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Published: December 28th 2013
We arrived quite early in the morning to Chile and San Pedro de Atacama, a quiet desert town 45 km from the border to Bolivia. Our Salar de Uyuni tour left us at the border where we also got our exit stamps from Bolivia, then we took a bus to San Pedro where we went through Chilean immigration. The border to Chile was probably the most strict we had passed this far in South America, here our luggage was x-rayed while no one seemed to care what we were carrying on the other border crossings we have passed through on this continent.
As it had been a quite exhausting stay in Bolivia with lots of activities, we decided to take it easy. During the first three days in San Pedro we mostly sat in the shade reading books, planning our future travels and publishing all the blogs we weren’t able to publish in Bolivia. San Pedro was hot in the days and cool in the nights, with a constantly blue sky and a bright, burning desert sun. The second day we also took a star gazing tour, as San Pedro is a very dry town (the Atacama desert is the
world’s driest desert, at places there are no evidences that it has ever rained) it is optimal for watching the sky.
The star gazing tour turned out to be really great. It was at the home of a French Canadian astronomer who had migrated to San Pedro seven years ago. First we looked at the sky with the naked eye, assisted by a powerful green laser pointer that our host used to show the different constellations and stars with while he told about the history of astronomy. Then we looked through maybe 10 telescopes he had set up pointing at all kinds of interesting celestial objects like Jupiter, a nebula and a cluster of galaxies. The evening was rounded off with warm chocolate and questions in his house.
On our fourth day in town we took a trip to Puritama, a hot spring in the middle of the dessert. It is at much higher altitude than San Pedro, so the air was much cooler. There are 8 different pools with warm water from the spring with temperatures ranging from 29 to 34 degrees Celsius, some with calm water, and some with so strong stream in them it is
hard to keep in place while swimming. As the air was cool we quite quickly drifted to the warmest one where we then stayed for the rest of the time.
For the last two days we rented bikes. There are several sights quite near San Pedro easily reached by bikes, or at least so we thought. After renting the bikes we set out to one of the nearest sights, Valle de Muerte. We had received a map from the bike rental firm, and although not very exact it seemed to be clear enough. So we set out, first through flat terrain, then uphill for a few kilometers and then downhill for some kilometers more. Then we realized we must have missed our exit, so we turned back and returned the same way, and finally found our exit, hidden by a road work. We had cycled 15 km extra in the burning desert sun, so after viewing the Valle de Muerte we decided to call it a day.
For the last day we had a more ambitious goal, Laguna Cejar, a salt lake 20 km from San Pedro. This time we had double checked the instructions, and
the route should be quite flat. So we set out and this time had no problems finding our way. The desert was hot, but the lake turned out to be quite cold, so our plans of floating around in the salty water quickly changed into a quick dip before riding back. Especially on the ride back the sun was merciless, and even though we had a heavy layer of sun screen on we got a bit burned. Because of the sun it would have been better to go either early in the morning or late in the afternoon, our “when we wake up” was probably the worst possible time as we had celebrated Christmas the night before.
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