Hot days, freezing nights, welcome to the desert

Trip Start Mar 10, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Chile  ,
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

So we wave goodbye to Argentina for the last time as we head back into Chile. Our destination is San Pedro de Atacama, a small town in the middle of the Atacama desert, the most arid desert in the world. Some parts of this desert havenīt seen rain for over 400 years! Every backpacker makes their way here for the same reason, to go on the legendary 3 day, 4x4 Jeep tour to the "Salir de Uyuni" the Bolivian Salt Plains of Uyuni, the biggest salt plains on Earth.

The coach journey to San Pedro de Atacama was something special. The views were amazing, as we drove up over mountains and through deserts. There was one problem though, altitude sickness. As we climbed higher and higher the oxygen became more scarce, making us feel very dizzy and light headed. We were told there was nothing we could except drink water and wait to acclimatize. This can take a few days... We arrived at our hostel late in the evening. We tried to book our 4x4 tour for the next day but all the agencies were fully booked so we went for the day after with "Cordilliera Travel", they were the most expensive but also had the best ratings. This gave us the opportunity to visit the nearby attractions of S. P. de Atacama the next day.

We woke up early as we wanted to rent bikes and cycle into the desert before the sun becomes unbearable. Temperatures at night reach -5 but as soon as the sun rises you start to feel your skin burn! We cycled 3km North to the ruins of the Pukará (fortress), constructed by the Atacameņos protect them selves from other South American inhabitants. It was quite interesting seeing how the Atacameņos lived in the 12th century. We then cycled a further 5km to enjoy views of the surrounding desert. Later on that day when the temperature had cooled down we took a tour to the "Valle de la Luna", the "Moon Valley", given itīs name because the landscape is similar to that of the Moon. We walked though caves and climbed huge sand dunes to watch the sunset.

Early night for us as we were to wake up at the crack of dawn to be picked up by our tour operator for our unforgettable 4x4 journey to Uyuni, Bolivia. 
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