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November 25th 2013
Published: October 4th 2014
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Getting to the airport for the flight to San Pedro de Atacama was no problem. Laine's company has a car service that showed up at the scheduled time and dropped us off without any mishaps. We were checked in and boarded fairly on time and were on our way as scheduled. I was fortunate to sit by the window during the two hour flight, too entranced by the view to even remember to take pictures. The mountains we were flying over were beautiful. Some seemed to have been sheared off, and showed an unbelievable array of colors, from red to deep greens. Occasionally there was some greenery at the bottom of some canyon, which seemed very narrow from my high altitude, and whenever that happened it could be detected signs of habitation. Perfectly manicured patches of agriculture, for one thing. Shining ribbons of silvers topped some other peaks. All beautiful!

We landed in Calama, which our ride described as the richest city in Chile, and the ugliest city in Chile. Richest because of all the mining activity in the area. Abundance of copper. It is about an hour from San Pedro, and the ride through the desert presented many beautiful views. One particular stretch of the road, between two cliffs, gave me some pause. As I was wondering how secure the rocks on those cliffs were, I noticed that the entire wall was covered by a net, no doubt to secure those same rocks I was wondering about. I breathed a sigh of relief when we left them behind.

The arrival in San Pedro de Atacama was wondrous. This village still resembles the mission that probably was when first founded. Narrow dirt streets, so narrow that only one vehicle fits at a time, are flanked by adobe and stone walls, and one story buildings, all sharing walls, and giving the appearance of humble huts that, eventually, you find out harbor charming restaurants, all with lovely patios, fire pits, and delicious foods, and artisan shops full of alpaca clothing and other goods. All very rustic, and totally captivating.

Our hotel , Terrantai, was perfect. Also one story, there is no building that isn't in the whole village, and only 21 rooms, the small lobby opened up to an outdoor lounge area with individual groupings of comfortable chairs, each with its own small fire pit, and labyrinth like corridors to the pool area, and our bedroom, number 15, which faced the pool in the front and a quiet and lovely patio through the glass windows in the back. Best of all, it was half a block from the tour company that Patricia had reserved for our tours of the area, and next door to the main plaza, with the lovely old church, and sidewalk cafes and shops.

Unpacking brought the first unpleasant surprise. Somehow, I had not packed some of the clothes I had planned to take, namely the leggings I wanted to change into at night for dinner when I got back from the excursions. I now found myself wearing the only pair of pants I had for the entire trip, blue jeans. Walking outside I soon realized I had miscalculated what was needed for this trip. According to the temperature was 50s during the day and 30s at night. It was frigging HOT! I walked outside the hotel with jeans, a cotton sleeveless turtle neck and a wind breaker and everyone else is in shorts and tee-shirts. Grr! Stupid!

This resulted in what could have been a real crisis. While at this totally charming little restaurant a couple of doors from the hotel, I decided to take a couple of pictures of the adorable small patio where we were sitting. I discovered, much to my horror, that my camera was missing. I run back to the hotel room, nothing, checked the road back to the restaurant and there was nothing. Poked my head into another restaurant where we had thought of eating and they didn't have it. Back at the restaurant and very much downcast, I asked the little waitress if she had seen it, but she had not. As a very last resort I went to the main counter and asked the proprietor and, before I could even finish my sentence about my camera, he silently handed it to me. I had put it on the counter while I removed the stifling wind breaker, and had forgotten to pick it back up. What a relief! I had been close to tears, and very depressed.

After this, the plight of one pair of pants seemed trivial, although we did go into couple of shops to see if I could find something to buy. Unfortunately, the cute and very colorful balloon pants I would have bought did not fit me, and the pants that did fit were not quite flattering with the multi colored stripes. So, we decided to leave the search for later, and expectantly presented ourselves at the offices of Desert Tours for our first excursion; Valle de la Luna.

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