To the driest desert in the world!

Trip Start May 20, 2010
Trip End Sep 05, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hostal Campo Base

Flag of Chile  , Antofagasta,
Saturday, February 26, 2011


Day : 285
Weather : Sunny and dry!
Temperature : Hot during the day and cold at night

We had been planning on spending much longer in Argentina, exploring the region around Salta. However, after thinking long and hard, we made a decision to head west to San Pedro fairly quickly. First of all, Argentina is expensive. We have already blown the budget going to Antarctica, and so we decided that the sooner we get to Bolivia the better, so that we can save some money. Secondly, we are running out of time. Spending an extra two or three weeks in Argentina means that we will have less time to explore Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador...three countries that we are really looking forward to visiting. And so with that in mind, we hopped on the bus and headed back into Chile.

The bus to San Pedro took about 10 hours and the scenery was was the altitude! Within a couple of hours the road winds it's way up from just over 1,100 metres to 4,000 metres, where you stay for about 6 or 7 hours! The headaches come on gradually. You feel kind of thick in your head. Then you feel thirsty, and a little short of breath we you arre moving around. Then the headaches get worse the longer you are at altitude and then you just feel totally crap and there is nothing you can do about it! We eventually climbed to 4,900 metres before descending down into San Pedro at 2,400 metres.....which means that during the bus journey we ascended nearly 4,000 metres that wonder it took us several hours to recover!!

San Pedro is a little town like nowhere that we have visited in South America. You definitely feel that you are closer to Peru and Bolivia. The setting is gorgeous. The town is overlooked by the snow capped Andes mountains on the east, including the spectacular cone of Licancabur Volcano. To the south is the Salar de Atacama, a Salt flat which has several lagoons which are home to three species of flamingo. On the east is the famous Valle de la Luna, or moon valley. In the centre of the town is the plaza, filled with restaurants and cafes and overlooked by a beautiful little white church which has a mud roof. There are numerous tour agencies offering various trips and souvenir shops selling clothes, jewellery and nic-naks. It's touristy. But you can't help but like it.

Our first tour was to the Valle de la Luna for sunset. It's a spectacular landscape. There are a lot of stops on the tour which you feel are really just filling gaps, but it's the easiest way to visit the valley for sunset. The colours of the desert and the the weird and wonderful shapes of the rock formations are beautiful. It's like being on another planet. Tomorrow we are heading off to the Valle del Arcoiris....rainbow valley...for more adventures....there is just too much to do and see here!
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Antony on

Does look dry - the pic of the volcano looks fantastic towering up with the white snow top.


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