Getting Things Settled in San Pedro de Atacama

Trip Start Jan 08, 2014
Trip End Jan 25, 2014

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EcoExplor Hostal

Flag of Chile  ,
Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I can't stay up too long today because we are getting up early tomorrow to go to the salt flats of the Atacama outside San Pedro.

I awoke this am on the bus from La Serena to San Pedro de Atacama just in time to see (and take a single photo of) the sun rising over the Atacama Desert.  I am not exactly sure of the route but I think we pretty much followed the coast until we veered off to Calama.  I didn't start really looking out of the window until after finally, mostly waking up around 9 am.  I heard Astrid tell me to look because there were some camelids outside near the road.  She thinks they were guanacos.  After that I dosed off again for awhile, then started watching the scenery.  It was mostly sort of flat, rocky ground with mountains in the distance. 

What was interesting was that at first there seemed to be no plants at all, but sometimes the ground looked as if it had been muddy and then whipped up in meringue-like peaks.  There were some dirt tracks running out toward the mountains, a building here and there and some operations that looked as if they could be some sort of mining.  There were several towns or villages along the way where people got on and off.  I saw one section where there were quite a number of water channels with water in them.  I wondered why, if it were so dry, they didn't use pipes instead of open channels where the water could evaporate.  I didn't see anything growing around these channels.  Astrid thinks they might have been for the mining operations even though she didn't see them.

Once we got to San Pedro, we walked to our hostel which was pretty close to the bus terminal.  It was rather hard to find since it does not have any signs but it did have the same street number as our booking address.  The owner, Victor, says he has just opened and will eventually have a wonderful colorful sign.  Later on, someone we were talking to suggested that Victor might be operating illegally from his house and therefore didn't have a sign and probably would never have one.  Victor has a dog called Fabian that, according to Victor, will be very "melty" if we call him by name and act nice to him.

Our room was not yet ready and wouldn't be for several hours, but we were OK with leaving our bags and going into San Pedro to try to arrange our tours to the Salar de Uyuni from here.  This took 6 hours.   First we tried a tour company that Astrid had used before, but there was a problem.  I had wanted to have an English-speaking guide if possible because of my experience at the pisco distillery.  So we tried a few more places.  Oh, yes, this first place was where we found out that the Salar de Uyuni is very wet at this time and we won't get to drive over it or go to the island that was the high point of the tour.  We tried several places only to find out that these problems were widespread.  We did find one agency that seemed very good but they didn't go to Uyuni.  We then explored alternative ways to Uyuni but we would have to backtrack to Calama and that seemed too complicated.  Meanwhile we also decided we would prefer to move from Victor's hostel to another one once we had made the decision to spend an extra night in San Pedro so that we could do the geyser tour with the company that had English-speaking guides but only ran on Thursday.  If this sounds awfully confused, it was a very confusing process as we tried to sort out the best options and had to keep switching as new complications arose.  We finally settled on Turismo Colque SRL, the original tour agency that Astrid had previously used, to book the tour to the Salar de Uyuni only to find out that they didn't take credit cards - or was that another one - anyway, we ended up at the first one and Astrid had to go and get more cash - which she didn't really want to do.  So now we have a tour to the salt flats of Atacama and a tour to the geysers with the English-speaking company (Koala Tours on Calle Ayacucho) and the tour to the salar de Uyumi with a second company (Colque) and an extra day at another hostel after tomorrow night's stay here.

We were quite exhausted by then.  I searched for postcards and the post office so that I could send the cards from Chile rather than taking them to Bolivia with me.  We tried to get into the church but there was a service, so we stopped at a cafe on the main plaza and had some beers and a very nice vegetable platter.  I had a beer from the Patagonian brewery Austral that I visited in Puerto Arenas on my Dragoman trip and it was the one flavored with calafate berries.  After that, we got back to the church just as it was closing.  Astrid's photo of the interior is actually from another day.

Then, back to our hostel, buying water, sorting stuff to take tomorrow, and showering, doing a bit of laundry and Astrid worked on getting us hotel reservations for our remaining days in Potosi and La Paz Bolivia.  After she was all done, she realized we would be spending one of those nights on the bus traveling from Potosi to La Paz.  Now I should go back to do yesterday's blog and then get to bed.

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