Hand Of The Desert

Roadside attractions cling to a simple request, please stop and look around. Undaunted by Interstate highways, freeways or GPS assertiveness, roadside attractions thrive along paths less traveled. Secondary highways, rural routes and country roads are peppered with roadside treasures capable of tickling curious minds.Rarely a destination, roadside attractions are discovered by those willing to stop and look around.

It never occurred to me roadside attractions could be anything other than serendipitous. Something discovered along the way, chance encounters,  emotional tugs, split second acceptance of hopeful invitation to stop and look around. Never a destination until this image entered my life. One unshakeable glimpse at Hand of the Desert catapulted roadside attraction atop life’s bucket list.

The Atacama Desert covers 1,000 kilometers of Chilean coastline. A barren plateau situated in a rain shadow courtesy the Andes and Chilean Coast Range mountains. The driest place on Earth receives less than a millimeter of annual rainfall, weather stations in some regions record decades without a single drop of rain. Cloudless skies, absence of light pollution and high altitude explain why Atacama is home to ALMA, the largest ground telescope observatory in the world.

The coastal city of Antofagasta approached sculptor Mario Irrarazabal to create a work of art in the emptiness of Atacama. In 1992, Hand of the Desert invited travelers to venture an hour south from Antofagasta on Hwy. 5, keep right at a fork in the road to stay on 5, watch sharply for a sign saying Escultura then follow a path to the right. Admission is free, don’t expect ice cream or souvenirs.

Four outstretched fingers and a thumb rising 11 meters above parched landscape in one Earth’s remotest places redefines roadside attraction. Hand of the Desert can’t be stumbled upon, finding it requires purpose. I like that. Nothing could make me happier than an opportunity to stop and look around the Atacama at Hand of the Desert.

Image result for escultura sign atacama

Image result for escultura sign atacama

Image result for escultura sign atacama



4 thoughts on “Hand Of The Desert

  1. Love it; Art that lives in its environment. It reminds me of a travel paradigm I evolved in my backpacking days and still use to great effect. “If you know where you are going, then it is urgent to randomly turn left or right”
    If you know where you are going, what’s the point? You are essentially already there. Not knowing where you are going opens up the path to discovery and serendipity. And on the rare occasion that you end up in the wrong place? Go randomly young man, go randomly.

    • Precisely! I was lucky enough to marry a man who shares my road trip philosophy. Pack everyone in the car, avoid highways in favor of secondary roads, stop as often as we like, never make hotel reservations or follow strict mileage constraints. If we have 10 days, drive out for 5 and back for 5 on another route. Maybe we set out for Chicago and ended up in St. Louis – no big deal. Thought we’d picnic at a lake but had lunch in a cemetery – no big deal. Sigh. Go randomly is the foundation of my travels, the reason why turning left rather than right expands horizons.

  2. I love roadside attractions! They make getting from point A to B an adventure! This one is definitely among the coolest.

  3. I love it.

    It’s fun to try this form of route planning: at the next major intersection whichever direction has the most sun is the way to go!

    As we get older we are less inclined to go without reservations (a good night’s sleep is harder to find at our age) but that doesn’t mean we can’t make plans with abundant time for detours. And nowadays you can always change your reservation before 4 pm. 🙂

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