The City that never wakes!

Calama Travel Blog

 › entry 12 of 34 › view all entries

We were pretty-much forced to stay in Calama (a town that has been built on the back of the mining industry) because of our connecting bus to Salta, Argentina.  We were told by the bus company that it wasn´t possible to go from San Pedro, although to our irritation, we passed through San Pedro on our way to Salta and had a pick-up of about 15 tourists there, so clearly we could have!

We arrived in Calama and couldn´t get a taxi to our choice of hostel, so eventually we found another taxi and got them to take us to the vastly overpriced second option, the Hotel El Mirador.  We noticed as soon as we drove through the centre of Calalma that nearly EVERYTHING was shut except for clothes and electrical stores - no restaurants or shops!  We eventually found the chain-fast food place "Schopdog" and had what could be fairly described as the worst meal that we had had since touching-down on the continent of South America - a huge basket of badly cooked chips served with deep fried cheese empanadas - not exactly what we though we had ordered!  Jeremy made a brave stab at eating a few but Erica left nearly an entirely basket - we didn´t ask for a "doggy bag" as we suspected that even the numerous dogs that wandered the street would turn-up their noses at such a culinary monstrosity!   

The city of Calalma (by now we had named it "Calama-ty") was a very seedy and run-down place.  It is well-know as the place that miners go after their work on the huge mine nearby that provides a huge proportion of Chile´s annual production of copper.  It didn´t have a family feel as many drunken and dazed looking men staggered around the city centre, killing time before going back to the hot and dusty jobs that they perform.

THe next day, we EVENTUALLY managed to find-out where our bus was leaving from.  No, the address wasn´t on the tickets, no, there were no ticket places open the previous day so we could confirm where to go, no, not a single person in either the hotel or the taxi driver that we had knew!  There was no central bus terminal and it transpired that it randomly left from a shopping mall!  The journey through the Paso Jama and over the border to Salta, Argentina was a very long one - 13 hours through the day.  The scenery was very interesting though as we crossed the other side fo the Atacama Desert, over the barren Andes, then down towards Argentina into a much more lush and green environment - although we were both a little concerned at the road down from the highest pass in Argentina, it left very little room for driver error!

Finally, we arrived safely at our Hostel - which had kindly already let the room we booked in advance!  They directed us to the lovely alternative just up the road - the worst place that we have ever stayed at - anywhere!  Fortunately, it was only for one night and we are in our "proper" one now which is a lot more comfortable!

We have been up the rather scary ("is it supposed to make that sort of noise?!") Tele Ferreco cable car to the highest point overlooking the City of Salta.  We were tempted to walk down after the ride up and face the baking heat, but didn´t - fortunately the ride down felt a lot safer - although it was swaying in the wind a bit! 

More to come when we leave Salta......

wendermilliken says:
This last comment makes me feel like an uncivilized savage. Calama isn't a tourists destination, it's just a dusty and bored dormitory city for miners, in the middle of the desert, but there are many beautiful resorts and wonders of nature nearby like Death and Moon Valleys, Pukaras, Geysers, Salt flats and Andean lagoons... it seems you missed the best of the surrounding area.
Posted on: Nov 15, 2013
Lenny says:
You should have realised by now that there is no rhyme or reason to anything in South America, hopefully Argentina will offer you more civilizacion!!
Posted on: Nov 06, 2007
gemmalhowell says:
Looks and sounds like you are having a great time! Great photos! x
Posted on: Nov 05, 2007
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photo by: wendermilliken