The penultimate month of the Chile Challenge has ended with two amazing coincidences, which I can honestly say were not planned, and in fact I only realised one of them as I sat down to write this.
Firstly, those with hawk eyes may notice that this month’s distance is exactly the same as October’s. And I mean exactly the same at 367 km or 103.1% of my monthly target. This was the one I only just realised when checking my spreadsheet, although to be fair it is split slightly differently, with slightly less on the swim and run side and more on the bike. But nonetheless the end result is the same, which says a lot about the consistency now being achieved, which should serve me well next year when I can finally stop tracking every mile I complete!
The second fact is that this puts me on 4050 km for the year, out of a total distance of 4270 km. Magically this leaves exactly 220 km remaining, which those of you into triathlon will know is something of a special number for us: the distance of an Ironman triathlon! Again this was totally unplanned, and it was only on Friday afternoon as I put in my final spin class of the month that I realised this was going to be my December target.
Fortunately I won’t actually be attempting an Ironman (yet) as exciting as a way to finish the year it would be, it would also probably see me laid up well into the new year! But as with the rest of the year, I will be working hard to hit it, preferably before the festivities start – I am pretty sure my body would not thank me for attempting a 10 mile run straight after Christmas dinner…
As for Chile, I am now so close to the border the migras are going to be after me. In relative terms, I am just north of the city of Iquique, however as I have no interesting photos of that part of the world I will talk about the places I have passed through since laving San Pedro: Calama & Chuquicamata.
Now this is proper mining territory – home to the largest open cast copper mine in the world – the backbone of the Chilean economy. From a tourism point of view this is probably the Chilean equivalent of Birmingham, perhaps not the first place on your list or guidebook, but well worth the visit if you get the chance.
The story behind Chuqui is somewhat sad: a community established specifically to work on in mines, which subsequently saw the population vacated as the mine grew, partly for health reasons and simply to allow more room to dig. This has turned the area into a ghost town, truly as spooky as it sounds, with everything preserved almost exactly as it was the day the last people left, with schools, shops and even what remains of the hospital (after much of it was covered by a landslide) simply empty shells. A visit to the mine is truly awesome, and words simply cannot describe the scale of the place, and the giant dozers used to ferry the copper from the depths to the surface, looking like ants from the other side of the crater.
The city of Calama is much the same, a huge place in the middle of the desert with lots of sand. But the people are great, and the streets (or statues) paved with copper, including this statue which sums up the area in every way. If you are lucky your visit may coincide with one of the festivals, and you might catch a glimpse of possibly the coolest cowboy we saw on our whole trip, in the red shirt below.
Any yes, as I have been doing all year, I put the needs of the challenge ahead of my own, and managed to have one of the coldest swims I have ever experienced… It turns out that despite being in the middle of the desert, north of the tropic of Capricorn, leaving an open pool uncovered at night in the middle of winter does not make it any warmer. The staff as probably still talking about the crazy gringo who thought it would be a good idea to take a dip in August! Still it has all been worth it, with just one final stretch left to get across the line.