Atacama desert

Trip Start Jan 26, 2008
Trip End Nov 03, 2008

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Flag of Chile  ,
Saturday, April 5, 2008

I write very quickly today because i have very little time. I have just been out since 3.30am to go on a tour and i have another one in less than 2 hours. This morning, i went to see some geysers, it was freezing cold until the sun came out, it was amazing, i never saw anything like this before, big explosions of boiling water(between 85 and 135 degres C) coming out of the ground. Later, i went to a natural thermal bath where it was possible to swim, it is almost 45 degres inside, but outside it is still very cold. After that i went to the village of Machuca, lost in the middle of the Andies, only counting 9inhabitants, it was very cute. People living there are self sufficient, they live out of tourism (there is a camping site, a coffee shop and a guy selling meat straight from a barbecue), men hunt and women make all sorts of clothes out of the animals skin. They are very religious, all house wear a cross on their roof and a church has been built. We saw a lot of animals, like flamengos and llamas, the views were amazing. In the afternoon, the tour took us to Valle de la Luna (moon valley), named that way because it matches the aspects of the moon from high up. It is in the Andies, we climed up, saw the sun disapear in the mountains, we went to an old salt mine, and to the Tres Marias statues, which are not manmade and stand out in the scenery.
The next day, i left with another tour and cross the desert of Atacama, the only thing we could see were the mountains at the back, apart from that... nothing... it is not really sand on the ground, we stopped at lagoons, and we swam for a bit in them, they are so salty that you can float in them, about 7 times more salty than the sea, it almost cuts your skin. After going out of the water, you need to have a good wash with fresh water, otherwise your skin goes all white and starts scratching. We went to the famous Ojos de Salar (Eyes of the desert), two giant wholes in the ground just a few meters from each other.
San Pedro is very touristy and lovely, packed with "residenciales", restaurants and travel agencies. It is one of the best places i stayed so far, although it is quite high to adapt to the altitude. It is 2400meters high and i did suffer a bit from altitude sickness, buit seeing the positive side, it is a good training before going to Bolivia.
Tomorrow i have a bus leaving in the night for Arica.
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