelephant female or isn't there something called a seabear? Suddenly comes an unbidden guest near and with a remarkable pace it moves its huge
body and chase away the intruder. It's the natural zoo. The wind is coming this way and with it come the smell of fishes, birds, predators and maneure. The rock in front is totally white, and
through the binoculars I can see claerly how the bird faeces have flown in stripes down the rock.
After this, to me extraordinary experience, mostly because it was totally unexpected, there's not far left. A sign with tourist information shows despite my expectations to hold. He's a great guy.
56 years he tells when we exchange informations. I ask about the road from Taltal to the observatory and further on to... Yes, the last days the promising name has started being seen in the signs:
Antofagasta. The name above all. We that know Donald Duck remember his problems with the antofagasta ants. Now I'll find out if they are real - no of course not. It is like I expected: there is NOTHING.
I'll need food and water for 5 days even I probably will be able to get water at the observatory? I listen to his explanations with some doubts, it's really not his area, but he tells that the road from Paposo,
which is a fisherman village without any possible shopping 56 km north of Taltal and up the mountains and up passed the road to the observatory should be easy. No special hard climbs and the road
passed the observatory goes at 6-700 m's altitude, he thinks. I ask, because I would like to know how many meters I'll have to climb the 20th. The mountain is 2644 m, that means a climb of 2km, more
than Mt. Ventoux. It would be nice to do it without luggage. If I can hide the tent well enough it should be possible.
About the sealions he claims the giant one IS the male and the black birds are called 'jote' in spanish. They are chilean voltures, which although they live from carcasses, don't have the naked neck.
I write in the guestbook, a swede was here once in the spring. He's seen the two canadians, and so has my later landlady. You don't pass here unseen.
He's the one suggesting a residencial. I ask trying how much it is? 3000? Yes, he thinks so. That was cheap. I get a map, he puts a mark, this is going to be a peace of cake. From the beginning
I'm a little cunfused because the street I'm taking is called something else in the map than in reality, but everyone else seems to know. I ask some elderly people, down a side street, mostly to practise
my spanish, but it turns out to be a good idea. Residencial Sct.Maria? Yes, yes, it's just over there and they explain how many streets, but the man thinks he anyway should follow me there, and he gets
into his tiny japanese car and drives in front of me there and round the corner and points. There it is. I look at a door in a fence, but no name can be seen, but it IS that door - some men at the other corner
point, yes it's all right. I hadn't found that by myself, but here everybody knows that the lady rents rooms (2) and call the place Residencial Sct. Maria, even it doesn't say so.

Now I've bought a bus ticket for Taltal tomorrow. The bus doesn't leave at 8.15 a.m. as they claimed in Copiapó, but 1.15 p.m. Or it's because the early bus is full, it probably is. It gives me less time to go
tomorrow, but more time to shop, which I will do here instead.