We’re beginning to understand how the Tuareg people travel through the Saharan desert. The trick seems to be to fully cover the body with loose-fitting clothing, so that in the absence of any shade, you basically make your own.
At least, that’s what seemed to work for us when hiking through the volcanic sand dunes and rocky wastelands surrounding El Grande Descabezado (the great headless one). We tried building a makeshift shelter from a spread open poncho, walking sticks and a couple of large rocks, but strong gusts of wind eventually tore it down. Using the tent to blot out the mid day sun suffered from blocking the wind as well, which yielded an excellent greenhouse, but not quite what we aimed for.
So yeah, you can picture us as two shuffling silhouettes on the side of a sandy slope, backs bent under the weight of our packs, only our hands and face uncovered by fabric.
That picture would not be the whole story though 😉 We did suffer the heat of the Andean sun, and we did struggle with volcanic sand making every step only half as effective. But we also got to enjoy breathtaking views of moon-like landscapes, to get notified of a condor soaring overhead through its shadow passing by our feet, to swim in clear (and not so clear) high-altitude lagunas, and to smell the sulfur odor of hydrothermal vents (with the occasional lukewarm pool). There were a surprising amount of rivers just sprouting out from the ground as well as lingering snow protected by a top layer of sand, so we never went thirsty for long. And we simply took it slowly in our first six days, averaging about 13 km a day.
After that, we were out of supplies. And with the weather turning bad on Sunday, we recovered during the weekend in Talca, a big city with supermarkets and people. Which is about the opposite of the hike so far – we met other people only at one camp site, and being tired, hungry and late, we did not socialize.
Monday afternoon, a microbus will take us to Termas El Médano, the start of GPT07. More plants, more cows, and more people live there. We’re curious!