Published: June 29th 2012June 20th 2012
San Pedros Beautiful Backdrop
The imposing volcanoes that hold the pass to Argentina
So after waiting at the Bolivian border (freezing) for the bus, for what seemed like hours but was probably only about 90 mins, we were happy to see it arrive for our hour bus ride into San Pedro de Atacama.
After the usual stringent border control to enter Chile we were dropped off near to the main street to find no shortage of takers for our money. It's low season here so all the hostels were waiting for the bus to arrive to offer there best deal on a Bed.
We decided on Hostal Rural in the end as the staff seemed really friendly and that was backed up by a fellow traveller, Rosie, who had arrived the day before. We thought as we were there early enough we would find somewhere to catch the second half of the England game, however we were going to struggle with this as we had suffered a common occurrence for many a traveller, a complete misunderstanding of what day it was, so as this was Saturday and not Friday we were updated by a fellow Englishman that England had won yesterday.
So all checked in and bags dropped we then remembered
Resplendant in white
we were now back in Chile so we needed a supermarket as it was back to cooking. But not before we had been presented with an offer we couldn't refuse by El Sol restaurant, three courses for £7 and we were ready for a good feed. What a deal it was too, three courses became two as we were so stuffed there was no room for desert.
Next challenge then, before we find the supermarket was to get some money. We found the one and only working ATM in town, however there was a wee small problem, no money. Luckily, and i would recommend this as a tip to everyone, we always carry around a hundred dollars which can always be exchanged. So with Chilean Pesos, and thankfully a better grasp of numbers in Spanish now than our last time in Chile as the notes are all in thousands or mil, we were able to stock up for the few days ahead.
The sun was shining in San Pedro and the little town has an amazing relaxed atmosphere, so after the last few tiring days at high altitude and freezing temperatures we decided it would be a nice
Old cart hosting the Chilean flag
place to chill for a few days before heading to Argentina and Salta.
There is plenty to do here, including the Valley of the Moon with its steaming geysers and thermal pools, Star Gazing trips into the desert, sandboarding down the dunes and horse riding like you were in an old western. However as noted we were happy to chill and after the delights of the desert in the Salt Flat tour we decided we had seen most of the same and we'd save the money this time round. Instead we spent the days chilling in the Hammocks, catching up on Blogs and Skyping friends and family, luckily we remembered it was Sunday and it was Fathers Day.
The only real thing we needed to do was book the bus ride to Salta, but for this we needed the ATM to be restocked. So come Monday morning
we joined the rest of San Pedro in taking a walk to the bank to get some money to be told the ATM would be restocked at 3pm
, so you can imagine the queue after 3 days of no money .....every tourist was in need of cash. Not to mention the
The set of a western
The streets of San Pedro certainly look like it
tour operators and bus companies, we headed down later and got some money and went to book our bus. The nice lady there explained that the buses had left the last couple of days empty as they don't take card and no one had any cash, this had a similar impact on the tour companies and restaurants, well at least those without card facilities. Its a constant problem certainly since the number of ATMs had dropped from 5 to 1 all due to the environment, the dust gets everywhere, no matter how many times a day you see a tanker drive by sprinkling water onto the road to damp it down.
So .....bus booked we were ready to head out Tuesday morning
, the bus was leaving at the reasonable hour of 9:30 am
for the 10 hour ride to Salta. Now as we mentioned the days we were there there was not a cloud in the sky, not this morning though, and as we arrived at border control at the edge of town we came to a stop and was told that they had had snow overnight, over the mountains and they were going to have to wait to
see the condition of the pass. So after a few hours the worst was confirmed and there was no way to get over the pass as there was at least a foot of snow.
Off the bus we all get and back to the Hostel, unfortunately they were full so the guy pointed us in the direction of Hostal Florida, another nice enough place, a bit lacking in hot water though, but a good kitchen and after another afternoon which enabled us to watch England beat Ukraine to qualify, we treated ourselves to a meal out.... Well bit of a necessity really as we had no cash but they took card and it was another good deal, £6 for 3 courses in a nice restaurant with 2 log burners keeping us warm..... And the best bit... Home made Ice Cream....
Up again for the wander back to the bus which we left at border control so we were ahead of the queue to get out of there. Things didn't look too great as you could see clouds over the mountains, but after a couple of hours we were given the good news that the pass was open, so
The Church from the Main Square
All in its a pretty little place
we only had the process of getting stamped out of Chile, so after an hour we had our exit stamps in our passports and were back on the bus ready to go...... Oh no it started snowing again and the pass was immediately shut, so it was back off the bus and back to the hostel, this time we needed an early night as the plan was to be at the bus for 5:30 am
to get off early as there was a mention of a snow plough.
Still time wasn't wasted as Michelle got to do more TEFL and passed another section, and I got the photos up for some of our outstanding blogs, outstanding in terms of still to be done and not as in amazing, we are more modest than that.......
So after getting up at 5am
we were really praying that it was not to be in vain, and it wasn't, we were finally leaving and at 6am
we were off, for what we were told, would be a beautiful journey through the mountains across the border into Argentina, so we couldn't wait for the sun to rise on our last morning in Chile.
It was a journey like no other but I will leave that for the next blog.
Needless to say we enjoyed our extended time in San Pedro, it's a great little town which had we been there at the start of the trip with a slightly bigger budget, we would have seen all it had to offer and took part in the culinary delights that so many of the great restaurants looked to be offering. .....
Don't get us wrong it's not an expensive place at all so don't let it put you off we are just getting tighter!