Memories of San Pedro de Atacama

Trip Start Sep 15, 2007
Trip End Dec 13, 2007

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Flag of Chile  ,
Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sep 27 to Sep 30
San Pedro de Atacama
Sunny, hot and dry.
San Pedro is a great place to relax.  The pace is slow and easy and the locals are generally very friendly with an 'hola' or 'buenos'.  I had three full days here.  It's a bit touristy but not at all in an offensive way.  There are a number of standard tours available with a few variations around the same themes.  I elected to take one each day.  Each was about a half day in duration. On my way to the agency recommended by my hostal (Turis Tours and deservedly so), I came up on a fellow wearing a Flaming Lips t-shirt.  I commented on the fact that they are one cool band and we struck up a conversation.  Turns out he was heading to the same agency.  We ended up on the same three tours.  Otherwise, I'd have been the only anglo.

Day one, Valle de la Luna.  Just incredible views and scenary.  Trek up a dune to a ridge for amazing sunset.  Went into a small canyon where you could hear the walls creaking--something to do with salt expanding/contracting with heat/cold. 

Day two, Salar de Atacama.  Same thing.  Incredible views of large salt flats, including a large feeding and nesting area for flamingos. Great sunsets again with the added bonus that it is the time of the day when the flamingos take flight.  Really quite an awesome sight. 

Day three, Tatio Geysers and Terminal Agua Puritama.  Geysers are way cool.  So cool that it's worth getting up at 4:00 a.m. to catch a ride on a 100km of mostly washboard gravel road up 2000 meters to about 4500 just to see 'em.  Breakfast was included.  After tromping around there and getting some close-up looks, and breakfast, including the ever present idea of coffee in this country, Nescafe, it was back into the bus for a trip back towards town and to the hot springs.  Not so fast.  Bus broke down.  Good thing there were about a dozen other buses there including one with enough room for those of us wanting to hit the hot pools.  The hot pools are a series of eight pools joined by little waterfalls cascading down the inside of a small canyon where in the past, Incas had practiced terraced farming.  We spent about an hour enjoying a good soak and some sun. 

Time spent in town was always enjoyable.  It seems I'm a cheap drunk at higher altitudes.  There are loads of restaurants lining the main street (Caracoles) all offering dinners in the $10 to $16 range.  A half a block off Caracoles on just about any side street in just about any direction and you'll find a number of tipico chilean restos offering larger portions and more authentic fare for between four and six bucks.  Add a litre of beer for another $3.    There were some great little food stands by the parking lot just outside of the core.  We had lunch at one spot on two occasions--amazing home cooking.  Again, two full-on meals and two beverages for $3,400P or $6.80--for both!
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