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.