Today marks a closing point of my time in Chile. Tomorrow I will travel to Paraguay for more South American 4x4 adventures. I’m sad to be leaving such a wonderful place, yet excited about the opportunity to explore an entirely new region of the world.
If I had to summarize my Chilean experience in one word it would be: "Chetumay"
The word “Chetumay” comes from deep within Chile’s native ancestry. The native Mapuche tribes were believed to be the original humans to inhabit the region. The Mapuche people lived in small family groups and used the word "Chetumay" to describe friends and others they considered to be “good people”.
The warmth I’ve received here in my second visit to Chile makes me believe Chileans are among the worlds most kind-spirited and accepting our world has to offer. I’ve been to many places in my life and few, if any, have I experience such warmth and kindheartedness. Aside from my awesome tour of the coastal region to the west of Copiapo last weekend, I’ve been invited back by more than one family to visit the area of Aftolagasta (about 550 KM to the North).
Yesterday the raid visited two very remarkable places in the Atacama sand dunes. One the locals call “V8 Amphitheatre” and the other “Medanoso”, the worlds second highest sand dune. Both are a spectacle to behold during the raid because the Chilean driver’s go absolutely crazy on them.
The amphitheatre is essentially a large bowl with very steep slops.
It is the perfect place for daring drivers to show how brave they are. The venue is spectator friendly and relatively safe as long as there are not too many vehicles in the bowl at the same time. Here even the most powerful of rigs can be challenged by massive walls that exceed 35 degrees in many places.
Medanoso is Chile’s crown jewel of the sand dunes. The Raid organizers use the massive ½ mile long face of Medanoso as the pinnacle or climax of the last days ride. A short climbing competition is organized by Patricio Rios that enables drivers to attempt to crest the seemingly endless mountain of sand. I’m no expert, but I would be willing to say Medanoso is easily three times bigger than anything we have in the US, including Dumont-CA, Sand Mountain-NV, or Glamis-CA. This thing simply looks ominous. The climbing competition is broken into two separate catergories: stock rigs with little or no modifications, and Specialists- vehicles with swapped in engines, turbos, super chargers ect. All the rigs line up at the bottom and when Patricio announces the signal the drivers charge up the face side by side, until they become stuck. Those with enough power and or the proper driving technique might get to the top, however the majority get stopped by the increasing grade. Once stopped you have a choice: back down and try a different line, or stay put and hope nobody else goes higher up than you. The rig that reaches the highest point wins. You get 15 minuets to go as far as you can and you can make as many attempts within the 15 minuets as you wish. In the Specialist class four vehicles of the 15 competing made it to the top. After the time ran out, everyone returned to the bottom and the four who made it had a tie breaker on another area of Medanoso. The tie breaker was held on a ridiculously steep face that even a 1,000-hp sand rail with paddles probably wouldn’t go up all the way. At the end of the 15 minuet tie breaker the rig sitting at the highest point was a turbocharged Suzuki Samurai.
Shortly afterwards the Raid participants returned to the Copiapo base camp for a evening celebration like no other. A DJ kept the Latin music cranked while everyone danced and drank Pisco and other alcoholic beverages. The party didn’t stop until the sun came up the next day. Here are a few of the 2,200+ photos I shot through out the week. Enjoy!