Sunday, February 2, 2014

San Pedro de Atacama

The 250kms through to Calama was across the desert with more and more mining activities present.  We had planned to use the Honda agent in Calama to do our second free service and when we arrived the owners daughter spoke English and was very helpful. We stayed the night in Calama leaving the bikes at the Honda dealership and booked into a B&B across the road. 
The bikes were ready the next day at 12:30pm and after withdrawing money and getting lunch we were on our way to San Pedro de Atacama.  As we climbed higher the bikes started to show signs of altitude sickness and after a few alterations we were able to get up to the 2400masl.  The landscape became more rugged and mountainous and just before reaching the town we passed the Valle de la Muerte (Valley of the dead), a strange landscape with little vegetation, sharp rocks and white rocks/sand which looked like frost. 

San Pedro de Atacama is much smaller than anticipated and very quaint.  It feels like you’ve stepped back in time with buildings that look like they made out of clay, flat roofs and dirt roads, however it is a very touristy town with nearly every second shop being tour operators, restaurants, hostels or curios.  The camp we found was 5000pesos per person and just on the edge of the town centre.  After visiting the tourist information centre and getting a few flyers we had a bite to eat in the town square listening to performers with their drums and watching jugglers and fire throwers.  The pizza was the closest we have had to pizzas at home, and while we were eating Nick was challenged by a 8yr old for a piece… having not eaten much that day Nicks reply was quite funny: “No…Para mi” which is “No…for me!” the kid was unimpressed and shoved the plate across the table

Valley of death

San Pedro de Atacama

 25/01/2014 – Happy dirty 30 Teeny! Wanting to do something great we were up at 7am and on the road towards El Tatio geysers. 30kms into the ride mist and rain hit us as did the cold, so we pulled off the road made a cup of coffee and decided what to do.  More mist and rain rolled in and the plan was cancelled. Back at camp we chilled the rest of the day reading and relaxing and in the late afternoon had a few celebratory beers.  Our neighbours were 4 friends from Santiago in San Pedro on vacation, and invited us to join them at a pub to listen to some live music.  The atmosphere was great with the fire in the middle of the room, dogs mingling between the crowds and the band playing well known Chilean songs despite being from Spain.
Unhappy birthday girl !!!

Cheers to the dirty thirties !
 Feeling a little sensitive the next morning/afternoon we thought a swim in the Laguna Cejar would be the best idea. Only 30kms from San Pedro we arrived at 3 lagunas and paid our 2000pesos entrance.  The colours of the lagunas are amazingly turquoise and the number of people that had come through for a swim impressive.  Some were even set up with a gazebo, drinks and snacks, like a day at the beach! Edging our way into the cold water- we thought we would have been diving in as it was a scorching hot day- we couldn’t tell how salty the water was. It was only when we were eventually in that we realised how high we floated in the water! In some cases people dived in and looked like they bounced to the top again!  Sufficiently frozen we sat in the sun to dry off and were suddenly caked in salt…uncomfortably so and we were happy to use the showers provided at the ablutions. Having seen on the internet that the weather would improve the next day we had an early night ready to be up before the sunrise.

Floating so high

Town plaza

Although 6am is not the horrid 4am that other travellers get up at to do the trip to the El Tatio geysers, we still didn’t enjoy the chilly temperatures at camp.  Layered to the max we started our ascent watching the sky get lighter and lighter till eventually the sun poked its head over the Licancabir Volcanoe.  What an incredible sunrise…maybe we should try see these more often?!  As we climbed it got colder and colder and colder and freezing with layers of frost and ice on the roadside and vegetation.  Despite being so cold and not being able to feel our toes and fingers, the scenery was phenomenal and at times we stopped at lakes with flamingos, ducks, vicunas and alpacas with snowy mountaintops in the background.  We didn’t arrive to see the sunrise at the geysers when their were meant to be blasting at their highest (up to 10 meters), yet it was still like there was a field of steam engine chimneys puffing into the atmosphere.  Wandering around the pools bubbling and newly formed surface cracks whistling as steam escaped we realised how easy it might be to step onto a brittle piece of land and fall into the scorching water below.  Warnings of how sensitive this area is to human interference were signposted around, and a warning of falling into 85 degrees celcius is one way to make a person very careful!!


Vicuna in the El tatio geysers 

Note the smoldering volcano in the background !
 The thermal pool that you can swim in is a little browner than anticipated, and not having a towel with us and too many layers to contend with we decided to rather go to the Puritama pools for a swim at 3000masl.  The drive back was equally incredible, and the amount of photos we took ridiculous really.
The Puritama pools are come with a hefty price tag of 15000 pesos (R300) each for the day or 9000 pesos after 2pm.  Luckily we arrived after 2pm and had a delicious lunch by the pools amazed at how warm and clear the water was. 

 Wanting to end the day off with a good view of the sunset we paid the 4000pesos each to get into the Valle de Lunar (Valley of the moon).  Another strange landscape with some amazing features, we climbed the dune to get a good view of the sun setting over the area.  We have been really spoilt with sunsets in Chile, and were a little disappointed at the sunset over the Valle de Lunar as there were not as many different colours as we had anticipated.  However the clear evening and 360 degree views of the volcanoes, salar and valley were worth the trip.
Sunset in Luna Valley


Layered rocks

Sand dunes

Our friends from Santiago: Pablo, Isidora, Nick (another Nick!) and Florencia

1 comment:

  1. Greetings from "another Nick"!! Hope you guys are having fun where ever you are! I really must admit that we braged about having met you all the rest of our journey! Jaja, but seriously, you have been a big inspiration to me.
    I wish you the best of lucks guys, you really have a great thing going on there!
    A psychological hug to both of you, Nick