The next morning we headed back inland. The welcome sea level salt air was left behind for thinner air as we headed toward Bolivia and the Andes. Dominik and I discussed our options and decided on a small town called Putre which was located just outside the Reserva De La Biosfera Lauca. Putre was at 3,500 metres and would be a good place to hole up for the night as our bodies acclimatized to the altitude once more. Besides there was an old Spanish church that Dominik thought would be nice to paint.
The ride up from Arica did not disappoint. We followed a shallow valley floor east and as we rode the layer of mist above us cut a parallel line where it met the walls that rose on either side of us. The road was in good shape and soon we began to climb...and climb and climb and climb until we were enveloped in the mist that before we had observed from below. The road continued to climb and soon enough we punched through the mist to blue skies and a road that carved its way through the barren landscape. The road was a marvel and besides ourselves the only traffic we encountered were trucks. There was an endless line of them that slowly made their way up the road like a parade of slugs. Those that were coming down fought gravity with air brakes to a point that the air was tainted with burning brakes.
We rose above the 4,000 metre mark before descending to the little backwater village of Putre. The little town was a treat and the locals were very friendly and the town square that bordered on the church was an absolute marvel. We could see and hear the giant slugs puffing up the highway across the valley. We soon found a hostel where the bikes would be safe then headed for a bite to eat at a little restaurant on one corner of the square, the Flor de Restaurant Rosamel. The restaurant and the food were a complete anomaly considering we were supposed to be in a poor indigenous region of the country. The decor was spot on, the owner was a gas and when we asked him if we could film he opened the doors to the kitchen and introduced us to his chefs, the waitress, showed us the bar, the different eating areas and his office. He was beaming with pride as he explained what was being prepared in the kitchen. There were three large pans of meat cooking and one huge cauldron of soup. As we finished filming our ‘lunches’ were brought out. I highlight lunches because the meal was incredible............and huge!
After we settled up Dominik was off to paint and I was off to film. The church was every bit as lovely as the books said, though it was locked when we got there. Nevertheless Dominik set up and went to work. We finished the night off with a small bite across from the hostel. Unfortunately there was no hot showers that night, the gas truck hadn’t arrived and when we asked about it we got the discouraging shrug and, “ Manana.”