The first time I went to Chile was to observe for a month at the Danish 0.5m telescope at the European Southern Observatory at La Silla. After that, I took the bus to Arica and started walking. In three weeks I reached the altiplano, followed the border with Bolivia southwards, and ended in Maminha where I took the bus to Iquique and back to Santiago de Chile.
Slide 1026 The river Lluta carves a beautiful valley out of the Atacama dessert. The bottom of the valley is lush and green, but go just a few metres up and there is nothing but dry sand.  
Slide 1031 When the main road left the Lluta valley, I continued to follow the river upstream, along small tracks through bushes and farmland.  
Slide 1035 The trail crossed the swift and icy river several times, sometimes by tree-trunk but usually by just plunging into the river and re-emerging at the other side of it. To help maintain my balance I used a bamboo stick which I had found in the fields and which would become my dearest companion.  
Slide 1046 Eventually, beyond the last farmstead in the valley, the trail ascended the steep slopes, leaving the Lluta river deep down below. The snowcapped peak of Nevado de Putre (5815m) is visible in the distance.  
Slide 1066 I joined the main road again, which I had left behind a few days before, to arrive at the town of Putre. At 3500m and in front of the Nevado de Putre, the largest settlement within hundreds of kilometres is situated just below the edge of the altiplano.  
Slide 1082 My first night on the altiplano...  
Slide 1085 ... and my first morning on the altiplano. Llamas having breakfast in the bog, whilst I keep on walking in the hope that my boots defreeze.  
Slide 1087 The village of Parinacota (4500m), slightly on the touristy side but still difficult to find anyone selling groceries.  
Slide 1088 A llama. This is her territory, so be careful!  
Slide 1090 Volcan Parinacota (6342m), with the lagunas of Cotacotani in the front.  
Slide 1093 Lago Chungara, at an altitude of 4600m, looking East towards the border with Bolivia. Volcan Sajama (6542m) is visible in the distance.  
Slide 1099 Just before crossing the Nevados de Quimsachata, looking back North towards Lago Chungara and Volcan Parinacota, with Volcan Guallatiri (6063m) "hissing" in my back.  
Slide 1108 A typical church in the village of Guallatiri, very peaceful.  
Slide 1109 The proud shopkeeper in front of his shop - which is also his kitchen and the entrance to the rest of his house.  
Slide 1114 The altiplano is far from "plano", and either boggy or sandy. The few trucks that venture here can be seen a long time ahead as clouds of dust.  
Slide 1119 Salar de Surire: the white stuff is salt, not ice. Flamingoes dot the water.  
Slide 1141 Another typical church, in the Parque Nacional Volcan Isluga.  
Slide 1147 After having "escaped" from an overhospitable mob at their celebration of the Chilean Independence Day, the next morning I passed through the peaceful border village of Colchane. These sisters had a very good idea and gave me a tiny tin with the cream of all creams to save my lips from disintegrating.  
Slide 1148 Just outside the village, these llamas were struggling against the wind.  
Slide 1150 A thirsty bush...  
Slide 1157 Church in Cariquima.  
Slide 1158 Proof that the Romans were here: straight roads over hills. The "main" road sharply bends left and rounds Cerro Cariquima (5390m), though, rather than to ascend it.  
Slide 1162 A llama as a pet? This family insisted on making me breakfast, after I had slept in their local school building (shed). I still blame the egg for my misery the next day on the Portezuelo Picavilque - although it might as well have been the only time in my life that I suffered from altitude sickness.  
Slide 1167 Quebrada Soracagua. A river of sand and salt, with the water actually running underneath and emerging to the surface at places.  
Slide 1177 Looking back North from Portezuelo Picavilque (5200m), between the Cerros de Quimsachata - not to be confused with the Nevados de Quimsachata (5785m) - to the West and Cerro Alto Toroni (5982m) at the border with Bolivia to the East. Cerro Cariquima is visible on the right and Cerro Cabarray (5869m) lies 70km away in the distance, just across the border in Bolivia.  
Slide 1178 And looking ahead...  
Slide 1205 These very friendly and cheerful people were living a simple life in a small farm with little birds far away from the nearest village. After I had taken this picture, the man went into the house only to come out again with in his hand: a camera! He took a picture of me - who by then must have looked like a caveman, much to their bemusement.  
Slide 1209 These are not llamas.  
Slide 1218 Cavemen sleep in caves...