Playing in the sand!

Published: April 19th 2015
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As we were enjoying the wines of Mendoza our next destination, Northern Chile, was experiencing its worst flooding in decades. The Atacama desert is the driest desert in the world and areas in this region were receiving more rain in one day than the total average rainfall it receives in 4 years. As the rain continued unrelenting for several days the flooding intensified, roads were washed out, mines closed and a state of emergency declared, the Atacama was now the wettest desert in the world!

After the weather subsided and normalacy returned we arrived in the little oasis town of San Pedro situated at 2,500m (8,200ft) above sea level. This is one of the oldest settlements in Chile dating back to 1547 when the Spanish established their first mission here. The single-story adobe houses and unpaved streets give this village a Hollywood western feel, you expect a gunslinger to walk out of a saloon at any moment.

The houses are made out of mud and straw which is an ideal building material for the climate, in the scorching daytime temperatures the walls absorb the heat and keep the inside of the structure nice and cool. As the sun sets
San Pedro's mainstreetSan Pedro's mainstreetSan Pedro's mainstreet

We saw tumbleweed but no gunslingers despite several visits to the local saloon.
and the temperature falls (winter months it can reach -15 degrees Celsius at night) the walls cool and release the stored daytime heat into the building thus warming the structure. Perfect, cheap and abundant building material in this climate, one small problem, dirt and straw don't like rain and San Pedro just got approximately 6 years worth in a couple of days. The damage was evident everywhere and the repair and cleanup process was well underway during our visit.

San Pedro is situated in close proximity to an astonishing number of natural attractions: the stunning altiplano, volcanoes, sand dunes, geysers and lagoons kept us very busy during our wonderful stay here.

Another attraction was the night sky, with the Atacama desert having the clearest skies in the world a number of astrological observatories have been setup. We were lucky enough to get a tour and lecture from an astrophysicist and look through the telescopes to see Saturn (and its rings), Jupiter (including a few of its many moons) and very close up viewings of our moon.

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


Carving up a dune!Carving up a dune!
Carving up a dune!

Since we missed winter this year we decided to get a few runs in the desert instead.
Sandra on the dune!Sandra on the dune!
Sandra on the dune!

This was Sandra's first experience either snowboarding or sandboarding and she did great, looks like she enjoyed it too! She wasn't too fond of hiking up the dune for the next run though.
Not just like snow!Not just like snow!
Not just like snow!

There are actually a few major differences between riding the sand and its more popular counterpart snow. The most noteworthy for me is that eating snow after you wipe-out is far more pleasant than getting a mouthful of sand, I'm still picking it out of my teeth.
Its not snowIts not snow
Its not snow

The white on the ground is actually salt and other crystalline minerals, it gave the landscape a very contradictory feel.
Odd shaped rocksOdd shaped rocks
Odd shaped rocks

It might have been all the sun I got, but I could swear this rock looks like Pac-Man or a T-Rex.....
Desert landscapeDesert landscape
Desert landscape

The rocky terrain of the desert plateau with the icy volcanos in the background made for some dramatic scenery.
Sunset in the desertSunset in the desert
Sunset in the desert

It got cool quickly as the sun set but it was worth it to see the colors, I'm not female so I can only say that there were fantastic reds, purples, and oranges. Sandra says there were other colors visible or she was talking about fruit I'm not sure.
Licancabur Volcano at sunsetLicancabur Volcano at sunset
Licancabur Volcano at sunset

My favorite volcano which seemed to dominate the horizon, tonight it had a 'saucer' of a cloud shrouding its summit.
Geysers at dawnGeysers at dawn
Geysers at dawn

We woke at an inhumane hour to get a tour of the geysers at dawn when they are most active. This area of Chile has 8% of the worlds geysers and it was a truly memorable experience watching the sun rise as the geysers unleashed their thermal waters into the morning air.
Misty morningMisty morning
Misty morning

With all the activity it made for a misty morning.
Diverse landscapeDiverse landscape
Diverse landscape

We were amazed at how quickly the landscape changed from desert, to fertile marshland hosting a variety of wildlife to snow capped mountains.
Tiny townTiny town
Tiny town

We stumbled across a tiny settlement in the desert that had a handful of houses, the small community tended lamas.
Lama Lama

This lama was trying to look pretty with the braids in her hair, not sure it worked as she seemed to be still waiting for her date.

20th April 2015

Those are amazing photos. Looks class. The one with the marshland, desert and volcanoes is fab.
2nd May 2015

Are you near the erupting vocano
hi Glen and Sandra I love reading your blog, you are a very good writer. I have been thinking about you both and hoping your adventures took you away from the volcano. post soon love Sandy
4th May 2015

Erupting Volcano
Thanks Sandy, all well here we were in the area prior to the eruption a few months ago but we are now up in Peru scary stuff. Hope all is well in Port Hope chat soon.

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