Published: February 22nd 2009February 7th 2009
¡Hola Amigos/as! If I had only one word to describe San Pedro de Atacama it would be HOT...i guess that should be expected in the dryest desert in the world! We arrived on yet another overnight bus and found ourselves 10 hours from the cool ocean breezes of Iquique. We took the first hostel we found which had no a/c, scalding hot or ice cold water, and lots of flies. We immediately found all its inhabitants lazing in the shade sleeping off the night before. It didn´t take us long to join them. :) We spent most of that night learning new card games, telling crazy travel stories and hanging with friends from Holland, UK, Australia, etc.
San Pedro is an oasis town in the Atacama desert just West of Bolivia. It is a tourist town (quite expensive considering it is a speck in the desert) with main attractions of salt flats, geysers, salt lagoons, valley of the moon, and flamingos. Chrissy and I reserved our first tour on the following morning to swim in two different salt lagoons and watch the sun set over the salt flats. The lagoons were pretty incredible. The water was a semi-transparent tourqouise/blue with
white salt beach and the Andes Mountains in the background. The salt concentration is much higher (about 25% salt) than ocean water and it makes you more bouyant; so you can float with out swimming! It was quite surreal and confusing. We floated around for an hour or so and then were off to the next less salty lagoon for a rinse off. It was a big crater with a ledge around the outside (10ft drop) and deep so there was no danger of hitting bottom. After that we dried off and drove to a beautiful white salt flat, watched the sunset, and made our way back into town.
The following day we toured the Valley de Luna (Moon) which just happened to be on a full moon night! (hence the Werwolf beard John has been growing..haha) The tour guide took us to a couple different desert canyons and ended with a hike to the ridge of a sand dune to watch the sun go down and see the full moon light up Moon Valley. The reason they call it Moon Valley is because the entire area is made of salt... and looks similar to the landscapes on the
moon. It was another great experience and left Chrissy and I sleeping soundly again!
So interestingly... while we were in San Pedro we had an ongoing drama with the local ATM and our hostel owners. The only visa ATM in town ran out of cash the day we arrived and each day we promised our hostel we would pay the following morning only to find that it still wasn´t working! When it was time to catch our bus, (3 days later) we still had no cash, no one in town knew anything about the atm and no one was interested in giving us cash on our credit cards...and the only person who found this less funny than we did was our desert cowboy hostel owner who didn´t have a card reader for guests to pay. Luckily for us a friend we have made along the way, Dorien, loaned us $50,000 peso´s to get out of town with the plans of meeting up along the way to repay the favor. We were all headed South with no schedule, this seemed to be enough assurance for her!
There are more photos below