Floating in the desert

Trip Start Jan 04, 2010
Trip End Mar 23, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hostel Martita

Flag of Chile  ,
Sunday, January 31, 2010

We went to the bus station in Arequipa to check out our options. It turned out the bus to La Paz that night was full and we wouldn't be able to make it on time to catch our flight. We attempted to call the airline to see if we could change our flight but couldn't get through, so we took it as a sign to change our route once again and travel by bus to the north of Chile. Besides, we had heard good things from fellow travelers about North Chile. So onto the new plan...

We hopped on a 6 hour bus to Tacna, Peru (border of Peru). The ride was okay, although the air conditioning was broken, not the best thing in the world when driving through the desert! When we arrived in Tacna we had to hop into a colectivo, a shared taxi that drives you over the border. We crammed into the front seat of the car with the driver, and he gunned it across the desert about 20km to the border crossing. No issues crossing the border and the driver continued to gun it through Chile too, taking roundabouts at about 100km.

On the Chilean side of the border we arrived at a city called Arica, a medium sized beach community cut out of the desert. Arica was simply a stop-over on our way to San Pedro, however, we were still able to take in some cutlure during the five hours we were there, seeing a colourful parade and beautiful sunset. The climate had definitely changed to desert conditions, mucho calor.

Our next bus to San Pedro was a 12 hour night bus leaving at 11:30pm. Not too bad of a ride minus being behind some major stinky-feet guys. We arrived in the town of San Pedro, a desert town that felt like you were in the middle of nowhere. Wandering around the dusty roads we found ourselves a hostel, expensive for what you got, but in line with all the others. We set out to find ourselves a tour as the town centred around many day trips of natural attractions. We booked our tour and had a good dinner at a Chilean wine bar (bienvenido a wine country!). Despite what we'd heard, the food was good in chile - empanadas, fish, ceviche...it also probably helped that we had our appetite back!

We enjoyed a good rest that night after our long bus ride and were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for our tour the next day. We left with Chile Aventura tours with a small group of 8 - 2 Spaniards, 2 Chileans and 2 hilarious Japanese girls. We drove though the heart of the desert and came to Laguna Cejar, a salt water lagoon with one of the highest contents of salt in the world. This meant you could completely float on top of the water. Such a bizarre and cool feeling! See the pics below.  From there we drove to "dos ojos", two crater-like freshwater lagoons closeby.  This was good to rinse off, as our bodies were encrusted in salt.  However the salt didn't end here, next we drove about 30 minutes to a salt flat, a dried up lake with only the salt remaining.  Our guide showed us some pretty cool perspective pictures as you'll see below.  We watched the desert sunset while sipping on a pisco sour (local drink to Peru and Chile).  Overall a really enjoyable day trip!

The next day we enjoyed a relaxing time around the town, taking in another Chilean parade.  Those in the parade must've been sooo hot, as it was about 35 degrees and they were wearing extremely elaborate costumes (including a gorilla suit?).  Late that afternoon we prepared ourselves for the longest bus ride of our lives, 17 hours to La Serena, Chile.  We plan to stop here for a couple nights enroute to Argentina...
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