Roadtrip to El Mano del Desierto, the Atacama Desert, Chile

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Right now I am making my way back to North America, but last week, I fit in a few last-minute tourist trips: the first, a short road trip into the middle of the Atacama, about 75 kilometers from Antofagasta to see a bizarre statue in the middle of nowhere. The second, a weekend in San Pedro de Atacama for relaxation and some immersion in Altiplanic culture for a few days. Now it’s time to hop on a plane and go home to the United States. (But don’t worry… I’m going to keep blogging!)

Last Tuesday a few friends and I drove into the vast desert behind Antofagasta on the historic Pan-American Highway. The highway isn’t exactly well-travelled in these parts. We were one of the few cars on the road; mainly, just a few busses and trucks go up and down these remote desert stretches.

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After driving for a while, out of the absolutely empty sandy landscape that looks exactly like Tatooine (sans Stormtroopers and droids), suddenly a human hand rises as if by magic out of the barren desert.

Our traveling companion, a little Westie named Snowy, instantly hopped out of the car to investigate the strange sculpture. We wandered into the blazing heat and took a few pictures before a couple of semi trucks pulled up, spoiling our view.

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I also ran out into the desert for a few photos in the vast nothingness, which I later posted on Twitter. A few people mentioned that the desert had shrunk me. It does appear to be something out of a Lewis Carroll novel, doesn’t it?

I have not found much information about the Chilean artist who constructed the statue in 1992, Mario Irarrázabal, other than that he liked to sculpt human figures. I’d like to find out why he chose this location, where so few people can witness it. As it stands, it really is not much more than a vaguely interesting stop for bored truckers and a blank canvas for graffiti. Perhaps, as well, a reminder of how small and isolated we all are in such a vast landscape.

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