While they’re not unique in the habit of building a roadside memorial to road accident victims, the Chileans certainly build a lot of them.
The nil populated area between Calama Airport and San Pedro de Atacama must have had at least 30 shrines on a 60 mile stretch of relatively ordinary road. Most included a Chilean flag. Some had a kennel like structure protecting fresh flowers from the sun. A couple included mangled bikes, presumably the mode of transport of the victim. Another included a wrecked car behind the kennel.
Our experience of driving here has been fairly good. The average motorist doesn’t appear to be a nutter. But bikes are unlit. Without reflector even. Roads are dark and pedestrians walk aimlessly in front of traffic. Away from town crash barriers are rare and cats eyes even rarer.
Some road surfaces are nothing more than mud covering asphalt laid decades earlier and never repaired. And as you head into the mountains rockfalls go uncleared and rare snow melt rivers find new paths after years of dryness and flow across the highway.
We’ve not experienced anything like the mountain passes of Peru and Bolivia. But what is clear as that these roads take lives regularly. And my calm and controlled stewardship of Chris, a less experienced driver, has occasionally found a shriek of unwarranted panic as I spot a hazard I hadn’t realised he was already aware of!
Taking no risks is the order of the day for us. I’m not sure anybody would be tripping over to build and maintain a shrine if there’s a serious misjudgement.