San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, March 10th to March 12th
First, there’s photos from this part of our trip HERE!
Our bus ride goes up Valparaiso through the coast and desert 25 hours until we arrive at the small town of San Pedro de Atacama, in the far north of Chile. The bus ride turns out to actually be one of the best, Sharon sleeps well (though Tyler struggles), the bus food is pretty good for riding semi-cama, and the movies are also better than usual. We arrive late at night and as we’re getting our bags and trying to orient ourselves, some folks ask us if we’re looking for a place to stay and offer us a room for CHP 5,000 each (a good price, though it doesn’t include breakfast or internet), and we agree and they take us to Casa del Sol Naciente in their pick-up truck. We’re the only 2 in our room, but the beds are warm, there’s hot water before 10 p.m., a kitchen with loads of free items, a hangout patio with a fire place, camping options, a lurking kitten, and really nice people. It’s a bit “rustic” but it has great views of the surrounding volcanoes and desert. The second night they offer us a private room for a $1000 pesos more, which we take and enjoy. Both prices were lower than anything we’d seen online.
Day Two: We finally get to sleep in – late – until 11 a.m.! Tyler for some crazy reason gets up early, showers, buys bread for breakfast and makes coffee, making for a nice, relaxing morning. Then we walk around town a bit – it’s tiny, all the buildings are one-story adobe, and most of the roads are unpaved and look exactly the same, with complicated street names, when there are street signs. We compare prices at different tourist agencies for the trip across the desert to Uyuni, Bolivia. The agencies aren’t budging on the prices, so while we mull over whether or not it’s worth it, we book a trip to go to Valle de la Luna that night. After asking a few more questions, we book the cheapest trip that leaves the next day.
Once all the planning is done, we seek out a cheap lunch at food stalls on the outskirts of town, and find a little place that serves ceviche with boiled potatoes and salad that turns out to be quite good. Afterwards we walk around town taking a few photos and collecting 5 liter bottles of water and sugary snacks for a trip across the desert. By the time we come back to our room, it’s basically time to get ready to head to Valle de la Luna. We rush to get ready but end up waiting around quite a long time for the tour bus to pick us up (it’s very late), but by now we’re getting used to the “hurry up and wait” mentality, and we’re excited to be the only North Americans, as it increases our chances of getting to practice Spanish.
Once we finally get to the tour, it’s great! We stop at a mirador that overlooks the desert, mountains, and town, and then go for a downhill walk through the Valle de Muerte – a beautiful desert canyon. Next we stop to pay the park entrance free (our student discount works again!) and take a very rushes walk through some crystal salt caves, then quickly walk up to the mirador to just in time to catch the sunset over the Valle de la Luna. Who knew the desert could be so beautiful, and have so many different shades of orange, red, pink, and rose?! It was truly out of this world, and we felt blessed to once again get to experience such unique and beautiful scenery.
Once back into town, we decide to have chorilliana one last time, and this time we make sure to ask that it comes with a fried egg (instead of scrambled) before our plate arrives at the table, a mistake we’d made twice before. For some reason (maybe the altitude) we’re still hungry and ask for another plate of fries, as we watch the news of the tsunami in Japan and warnings all along the Chilean coast. Then we finally go back to the hostel to pack and organize for our trip through the desert early the next morning.
Next time from the desert crossing to Uyuni, Bolivia!