I left the endurance race portion of the BajaSAE race a little early on Sunday in order to prepare for the flight to Chile. I had already packed the test equipment that I would need from work, but had to do laundry and stuff. We left Ocala at around 3:30p to head to MCO for the first portion of our flight to ATL. Of course, our Orlando flight was delayed, so we had to run through Atlanta to catch the flight to Santiago. We only made the flight with seconds to spare. Guess if our checked baggage made it onto the flight to Santiago.
We arrived in Santiago at around 6:30a and we left at around 8p after getting through all of the visa stuff. We stayed in a hotel for a few hours, as our next flight north didn't leave until the afternoon. A few pictures are below. Our flight to our final destination to Calama left at around 4p. Afterward, a quick meeting was held, then dinner, then bed.
The next day had us going to Chuqui for our first day of truck analysis.
Chuquicamata is the largest open pit copper mine in the world, very near the city of Calama, in the north of Chile in the Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth, with many places having never received recorded rain. Chuquicamata has undergone expansion and so moved all of it's residents to nearby Calama, in new housing. Because of this many areas of Chuquicamata appear to be a ghost town. The expansion of the mine has covered the town's school, as well as countless multi-million dollar pieces of mining equipment.
Wednesday was spent much the same way as the day before.
The second picture below shows the exit of the town of Chuqui, with the city of Calama at the bottom of the hill. The picture also shows many compact four door pic-ups, the most common vechicle around the mines. Trucks are the only vehicles permitted to be tax write offs for businesses is likely the reason. Also, some old models can be seen, made far before they were available in the USA. Nearly all of the trucks have diesel engines as well, also not available in the USA. One the topic of cars, Peugeots and Renaults are available in Chile and are common. Nearly all rigs are flat nose and Renaults, Scanias, VWs, and MBs are very common. The last picture is from Calama looking up at Chuqui, which is at the far left of the picture about half way up the mountains, but a little more zoom is needed.
That night's dinner was in downtown Calama, at a restaurant called Alquimia (think of the English alchemy). The waiter was very careful and took his time to be sure that all things placed on the table were placed there perfectly. The food was very good and possibly best of all, American county music was played over the radio.
Our last day at the mine was spent on the trucks. We did finish a little early though, and then explored San Pedro de Atacama and Valle de la Luna, very popular spots for gringos. Following are some pics. The large mountains are the Andes and many of them are snow capped. Hundreds of kilometers could be seen across the desert, either toward the Andes or toward nothing, very spectacular. Also notable is that the desert is open for dirt bike riding, even the Carabineros (Chilean police) rode XR400s in some of the rural areas.
Today, we head back to Santiago for our final flight back to the United States. I didn't take many pictures there, but it was an attractive city.