In the desert
Trip Start Nov 17, 2010
38Trip End Feb 27, 2011
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The bus journey up north was pretty uneventful, we stopped off at a few large bus stations along the way to pick up and drop off people and also to stop for food. In the evening I had the curtains open, a full moon hung over the desert landscape and the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack playing on my ipod, I almost felt like I was in a western.
We arrived around 10am in the morning, in a small dusty bus station in San Pedro de Atacama, located at 2400m above sea level and with a population of only 5000 people. After standing around for 5 minutes trying to figure out where we were on the lonely planet map, a girl drove up in a 4wd and asked if we had a booking for a hostel. Turns out she was from the hostel we had a reservation at so luckily we got a lift there, it would've taken us much longer to walk there, especially without directions or any water in the middle of a desert town
Our hostel was very basic, the walls looked like some kind of mud brick, and there was a little couryard with stone seats and some hammocks. It was great to get out of the sun and into the shade.
We walked to the main part of town just to have a look around. Despite only have a small population, many of the streets were packed with shops for tours- salt flats tours, geyser tours, Valle de la Luna tours, sandboarding... In the end we booked a time for sandboarding and had lunch at a small local joint. Both Oliver and I are skiers, however after looking at some of the sand-skiing equipment we decided it was probably better to just do sanboarding. We also walked all the way to the other side of the town and found the only supermarket there was to buy some water.
In the afternoon we joined a spaniard that was staying at the hostel and we went on a tour of Valle de la Luna - Valley of the Moon. We walked through some gulleys of natural rock formations, through a small cave and also visited a small salt mine. At the end of the tour we drove up to a cliff to watch the sunset over the valley while sipping on pisco sours.
For dinner we walked back into town and ate at a local restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet. We were the only gringos in there which was nice.
22/12/2012 - Wednesday
Slept in this morning till midday, wandered around a bit in the town, then headed into town to book our bus out of San Pedro.
Originally we had planned to pass through the Uyuni Salt Flats and end up in La Paz, but we realised we would be missing most of Christmas if we followed that route, so we decided that we would go around the salt flats and spend Christmas in La Paz, then do a round trip to the salt flats. It turns out it was the right choice, but more on that later...
We visited three or four different bus companies, and found that there were no direct buses to La Paz from San Pedro. So we booked a bus to the nearby city of Calama, about 2 hours away, where we were told we could get connecting buses to La Paz, so we booked them.
We then headed off for our sandboarding tour. The tour guide picked us up from the main square and we drove for about 30 minutes until we reached some large sand dunes. Since I've never tried snowboarding after 9 years of skiing, sandboarding felt quite weird although balancing wasn't too hard. However after walking up to the top of the sand dune three or four times I was ready to call it quits, it was the most tired I had been in some time. The tour guides also recorded some videos and took photos which they burned onto a DVD and gave to us afterwards.