Published: September 16th 2012September 10th 2012
Crossing into Chile, our last country of our epic trip, and arriving at the small town of San Pedro de Atacama was very surreal experience. Leaving the tiny one-roomed Bolivian border post and then driving 40 minutes into San Pedro to then be stamped into Chile, was something we have never encountered. It was like an optional activity whether to visit the immigration office or not! Plus, it’s the only land border crossing we’ve ever done, where all our bags are put through an x-ray machine! Sheesh, we’re in the desert, in the middle of nowhere, for goodness sake!
Anyway, San Pedro was a lovely town and we thoroughly enjoyed our couple of days relaxing in the warmer weather. It is a notable tourist destination (as we realized from the price shock we received for a couple of groceries!) but still has a certain charm about it. The one story adobe (building material made from mud and straw – think of the typical rural African huts) houses and large peppercorn trees, made you feel like it was a little oasis in the middle of nowhere…oh wait, that’s exactly what it is!
The Atacama is the driest desert in the
wont see this in SA
world, so much so that even the roofs of the adobe houses in San Pedro are made of mud. The area receives an average of 1mm rain with some weather stations having never recorded any rain!
We did a star tour the first night with a privately run observatory outside of the town. For us fellow southern hemisphere folk, there wasn’t anything new, but we did get to see a few interesting stars and galaxies through their collection of large telescopes.
We ventured out into Death Valley where we enjoyed an afternoon of sandboarding down some pretty big dunes. We then headed into Luna Valley to watch the sunset with a good ol’ Pisco Sour. The landscape was unbelievable and seeing rocks made out of halite (pure clear rock salt) was a first for me. First glance the halite appears as solid chunks of ice, but give it a lick and yep, it’s warm and salty.
The rest of our time was spent sitting in the town square, eating delicious ice-cream cones and watching the world go by.
We caught the bus down to Santiago, which was a delightful 24 hour trip. One plus side was
that we travelled through the day and got to see amazing scenery whilst travelling the super dry Chilean coastline.
We’re onto our last couple of weeks, where we’ll spend some time up in the mountains snowboarding and then down to the coastal town of Valparaiso before flying home!
There are more photos below