Thursday, September 12th 2013

One our way to San Pedro from Calama, we'd got a Frontera bus and it had broken down on the outskirts of Calama. A Turbus had passed by and picked us up. So on the way back I got a Turbus, but it broke down not far out from San Pedro. After a long wait while they investigated the problem, they eventually said they would have to wait for a mechanic and it could be an hour or two at least. We had stopped by a minefield, an absurd legacy of dictatorial paranoia in the 1970s, when Argentina was threatening to invade southern Chile over territorial disputes in the Beagle Channel, and Chile feared that Bolivia and Peru might invade in the north if Argentina did in the south, to take back what they lost 130 years ago in the War of the Pacific. There were still minefields along the road to Torres del Paine when I first went there in 2005, but they've been cleared now. Here in the north, the clearing is not so advanced.

I was interested by the sign, indicating the minefield in Spanish, English, and a third language that I think is Aymara. Pampa definitely means field, in Aymara and Quechua, and minatawa is clearly derived from "mine", but I was surprised that the word for danger was derived from Spanish.

I waited by the minefield. It was getting late, and I was preparing myself for a long wait until the bus got going again. Luckily, a Frontera bus appeared, and had space to pick us all up, so we abandoned the Turbus. I headed to Antofagasta, ready for my Paranal shift the next day.

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