Day 179: Arica to La Paz
This could be optimistic, at the rate we're going. The first stop is not for a station, but to change the points, a cumbersome business which requires the assistant driver to climb out, walk up the line, unlock a padlocked lever, change the points and repeat the whole process in reverse after the train has passed.
About twenty miles out of Arica we ride a long left hand bend over the river and are suddenly and dramatically into the desert. The orchards, pastures and maize fields of the Lluta Valley recede below us like a thin, green glacier. The last remnants of the coastal fog are burnt away. The sun glares down. Our little coach, reduced to a speck in a mighty landscape, climbs slowly, with frightening gear changes when we seem to hang on the mountainside in a perilous limbo, as the cogs struggle to sort themselves out. And it is steep. Within a distance of twenty-five miles we climb seven and a half thousand feet.
A thin plastic waterpipe runs along by the line. Without it we probably wouldn't get across the Andes. Wherever there is a spigot the driver stops the train, fills a red plastic bucket and refreshes the engine cooling system, which is working harder as the air gets thinner.
Choose another day from Full Circle
- Series: Full Circle
- Day: 179
- Country/sea: Chile
- Place: Arica
- Book page no: 236
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