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Published: March 2nd 2012
Crossing the desert
Sulphurous and boiling rocks
Apparently, it is well nigh on impossible to drive across the border from Bolivia directly to Argentina. Therefore, Dragoman drives from Bolivia to Chile first and then into Argentina.
Today was all about crossing the desert to ultimately reach Argentina..... A 5.00am start with bread rolls toasted on the Dragoman gas burner and a quick hot drink of tea or coffee, then on the road towards Chile. Across the desert with a local guide along mainly single tracked dusty compacted tracks.. The drive across the desert was extremely varied. We stopped for a late breakfast at a stagnant lake at which a large group of flamingos had settled. Bumped along many more tracks over a high pass of over 5,000 metres to a plant where they made boric acid and which was the border point for the truck's exit papers from Bolivia to be sorted. A couple of people felt quite unwell due to the altitude.
On to a geothermal volcanic area of bubbling hot mud and the smell of sulphur pervading the air. We got out of the bus and walked between the gasy and bubbling holes and all took pictures. Piled back into the bus and drove
Crossing the desert
poisonous (arsenic) blue lake
a couple more hours to a thermal spring where we all changed into swimwear and jumped into the very pleasant 37 degrees water and 'chilled out' for about half an hour before eating lunch by the bus by the thermal spring. We drove on after lunch to the Bolivian border. We dropped our guide just before the border and crossed over to no-man's land which seemed to be many a mile not really belonging to any particular country! About an hour past the Bolivian side, we crossed the Chile border. This was fairly painless although a little bit of a hassle as all the luggage had to be offloaded and xrayed and there was the inevitable standing around in line for passports to be stamped. Finally we were through the border one and a half hours later to arrive at San Pedro de Atacama - the border town where we were staying the night in a rather basic and dusty campsite. We would have preferred to upgrade from this campsite to a hotel but despite trying to bargain with the hoteliers to reduce the rate, we couldn't get a decent hotel for much less than $90 and as we were going to be leaving by 7.00 am and were planning on attending an organised star-gazing trip from 9.00 pm until midnight it simply wasn't worth the money, so wepitched the tent with a bit of assistance! We then discovered the English-speaking Star Gazing trip was commencing at midnight until 2.00am so we decided to give it a miss as it had been a very long day. We went to a very nice restaurant and both had extremely tasty grilled salmon.
Went back to the campsite and sorted our stuff out in the dark in the tent and each had a drizzling tepid shower and went to sleep.
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