PISCO, COLA AND IMILAC
by Steve Schoner
February 24, 2007
Pisco sour? How about Pisco and Coca Cola? I recall that memorable day in Jan of '96 when Marvin Killgore, his buddy Hurley and me were at Imilac. They left me out there alone with the promise that they would return from Antofagasta with supplies by 3:00. Then Marvin and Hurley left at Marvin's usual speed limit... 100 mph down the dirt road to Antofagasta. Leaving me all by my lonesome self out in the Atacama desert.
I had a good time looking and found quite a few good sized Imilacs, then when 3:00 PM came along, and Marvin and Hurley did not arrive, I began to get a bit nervous. Them speeding down that dirt road at 100 mph is something to worry about you know -- all by your lonesome self out in a desert that is more akin to Mars than the earth. 11,000 feet or more up.
Well my worry became very extreme when 6:00 came on, and still no Marvin or Hurley. I looked in vain to spot their dust trail coming down that long dusty road to Antofagasta.
8:00 PM sun now low on the horizon... Still alone out at Imilac. No transportation out, and now verging on panic. All sorts of visions of accidents that they might have had -- speeding down that road at 100 mph. Me all by myself out in the middle of nowhere.
I began to work out in my mind the prospect of walking out the next morning. No way would I even venture to walk out at night with the winds howling at 60 mph, as it does at night in the Atacama desert. And at 20 deg F or less, I decided to wait till the day to make the hike out... Like 25 miles to the next outpost, or wait along that road for a traveler or the sometimes bus that travels that road.
Needless to say, it did not look good. I ran though what I thought I might need for the pack out.
Then just as I was getting my sleeping bag and over-shell set up for the night behind a hill to block the wind, with worry on my mind at about 9:00 Marvin and Hurley barrel into camp.
What relief ! What joy ! I'M SAVED !
They saw that I was worried, and invited me in from the wind which was howling at the time.
They offered me a Cola which I eagerly took, and began to guzzle down. It kind of tasted different, but I did not care at the time. Till Pisco found its mark. That big bottle of Cola was spiked with 50% Pisco, (at 85 proof alc) and I guzzled it down in my post anxiety relief.
Marvin and Hurley were laughing at my expense as it began to take affect, AT 11,000 FT ELEVATION !
I was crocked big time.
Then, as the night came on and it got quite dark, (you would not believe the night sky in the Atacama, you can actually see by starlight) I had to set up my over shell for my sleeping bag. What a chore crocked at 11,000 FT. Marvin and Hurley laughing at my expense.
Somehow, someway, whatever, I got it done fumbling all the way through. (those that have seen me struggle with that over shell without me being crocked will understand)
I lay back getting ready for the snooze to come on. You would not believe the sky at Imilac. You can see the Magellanic Clouds, and the stars are fantastic. And there were, I think, an unusual number of shooting stars that night, and even the faint ones cast light over the weird landscape.
It was pretty amazing -- probably because of Pisco impressing my brain. I pulled the over shell cover over my head, to keep the ever decreasing wind out, (It usually stops at midnight) and bedded down for the night -- expecting that the next day might be a hangover for me with little meteorite hunting.
Morning came at 5:30 AM, and I woke, but it was too cold to get out as ice had formed the over shell canopy as a warning that I would freeze my fanny off. But when the sun comes up it warms very fast. And during the day it often reaches 85 F.
But I had no hangover, none at all!
In fact I felt great.
Marvin and Hurley thought for sure that I would be wasted that day, and I was up and going ready to find those elusive meteorites. So, I went to it swinging Marvin's Gold Bug II with 14 inch coil. (God that thing is hard all day. I am certain that I would have done better with my VLF-710, which was down due to the fact that the airlines damaged my coil in transit). All told I got 8.5 kilos of the larger Imilacs with weights of 10 to 200 grams, with Marvin and Hurley getting 12 kilos of mostly smaller ones each. Then the real kicker was when I broke camp and Marvin checked where I had and my sleeping bag and found a 380 gram Imilac individual right under where I had laid my head.
Moral of the story -- After drinking Pisco, dreaming of finding meteorites, then breaking camp, always check the ground under where you sleep... You just don't know what you might be sleeping on. And lastly, Pisco and Cola is great at 11,000 ft.
It became plainly obvious to me why they were delayed-- After I guzzled down that full bottle of Pisco-Cola mix. (I have yet to figure out which was more, the Pisco or the Cola)
I surmised this:
1) They bought at couple of Pisco bottles in Antofagasta, along with Cola which is very popular in South America.
2) Being that you cannot drink and drive at the same time, they most likely held off till they got back on that long dusty road out of town.
3) They made the mix and began to drink it...
4) Antofagasta is at sea level and Imilac strewnfield is at about 11,000 ft. As they gained in elevation the Pisco began to take effect much more rapidly then Marvin and Hurley realized. Pilots are warned, one shot of liquor at sea level equals 2 every 5,000 ft elevation increase. So they got "high" very fast.
5) They pulled off road to recover.
6) When they finally came down enough to drive back to camp, I asked them why they were so delayed, expressing my anxiety that I might have had to walk out the next day.
7) Marvin handed me a bottle of Cola-Pisco that he and mixed and said "Drink this" The answer became very obvious very quickly.
I can say this, Pisco is great at altitude. I did not have a hangover the next day at all, neither did Marvin or Hurley. I bought two bottles on the way back and have yet to find it here in the US.
Straight, it has a unique taste. Certainly great for those "high" altitude meteorite hunts (just so long as there are no trees, rocks or gullies in the way)
Humm... May have to take a trip down to Chile's Imilac strewnfield, or better yet to Peru to hunt at Larry's so called "crater" just to get more Pisco.