Well, the sweaty pants bit comes on a bit later.
We left Santiago after arriving from Easter Island as soon as we could to get out of the big city feel and horrendous smog which blights this otherwise ok place. Straight onto an overnight bus 6 hours up the coast to a small city called La Serena. Here we jumped onto a local bus to take us a few hours further inland to the small town of Vicuna which is were we were staying for 2 nights to visit the Mamalluca Observatory and check out all the stars, man.
We stayed with a lovely old girl called Rita who spoke amazing German along with Spanish, yet this never helped us out one bit either because I can only say thanks in German. Looked after us like your Grannie would though and the first night there we took the tour to the Observatory which is perched on a hill overlooking the village.
This area of Chile and further North of here is famed throughout the world for its unbelievably clear skies and amazing night time views of our Galaxy, The Milky Way. There are loads of observatories scattered throughout
Northern Chile yet this is the only one which allows tourists the opportunity to have a look through the telescope at the night sky. Some of the other Observatorys have the most amazing abrieviated names, such as the Chilean VLT. Very Large Telescope. Genius. The largest one currently in the world belongs to the South Africans. SALT, South African Large Telescope. A lot of time went into that one. Anyways, we had some amazing sights of Venus, Saturn complete with its rings, Nebulas, Star Clusters and plenty of shooting stars. Well worth the visit.
After Vicuna we took another overnight bus 14 hours up the coast to the large mining town of Calama. This was the first real experiance of many more shocking bus journeys which we expect to have. Not so much the roads but the old Grannie snoring right next to us which I don’t think ever in my life have I heard someone so small make such a horrendous noise. Add the screaming baby directly in front of me and even the 5 herbal sleeping tablets I downed had no effect at all on getting any sleep. Weary eyed we trudged into Calama looking
for a hostel to stay at and found one on the main street which had a reasonable write up in the book. Well in fact it was like a mini prison and truly shocking yet I couldn’t be bothered to look about the town any more and we were only staying for 1 night so it will have to do. The plan was to visit the largest open pit Copper Mine in the world, Chuquicamata.
Sweaty Mans Pants
We arrived on the Sunday hoping to do the visit the next day and then catch the bus to San Pedro. With everything organised me and Kev hit the town for some food and beer action and were really surprised at how busy everything was due to being a Sunday night when everyone is normally in bed. Oh well, it is a ruffty tuffty mining town I thought so we soon got into the swing of things and joined in with the locals watching the local football teams and drinking copious amounts of alcohol.
We got to bed reasonably early ready for the trip on Mon to visit the mine. Well, I awoke bleary eyed to a shocking sight. In
Sweaty Mans Pants
layed out in our little prison cell.
our drunken state I never realised what the extra padding was under my pillow which I was cuddled up to all night. Turns out I had slept the night with someone elses stinking, sweaty, stained thermal pants which for some bizarre reason had been left under the pillow which leads me to the fact that the bedding hadn’t been changed either!!
Proper minging but me and Kev never stopped laughing for a while anyway. Until that is we found out the reason for everyone being out so late on a Sunday, but only when we arrived at the tour office early doors to find out today was a national holiday celebrating the Chilean win in the War of the Pacific where they kicked some Peruvian arse or something.
So it was we escaped earlier than planned and headed straight for San Pedro De Atacama and into the heart of the Driest Desert in the World where in some areas there has been no rain whatsoever for over 400 years. Along the way we hooked up with a Scottish fella called Dave who was on the same bus and a week later we still havnt been able
to shake him!! Nah, hes a good lad really and hes the random fella in the piccies as well if you were wondering.
Well first day there we decided to take a trip out to the local sand dunes for some serious Sand Boarding exploits. Hooking up with Pancho and Sabastian our guides for the afternoon we headed 10 minutes out of town to this huge dune where we proceeded to spend the next 3 hours throwing ourselves down the dune attatched to a plank of wood. Kev had the best wipeout of the day for sure, with his inability to turn the only way was for him to go straight ahead and crash at the bottom at full speed. One such crash actually involved his board just stopping dead at the bottom and Kev doing a complete summersault face plant into the sand. Classic.
After this we headed to a secluded spot overlooking the valley to watch the sun go down and have a chat with the guides. Turns out that Pancho was a massive football fan so the next day a 5 a side game was organised between us 3 foreigners and the local elite from the town.
I actually climbed up the outside over the overhang...
Luckily for us the fitness shone through and as all the locals ended the game hocking there insides up we won by 3 clear goals and had a great laugh as well.
The next day we had a ridiculously early start at 4 am to take the trip to the Tatio Geysers which are viewed best between 6-7 in the morn and are at an altitude of 4320 meters, which made the whole breathing game quite interesting. The temperature was also a rather balmy - 14 degrees as well, so all the clothing in my bag was put to use to keep the chill at bay. The geysers were fascinating though and the fact you could happily walk through them with the guides words of caution still ringing in your head,: If you fall in you die!
After a breakfast cooked inside one of the Fumaroles we headed over to where a small pool had been built to get inside and warm up. To be fair not many people opted for getting naked at 4320 meters while it was -14 yet as usual I jumped straight in then proceeded to abuse and shame Kev and Dave
until they too relented and jumped in. Not quite as hot as I hoped but fun all the same and my wet hair actually froze solid along with another part of me when I got out to get changed.
Valle De La Luna
The last thing we squeezed in before heading off was a trip to the Moon Valley where we opted to hire some mountain bikes out and ride the 15 km out of town to the Valley. This area is famous for its resemblance to the surface of the moon where salt formations have been sculpted over millions of years by the desert wind into amazing shapes, caves and sand dunes. We rode into the wind, uphill all the way until arriving at the great sand dune which we climbed to the top to watch the sunset over the surrounding volcanic mountain ranges. As the sun set the surrounding areas turned red, pink, purple, maroon, well loads of colours before dropping behind the horizon and turning black. Luckily we came supplied with our head torches and proceeded to get blown the whole way home by the wind and the downhill roads while the stars glistened overhead.
That’s it for Chile now as tomorrow morning we jump onto a 4wd for a 3 day tour into Bolivia and through the lagoons and salt flats ending up in the small city of Uyuni. Speak again soon and I look forward to hearing from everyone.
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