To be, or not to be ...

San Pedro de Atacama Travel Blog

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Never put your glasses in the cupholder of an overnight bus; they will get knocked out and you will spend a frantic morning trying to figure out how to say "I lost my glasses! Help" without the aid of your phrasebook, which is the only thing you managed to leave behind in La Serena. Luckily for me, a kind gentleman spotted them and handed them over with a rather amused smirk.

My glasses were returned in time for me to see the hulking beast that inhabits some place in the middle of the ass end of nowhere called San Marta. My guess it was a processing plant of some kind, and looked like the sort of place that a neo-sci fi Sauron would inhabit if he had the choice. To add a little more authenticity to the experience, there was another gaggle of protesters and their trucks just outside, and to keep warm in the cold desert night they started burning, what else, tyres. Black, billowing smoke added an extra dimension to the illusion that I had lost my way in South America and instead stumbled across the lair of a maniac bent on world domination.

A few hours later we entered Antofogasta, a rather pretty (well, Loney Planet had slagged it, so my expectations were low) seaside town, with quite a bit of art that I would have been interested in persusing if I had the chance. I have also come to the realisation that South American waves put those in NZ to shame, making Piha on a good day look like a paddling pool, which almost makes me want to take up surfing. Maybe in Peru, amigos!

I arrived in Calama at around one, and immediately took a dislike to the place. It was too small to have the conveniences of a larger city, and too big to be easily navigable, so I set out to find me a bus to San Pedro de Atacama, which everyone had reccommended to me. A lazy, sunbaked wait of an hour and a half got me a ride on a rather dubious looking bus (note: travel by bus in Chile is a very enjoyable process, and I highly reccomend it if you have the time and lack of pesos for air travel.) to San Pedro.

I was slightly taken aback when the bus went offroad and the driver appeared to be following a road marked only by dog carcasses in varying degrees of decomposition. Mmmhmm. To my relief, and my bladders even greater relief, it turned out to be nothing more than roadworks, and we were soon back on sealed road.

Up until this point the only vista available to me was one of unending, relentless desert with the odd mountain (dune?) range in the distance. Heading towards San Pedro, we headed into one of these ranges, and after passing through an entirely new view was opened up; in the distance was the Salar! a pinky, whitey mess that looked vaguely like a gargantuan bird had ... ah, yeah. No, it was a stunning and rather welcoming sight after hour upon hour of desert.

Then a spot of green appeared. No, I decided, that cant be big enough to hide an entire village. huh. San Pedro is miniscule, and thus the basis of its appeal. The downside is that the only thing that doesnt cater to gringos is .. uh .. well, nothing really. I was quite enjoying being the only spot of milk in a rather beautiful sea of mocha, but this place was made by an incompitent barrista with a thing for cows.

Today I went to book a tour, and an all blacks tshirt walked in. eh? I asked if they were kiwis, and the wearee of the tshirt turns around and I realise that before me stand three pommy boys that were on the flight as me. Turns out theyre doing an almost identical tour of South America as me. Small world.

Tomorrow I depart pre sunrise to see some ridiculous pink birds standing around in some puddle before traipsing around the desert until sunset. woooohoo!

ubergroove says:
ROFL :D Take your best walking shoes :P
Posted on: Jun 07, 2008
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San Pedro de Atacama
photo by: eefab