Madaru moto - motorbike adventures in South America
DAY 22: Pica seemed a pretty quiet place. I walked up to the main plaza, shooting a few pics of quaint buildings like this one
I found many eateries were still closed, but chanced upon this one, with its faux facade, "El Gato Rapido" - "The Quick Cat", just as it was opening.
Time to ask at the tourist office about my reason for visiting Pica: a visit to the "Huellas de Dinosaurios" - dinosaur footprints. Unfortunately, after the helpful staff called a local guide, I was informed the road that leads to the hill where the footprints are is flooded, and impossible to visit. Here is what you see inside Pica's Tourist Information Office; both are plaster replicas:
A bit of a disappointment, but there were some other things to see in Pica. First stop was their excellent little museum. Especially interesting were the displays about the area's pre-Hispanic inhabitants. The fortunate feature of the desert atmosphere is that it preserves relics quite well, as these exhibits show: here is the frame of a drum made from pieces of cactus wood sewn together:
Here is the remains of a colourful parrot, mummified by the dry air
Cactus spines, used as needles by the ancient people
Here is an ancient sewing kit:
Most interesting was this 'turbaned' mummy, laid to rest in a woven shroud decorated with feathers
The exhibit note says the 'turban' was coffee-coloured, while the face was covered with red pigment. Red colouring is often associated with burials all throughout pre-Hispanic America; the Mayas used cinnabar.
Also interesting was this aerial photograph of a geoglyph, which to my eye bears a striking resemblance to crop circle designs.
As I left the museum I got talking to a man in the reception, Senor O'Ryan. He said the mummy was one of 'many' that have been found over the years. I told him about my failed quest to see the dinosaur footprints, some 30kms from Pica; he showed me some absolutely amazing photographs of them on his desktop computer. Senor O'Ryan said, upon hearing I had an offroad bike, that I could probably still see them. He called over his secretary Sara and told her to drive me over to see one Senor Ramon, who could possibly guide me there. Such great help for a complete stranger such as myself left me slightly flabbergasted! When we arrived at Senor Ramon's house, we found him having lunch. I think he worked as a mechanic. He said he thought it was possible, but in some places the water was waist high. The road actually follows a dry creekbed, which is now flooded due to unusually high rain in the Bolivian highlands, not far as the crow flies from here. It seeps through the bedrock he explained to me. However, waist high is just a bit too high for me and Atwakey, given my low level of riding experience. So I had to abandon the idea.
Even early in the morning the sun was hot enough for these local ladies to break out their parasols:
I used the day to experiment with two new camera mounting methods: one was for my Pentax WG-1, a rugged waterproof model with interval shooting function. My idea was to set it up so it automatically took a photo of the road ahead once every so many minute, giving me a great record of the changing road conditions. I mounted it on the front of the white plastic box. it lasted about a mile before it fell off. When I reviewed the photos later on my laptop, they were not the best quality, so back to the drawing board with that idea. I also mounted the HD170 to the 2rpm motor on the rear pole. That seemed to work, though perhaps 1 rpm may have been more suitable.
Yet, I did get to see two dinosaurs, a T-Rex and Stegosaurus, when I took Atwakey for spin later that day:
EEEAAAAARRGGHH! About to be swallowed by a T-Rex!
Luckily the I escaped the clutches of these two monsters, when I took Atwakey on a half-hour ride to check something out I saw on the way into Pica late yesterday:
It appeared to be a monument to a young man who liked coca-cola. Roadside shrines are called animitas in Chile.
There was a smashed windscreen placed in front of the monument
I considered camping in one of these ruins when I was riding in late yesterday, but decided not to when I saw some signs saying large areas were 'prohibido' because they were owned by the military.
On this road there are wooded areas interspersed with desert sands; I saw several signs indicating agricultural research stations. There are ways to bring life to the desert: one is irrigation, which is how this oasis seems to have been born:
On the way back, just as I was coming into Pica, I noticed my HD170 action cam had fallen off! Oh no! Several hundred dollars down the drain if I don't ride back and find it... which luckily I did not too far back, lying in the middle of the road
Superficially, seems there was no damage to the lens at least:
Back in Las Cabanas, I found the camera worked ok, though the remote "off" seemed to have stopped working, and the mounting system was a complete failure. Back to the drawing board with this idea too!
Seems like a day of small disasters... result of letting my daypack plastic clips dangle too close to the exhaust:
And not being able to lift my leg high enough over the saddle when mounting the bike, the clips on my motorcross boots has nowripped the seat cover.
I wandered into Pica one last time in the afternoon. Here is Pica's church, facing the main plaza:
A plaque on the front wall says the chruch was restored only a year ago by the mining comany Collahuasi, as per a law mandating cultural donations:
There is an air-conditioned ATM in the actual Plaza de Armas:
And two beautiful cast-metal lamposts face the plaza
On the opposite corner a local eccentric has displayed his collection or bric a brac and posted various notices:
Outside one general store were several noticeboards with lots of pamphlets about low local water supplies and the threat caused by mining companies to local water supply.
But perhaps this lady was more interested in this notice - an event marking International Day of the Woman... it said the entrance fee for women was 4000 pesos, while men could enter for free!
Back in Las Cabanas, I asked the owner what the Coca Cola monument was about. Initially she didn't know what I was talking about till I showed her a photo.
"Oh, that's a monument to the 'nino de Coca-Cola' (the Coca-Cola kid)" she said. "He was driving a truck delivering Coca Cola, when it rolled over and he was killed. Only recently did this accident happen. He had a wife and children too" Then she started to choke up, and recalled how her own 24 year old son was killed in a traffic accident just three years ago. "He had just finished university, and had his whole life ahead of him" she said.
After darkness fell, lightning lit up the sky, but it was so distant there was hardly any thunder. There is a high mountain ridge to the west of Pica that is actually the eastern edge of the Bolivian Altiplano. More rain up there would mean more water in Pica, eventually.
Although I didn't get to see the dinosaur footprints, I did have a memorable day.
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