Published: January 16th 2012January 16th 2012
Sunset at the Salt Lake
Mandatory group jumping ´hey-we-are-all-having-an-awesome-time´ photo
I´m currently sitting in a little internet cafe in the heart of the Atacama desert. I´ve spent a few days in a small (and again, very hot) town called San Pedro de Atacama and am now awaiting my next overnight bus to Copiapo.
The bus journey here was surprisingly good given the duration of it. I met a couple of very nice ladies from Germany on the bus, one of whom was doing some undercover knitting because the conductor had prohibited the (very dangerous?!) activity. On the first day I went on an excursion organised by the hostel to the Laguna Cejas, a lagoon in the desert which is so salty that you just float. The next stop on the excursion was to a big salt lake (salt is going to be a reoccuring theme in this blog!) I met a group from Columbia who have been travelling around South America on their motorbikes which is pretty brave! We were all given pisco sours while we watched the sunset at the salt lake, and this was the first of several sours, despite my comments on the last blog where I vowed not to have it again...
met up with the two German ladies the following day and we went on a tour to the Altiplanicos and saw some more beautiful lagoons as well as some volcanic material from the nearby volcano. We also saw some Llamas which was AWESOME because they are potentially the coolest creature on the planet. The tour culminated with a visit to the Los Flamencos National Reserve which is part of the Salar de Atacama, the second largest salt flat in the world. The altitude is pretty high here (and in San Pedro in general) but luckily I only felt slightly dizzy, and I had some Coca Tea which may have helped too. I spent the evening with some people I met at the hostel and we had a late night trip to the Valle de la Luna (not necessarily allowed but there was no one to tell us otherwise...) The stars were pretty incredible (perhaps even more impressive than in Pisco Elqui, I´m not sure) so this was really cool. After a couple more drinks at one of the bars in town we headed home and I proceeded to sleep for about 11 hours which was SWEET.
I´m losing track
Los Flamencos National Reserve
My group with some flamencos in the background just doing their thing
of the days so I´m not 100% sure which day we are onto now, but anyway, the following day I wandered around the town with two of the guys I´d gone out with on the previous night. So we had a look at the little church here which is so dramatically different to European churches, with all its models of the saints and its roof made of the wood from cacti. Later in the day I went on an excursion to the Valle de La Luna which is rather different in the daylight and extremely beautiful. This Valley derives its name from its similarity to the surface of the moon, and is one of the driest areas in the world, perhaps receiving one rainy day per year (although I think that certain areas haven´t seen rain for several hundred years). We went on a little trek through part of the Valley and clambered rather unelegantly through some of the caverns which was a lot of fun and probably not something you´d be able to do in England what with the health and safety laws. It has to be said though, that climbing up some of the rocks which crumbled away
underfoot was slightly terrifying. We then visited some of the wierd rock formations which are known as ´Las Tres Maries´. Again we had some pisco sours while we watched the sunset, this time next to what I suppose is classed as a hill but looked a little like a canyon to me, on the opposite side of which is an old fortress which had been built by the Atacamenos to defend against outsiders. When we got back to San Pedro a few of us from the tour went out for more pisco sours in the town. Rather amazingly, one of the waiters had visited Hertfordshire before so we had a little conversation about the wonders of my home county!
Yesterday I had a pretty relaxed day. Me and a guy from Switzerland who I met at the hostel went to the museum in town which is the first museum I´ve visited on my trip so far and which I thoroughly enjoyed. The exhibition covers the life of the people in this area, and how they survived despite the arid and difficult landscape. Interestingly, the history of the Incas and the Spanish is extremely short in comparison to the thousands
Valle de La Luna
After emerging victorious from one of the caverns in Moon Valley
of years prior to any conquests where the people lived without any sort of rule from outsiders. In the evening a few of us just chilled in the hammocks they have at the hostel and had a couple of drinks.
So now we are on to today and I have a rather boring day of waiting for my bus. I do intend to visit the market once I´ve finished this blog however because I´ve done pretty well so far and avoided buying souvenirs but I don´t think I can resist any longer given the amount of Llama-themed awesomeness they have here. So if I arrive back in Stevenage wearing Alpaca socks and a poncho made from Llama wool then...well, you were warned.
There are more photos below