Atacama desert

Trip Start Dec 01, 2011
Trip End Jan 20, 2013

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Where I stayed
Hotel Casa de Campo Santa Cruz
Read my review - 3/5 stars
hostal campo base

Flag of Chile  ,
Monday, April 9, 2012

I caught my 1 AM bus from La Serena to San Pedro de Atacama.   I woke up 9 hours later and for the next 9 hours of the trip, I only saw desert.  The desert was everywhere.  We passed two cities called Antofagasta and Calama and there was not much to do in these cities.  They were very small.  The bus ride was long, but at 6 PM, I finally arrived after 18 hours on a bus.  I found my hostel in San Pedro and dropped off my bags, then went to schedule my tours for the following four days, got yet another expensive dinner, it came with a pisco sour, which is a lime flavored drink kind of similar to a margarita.  It's actually quite good.  Like a sour margarita.. Chile has funny meals.  I like the food here, but they eat really late.  Lunch is served from about 2-4 PM and a lot of places do not start before 2 PM for lunch and dinners don't usually start until 8 PM.  My dinner was a steak.  This little town has loads of tourists and its 20 hours from the nearest capital city.  I find it hard why anyone would travel 20 hours to a place where there is nothing here.  It's a desert in every direction.  The houses are basically made out of mud huts with corrregated doors.  It's all restaurants, hostels and souvenir shops with a police station, post office, and hospital.  It's at least 75% tourist here.  It's surprisingly overpopulated and actually tough to find a room in this place in the middle of nowhere.  In a capital city, tourists are spread out, but here they are all crammed into one area.  The whole city is only about 5 blocks by 5 blocks.  Its easy to get to know very fast here. 

Day 5

In San Pedro, there are two basic tours in Chile and a few others that go through the desert to Bolivia. One tour starts at 4 AM and goes 8 hours to geysers, hot spring and a few
other parts of the desert. The other tour departs at 4 PM and end after sunset. The hostel was nice, but had paper thin walls and we heard the other backpackers making noise as they got up to prepare for their tour. After that, I had a pretty decent sleep and woke up 9 AM. The breakfast was included at the hostel, however I had to pay for water and found that funny. I had a busy day. Somehow I lost my immigration papers to Bolivia. I had to go to the border, which is
only 500 meters walking. They gave me a free immigration paper for tomorrow's crossing. San Pedro de Atacama is on the border with Bolivia. I did a little grocery shopping, tourist shopping, changed hostels, got laundry done, had lunch and rested for a few hours before going on my tour. This tour took me to the 3 Marie's statues, which were nothing like the 3 sisters in Australia. They only stood about 10 feet in the air, then onto the amphitheater and great dune.  The great dune is about a 20 minute hike. It is a ways in the air overlooking the whole valley. The last stops were the moon valley and valley of death. The valley of death was the old road to San Pedro, but they recently made a new paved road. This valley is pretty crazy with wild wind. I have not been to many deserts before. This is a first for me and its quite an adventure. It's fun. The terrain is unlike many other places I have been. It was ironic because it rained at the end of our tour and it only rains 4 days per year here. There was also lightning and thunder. There is
very little plant life here because of not having water, however, the water comes from the neighboring country of Bolivia, which has the Andes mountain range and when the mountains melt, it drains into the desert. Some area of the desert have water underneath it from the
flowing off the mountains and you can not walk in these areas because the ground can collapse.

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