14-Nov-2015 -- This was the second Confluence that I made a first visit to on a trip to Chile in November 2015. The first visit was to 20°S 70°W visit #1 which I completed in mid-afternoon and then got back on the road in my rented Toyota Hilux 4WD. I kept driving east on the same road that I took to get close to that Confluence and it took me through a couple of old nitrate processing “officinas” and stretches of the most powdery dust pits that I have ever driven through. The road ended at the town of Huara on Ruta 5 which is also the Pan American Highway. I followed Ruta 5 south to the town of Pozo Almonte and then got on Highway A-65 and went east on it across the Pampa del Tamarugal and started the long climb up towards the altiplano. I left A-65 on a side road that twisted down into the Quebrada de Parca. “Quebrada” is a Spanish word for a stream or canyon and it seems to be used in Chile for watercourses of any size. At the bottom of the quebrada was the ancient pueblo of Parca and its old farming terraces that must date back to at least Inca times. Once I was past Parca the road was unpaved. I drove up a series of steep narrow switchbacks and it was near to the top of the canyon and just as the sun was going down that I found a good place to pull off the road and camp for the night.
Camp wasn't anything more than dropping down the tailgate of the Hilux and setting up my little backpacking stove and cooking one of my packaged camping dinners. Then I'd lay a tarp out on the ground, blow up my inflatable camping pad, spread out my sleeping bag, climb in and go to sleep. The moon was just a sliver of a crescent this night and after it set the night sky became dark fog of stars.
In the morning I was up with the sun and had my usual granola and coffee breakfast on the tailgate of the Hilux. I packed up my camp and then I was off up the canyon towards the Confluence. It was only a short drive up the valley to the place where I needed to park and start walking. Once I was there I put a lunch and some bottles of water in my day pack and headed out for what I estimated would be about an 8 to 10 kilometer (5 to 6 mile) hike to the Confluence.
It was rocky county to walk across but not difficult as long as I watched my step. I went up and down and across some valleys and then made a fairly steep climb up the mountainside and around some rock ledges as I closed in on the Confluence. I was getting up there in elevation too. The truck was parked at 3800 meters (12,500 ft), the Confluence was at 4220 meters (13850 ft), and by the time that I got to it I was walking slowly. The weather was constantly changing all day. It would go from cloudy and windy to clear and calm and I was constantly putting on and taking off clothes to either keep warm or cool off.
At the Confluence I had a great view of the basin I had just traversed across and climbed which were the headwaters of the Quebrada de Noasa. To the west I could see the Atacama Desert and the coastal mountains beyond. I was on a mountainside with a moderate slope down to the west that was rocky and densely covered with thick bunch grass and a few small bushes. It was about 500 meters (1650 ft) below a 4600 meter (15,000 ft) high ridgeline the top of which was actually the edge of the Altiplano and had I climbed on up there I would have been looking east across a gently sloping plain. I spent about a half an hour at the Confluence taking photos and eating my lunch then I walked back to the truck by way of a slightly different and lower route than I had came in on. Part of my walk back was on a burro trail that I came across. The burros know the country well and if you come across a trail of theirs that is going in your general direction it's always a good idea to get on it. The walking will be much easier. I got back to the Hilux late in the afternoon after being gone for about eight and a half hours and then drove on up the road until I found a good place to pull off and make a camp for the night.
Next stop: 21°S 69°W visit #1.