San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama Travel Blog

 › entry 34 of 93 › view all entries
Em getting to grips with the bike

When I awoke at 10am on monday morning we were 12 hours into our journey north and I'd slept far better than any night in La Serena. A look out of the window revealed a far more arid landscape than before and we were clearly desert-bound. After an empanada (full-size versions of empanaditas) break we arrived in San Pedro at around 4pm and checked-in to the Puritama hostel. Luckily, we had one of the deluxe 'matrimonial' rooms, complete with fully-functioning shower, hot water and heating (not standard for the other guys).

San Pedro is a strange town, and not in a bad way. It seems there almost exclusively for tourists, as the exit town for the 4x4 crossing into Bolivia (which we were here for) and for some pretty impressive atural landscapes in the surrounding hills.

San Pedro's main street
The main street (and all the others too) is just a dirt-track and all the buildings are adobe, built of sand/mud/clay stone. We'd climbed from sea-level to around 2500m, so as soon as the sun went down it got very chilly indeed. The whole group then went for dinner, Pisco sours and some Chilean live music in a local restaurant and had an early night, eager for the next day's sandboarding and ride to Death Valley.

Allegedly Death Valley has no sinister reasons for it's name. Apparently whoever discovered it named it, in French 'Valle de Mars' on account of it looking as you would imagine the surface of Mars to look. Someone came along later and mis-interpreted it (or maybe mis-read it, I can't quite remember) to 'Valle de Mort', or Death Valley.

It really does look like Mars, or so 'Total Recall' would have me believe. On account of vanity and not wanting to wear a bike helmet when I was a naive child, it had been 13 years since I'd rode a bike and the old adage of 'never forgetting to ride a bike' was firmly put to the test. With the handicap of a sandboard on my back too. It had been about the same time for Em, the first person who has ever openly (and proudly) claiming to have failed her cycling proficiency test. Luckily, once we'd got Em sorted with how the gears work, the 4km ride went well, in amazing scenery along an almost empty road. After 30 minutes we turned into very beautiful 'Death Valley' and found our way to the dunes, met the others and hiked up.

We'd had a great intro to sandboarding in Oregon so we were hoping for more of the same, and whilst it was fun, the cheap equipment (loose bindings with no heel strap) made it very hard and lots of bad workmen were blaming their tools, so to speak.

Sadistically, the most fun was had watching everyone plummet face-first into the sand, some of which is still lodged firmly in my ear. Em, it has to be noted, put everyone else to shame, easily having the best few runs of the day.

After the pleasant ride back we ate an excellent meal for pennies in what could only have been someone's living room-come-restaurant. We were off again shortly after for a tour of some of the local landscape, walls weeping salt that pop if you listened carefully and Death Valley from the other end. The main part of the trip was 'Valley of the Moon', and a 20-minute hike up another sand-dune to wait for the sun set at the top. Well worth the effort for the fantastic views, but not half as much for the hugely fun (and quite childish) race down the dune afterwards.

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Em getting to grips with the bike
Em getting to grips with the bike
San Pedros main street
San Pedro's main street
Views from the coach
Views from the coach
More views from the coach
More views from the coach
L-R: Chad, Kathryn, Tim and Em enj…
L-R: Chad, Kathryn, Tim and Em en…
Frank, Tim, Me and Amy
Frank, Tim, Me and Amy
Heading into Death Valley
Heading into Death Valley
Matt
Matt
Oops
Oops
Maria
Maria
And the other end...
And the other end...
The other side of Death Valley, wh…
The other side of Death Valley, w…
Valley of the moon
Valley of the moon
San Pedro de Atacama
photo by: eefab