Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. --- Mark Twain

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Monturaqui Crater.

Days 1145-1146,
08.04.2014 – 09.04.2014,
122 445 km, since the beginning of the journey
The Route: Sam Pedro de Atacama – Paine – Monturaqui Crater - somewhere in deserted area - Calama (386 km).

“One of the most impressive meteorite craters in South America is Monturaqui Crater” stated a google search. And it is located only 150 kilometers from San Pedro de Atacama. Just a good reason to visit the crater. It seemed to be a pretty good change to salt lakes.


Wikipedia also had a couple of paragraphs:, but no longer story. And from the blogs of other overlanders could not succeed in finding any references either. On the map got from San Pedo de Atacama Tourist Information Office the object was totally there. In the midst of gorgeous Sierra Agua Colorada mountains.

Only no road seemed to take there. The same story was also with other paper maps.

And the closest line indicating a road was 7 km away from the crater. More thorough search in internet gave information that in this area there is (was) a high voltage transmission maintenance lines route, from which the crater was about a kilometer away.

OpenStreetMap had this road on it. On the map of ViajerousMapas there was in addition a high-voltage line, and a statement - 4X4.

Google Earth confirmed that the crater, the road and the line at the time of shooting really existed. It was enough information for the cause. If you still have three different maps - then it is almost the same as you would have three watches, you never know what the right time is. Actually there were more than three maps with different information:

From the map of Garmin ChileTopoDeluxe 2 the maintenance road was missing. And there was no mentioning of not any road even on the Russian Military map of 1980. At least it became clear that if it goes without saying , then you walk a kilometer to the spot and back, and if there is no road - ,you then walk 7 miles, and back again. Can handle it in a day any case.

The first hundred kilometers southwards up to the settlement of Atacama Paine the road is an ordinary one - at the beginning of tarmac and further on dusty. And the following 50 km are of less traffic and then the high voltage masts come in sight. So anyway the right place.

Further on, you can drive along the high-voltage power lines maintenance road, which is a quite normal gravel road between the masts and has no very steep rises and falls. And the place of a kilometer from the cater has been reached as planned.

The ground by the road is a bit slanted, but at first sight it seems that here you can overnight. And walking back and forth, it appears that there is no smoother place in sight. I'm beginning to cook, but still somehow the slanted ground makes me uncomfortable.

And while feeling uncomfortable there`s no need to think long..

Back to the car, start the engine running and reverse gear. But the car does not want to go backwards up the hill, the wheels begin to hollow out. So the first impression is not wrong. Now remains the opportunity to make a roundabout while driving out.

First - a few meters downwards and then back on the road. It succeeds. Then I need to find a new overnight place of harder the soil and less slanting.

A proper place is a few meters away, next to the road. Quiet and peaceful. As there's no traffic here. No vehicles have yet been in sight. The above picture was taken in the morning.

Although the weather is sunny the morning was rather cool. And the crater should be somewhere behind these small mountains. At least it should be. So I take my backpack, a bigger water bottle, as well as GPS and time to go.

At first along the road but, but it does not continue for long, as the road takes to the same direction as the electric lines.


then over a dried out riverbed,

and upwards the next hill

It should now be here somewhere, very soon ...

and here it is - Monturaqui crater. Authentic and genuine. Seen from above, just such as a classic meteor crater has to look like.

Theoretically - it is possible to drive down there. In practice, you can also drive down, at least in the past it has been driven - as there are the tracks of the wheels in sight. And everybody has driven up again. At least no cars are visible by the cater.

Relatively surreal place to walk around. Completely deserted. A meteor crashed here 660000 years ago, and caused a hole of 350 to 370 meters in diameter and 34 meters deep (

A few cacti grow here.

So completely worth of visiting. You go around the crater, and make almost a dozen identical images.

Then back to the car, and to the main road. Meanwhile, the first car approaches so – still some kind of traffic here. From inside the car very surprised faces look at the white bus.

While driving southwards the landscape turns a bit more hilly.


Then next of the road the remnants of an Inca former postal station come in sight. And an introductory board.





Some of the signboards can be confusing. Monturaqui crater and Monturaqui settlements are located in completely different places. The signs indicate to Monturaqui settlement and one has to find the cater oneself. The name “Baical” is also somehow familiar.


The railway from the side of Argentina . To be more precise - Salta-Antofagasta Railroad - - that is no longer in use.




Calama town is of less than a hundred kilometers further, the day will soon be over. Since there is no hurry reaching Calama it is no problem to find a quiet overnight place by the side of the road.

Morning. A view from a distance.


And a view at the overnight place from a higher and longer distance.


Before the city of Calama there are dozens of wind turbines by the road. Atomic energy is not used, the state is located in the area of active earthquakes and nuclear power plant construction has been delayed until now.

GPS trail:

View Larger Map
Continued ...

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