The road to Pisagua is a long and lonely one, yet we find it breathtakingly beautiful. Pictures don't do it justice because there is no way for the camera to capture the immensity and depth of the landscape and the gentle changing of colors as the sun spins through its rotation each day.
To reach this road from our home in Iquique we must first climb the winding heights to Alto Hospicio and beyond, following the highway past Humberstone and turning north on the road to Arica. Just past the township of Huara there is a left-hand turn that in essence places us parallel to the road by which we came. It is this new road that will guide us into the once-thriving port city of Pisagua, some 130 km north of Iquique.
At first, the road is smoothly paved and straight but our car is rocked by the rise and fall of frequent little hills. This roller coaster motion causes our kids to squeal with glee and watch the horizon with anticipation for each new bump that will send their stomachs in a tickling downspin.
Eventually, though, curves appear and soon we are snaking our way down and around, down and around, with each new turn visible only as you come upon it. There is a thrill to being hidden between these enormous hills and knowing that eventually one more turn will thrust you into the open and this sight (picture below) will appear before your eyes. This is Pisagua, as seen from above just as you emerge onto the horizon once again. If you look closely you will see the road that continues to take us down the mountain and into the town.
The picture below is deceptive because there are actually guardrails in it. Don't be fooled; the most picturesque yet treacherous portion of the downward drive is completely unguarded and spectacular in both prettiness and peril. There's a reason we take care to not drive it at night!
And so we enter the town of Pisagua. A visit there promises uttermost quiet and reflection: it is like stepping back into the hallways of time. Therein we revisit a time of prosperity as well as a time of cruelty ... but today, thankfully, only a time of peace.