Published: August 27th 2012August 11th 2012
Back into Chile and the first port of call the Atacama Desert. I wasn't sure what to think at first because the village of San Pedro de Atacama appeared quite baron with its dusty streets but as you start to take a look around it has lot more to it. Its clear tourism is huge here with it being a launch pad into Bolivia and also offering many other activities with trips into the desert and seeing surrounding valleys and lakes. After having a chat to the owner of my hostel I decided to go take a look at the Valle de La Luna (Valley of the Moon). There are people that go everyday as it is a popular attraction so at 3pm I hopped on the bus that arrived outside the hostel and there were more than a few others joining. It was only around 10min drive out of down and after paying an entrance into the National Park we were there...first of all we took a walk up a sandy path where we got a great view of the valley and had an explanation about the area and the reasons for the rock formations. The guide explained that when
2 of the plates collided many years ago they hit direct and that is why there are no mountains in that direct area because not one plate was higher or lower than the other. We then took a walk around some other areas including Valle de la muerte where there are also huge dunes and rock formations. Next up was some weird rock formation which the guide tried telling us was the 3 Mary´s and explaining where there were in the rock but none of us could really see what he was going on about. The final place on the trip was to a view point where you have a great view over the valley and you can watch the sunset. I would like to say no-one else was there but its obviously a popular thing so maybe 80 - 100 others there too. It was then time to go back to the town after a good trip, I then went for food and drinks with 2 brothers from the US and watched some of the Basketball in the Olympics as the USA were playing and that was quite a bit deal for them! Was good fun and we continued
to another couple of bars and returned in the early hours...nice to just stumble down the road and not have to worry too much with the people around.
My second day in San Pedro wasn't too eventful I spent most of the day lying in the hammocks catching some rays and strolling around the streets. In the evening I went to do some Star Gazing...I booked through a company called Space for the English speaking tour which started at 9pm. I turned up and was joined with quite a few others and we made the trip just out of the town to a little building full of high tec machinery which was where I met the guide that was a guy from Canada which was strange but good in a way as I should be able to understand everything that is says. It was clear from the start the passion and enthusiasm the guy has for the sky and the stars...he had a fancy bit of equipment which was a laser pen, although it doesn't sound that fancy it was because he could point it into the sky and it would go directly into the sky so it was
clear to see as if it was touching the planets. He then began to explain that we were in one or if not the best place in the world to see the stars due to the altitude, the fact it doesn't rain so the skies are clear and also there is hardly any light pollution. It was interesting to notice the different things the guy explained..one of them being the fact that normally the sky looks black which is due to the light pollution but actually its more of a navy or dark grey, also as the stars are so bright in the Atacama you actually have a shadow of your body on the ground in the night which was cool to see. We then got onto the different star signs and also the Zodiac line which at the start I thought was interesting as he started to point out some shapes in the stars relating to different signs but then there wasn't any for some and he made them up and had a joke about it which everyone found funny. It was then time to find out a bit of info about the different planets which 90% I cant
remember but one thing that I do remember was the fact that some planets have more than 1 moon to themselves and some have none and also the distances are incredible and hard to but into context when trying to think about it. After more than a while listening to explanations about different planets and how everything works in the sky we got a chance to take a look at different things through the huge telescopes there...they had been lined up so you can see different things, the first was Saturn (apparently) I mean im sure it is Saturn but when you look through the telescope its little more than a bright light but you can make out some resemblance. The others had different things around the milkyway and others, some with extremely bright lights shining off and others appearing to have different colours. Nearly everyone was shivering at this point as the temperature had dropped right down and we all went inside for a hot chocolate and people could ask questions if they wanted. I didn't as I don't really know anything about the stars but there was a couple from Brazil that seemed to have a keen interest
so they challenged the Canadian guy on a few issues then we got our bus back. Very interesting tour and something completely different to what I have done before and was definitely surprised but how bright and clear the stars were...far More stars in the sky than I thought and when the sky is as clear as that there are literally thousands...when you look up its like being in another world!
For a few days I then spent my time hanging out and relaxing, it was nice to have hot days and just stroll around browsing in the shops and enjoying the atmosphere of the town. I then chose to book a bus south to La Serena to help break-up the trip to Santiago which is a 25hr bus to go direct. The bus journey went quite smoothly with only 1 incident where a ´possible´ drunk driver was driving his truck and was swerving all over the place and clashed with the bus and it was right by my window...luckily it was more of a glance but it made a bang and caused a bit of damage with the bus stopping to check it out. Was weird to see...I
looked out the window straight away to see him carry on being on the wrong side of the road and how he didn't crash I don't know! I got to La Serena early morning and arrived a the hostel to find one other person in the dorm which was Mik from Zimbabwe...we got chatting and discussed what we were thinking of doing then a couple from Wales arrived so we all had a good conversation for an hour or so. I then went with Mik for a walk around and to grab some food...on our return I booked in for the trip to the Elqui Valley where they make the local drink Pisco. Ollie and Chelsi the couple from Wales had also signed up for the next day so I knew I would have at least 2 others with me ha. We got picked up in the morning and in the van were around 10 others...after a while driving we stopped off to see where the Papaya´s are grown before continuing on through a few little towns...one of which we stopped off at but there wasn't really anything to see then we got to a dam. The water level is
currently at 30% capacity which isn't good...we took a walk along the edge then kept on driving with the guide explaining every little detail of nearly everything we passed until we got to the Pisco area. He explained that it was currently out of season so the plants we were seeing were bare and without any leaves or grapes. There was also clear sections where the wines are made which is at a different elevation and has slightly different surroundings compared to the Pisco. Myself Ollie and Chelsi were all under the impression there would be more of a tasting tour but that definitely wasn't the case so we entertained ourselves with various jokes for the main part but the actual distillery was good and we saw where the Pisco is made and also got to taste a little of one...the taste I can only describe as strong and not much else! We then returned and met up with Mik who was on form explaining how useful his new towel was which he had just bought...he was telling me, Ollie and Chelsi all the uses and the fact it was only 1 dollar but we all just laughed and kept
telling him it was just a tea-towel haha! In the night we all had a few drinks and hung out in the lounge watching tele before I caught my bus in the night to Santiago....
A return to one of my favourite cities after nearly 8 months...
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