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Published: January 21st 2008
After leaving the laughable Bolivian Immigration Centre we drove for about 35minutes to the Chilean Immigration. This was quite amazing as we had been driving in Chile for only 5 minutes before we came to a pristine tar-seal road! (I don’t think we even saw one in Bolivia!), along with this change in roads came an unexpected change in temperature - it almost immediately went from about 10 degrees to about 35!! Seriously, it felt like as soon as we entered Chile, someone had switched on a giant heater! The terrain was identical, it was just heaps hotter… very weird. Our guide said it was because of the change in altitude (we were now at only 2400m) and proximity to the coast, but I reckon it was in fact a giant heater!!
We arrived at the Chilean customs/immigration offices and whizzed through without any problems. It was then just a 5 minute drive to the tiny dusty “cowboy” village of San Pedro de Atacama. We stayed at the very cute Thaka Thaka hotel which had pleasant shady trees, an old wagon, and cute little bungalows. The bungalow we had was really unique, it was modern yet full of charm and
character - we just loved it! We crashed out for a bit and then went for a wander in the town, which could almost be out of an old western movie set. The streets are all dusty, and there are loads of horses and bikes as the main methods of transport in the centre. The town of San Pedro de Atacama is an oasis in the middle of the desert and has a really unique feel of modern times meets the old west. There are loads of charming, beautiful restaurants, with lots of earthy tones, wood and stone, some with fires in the centre of the dining space. We had a wander around, spent a bit of time trying to track down some Chilean peso’s as the one ATM (we thought) was broken and since there are quite a few tourists here, the exchange rates used at money changers were a real rip off! The prices reflect the number of tourists - we were clearly not in cheap Bolivia anymore! After a huge lunch we headed back for more siesta time! Then before we knew it, it was after 8pm. We went into town with Emma, Kay, Anna and Nick
and booked horse-riding for 6 of us in the morning, and found the only other ATM in town - which luckily worked! - so we could get cash out. Well, we could, everyone else had Visa cards and the ATM didn’t accept them - bugger!! (Visa… accepted in more locations worldwide… bollocks) Then after such an exhausting day (!) we headed back to Thaka Thaka for a blissful hot shower and an early night.
We were up early the next morning, and headed out on our horses, which were brought directly to the hotel, just after 8am. It was crucial to head out early as the sun is super strong here and it gets sooo incredibly hot during the middle of the day that we wanted to ride in the coolest part of the day possible. Kristi’s beautiful horse was called Dragon, Martin couldn’t pronounce his horse’s name... (he claimed it was something to do with dust and fruit) :-) We rode for 4 hours out into the Atacama Desert (the driest place on earth!) and it was a truly relaxing way to visit the area by horse. The horses were great, well trained and very well cared for.
We rode all through crazy high rock formations and hills, up some incredibly steep hills of shingle-type rocks (definitely felt dodgy at first until you got to know how confident your horse was in the terrain!) We went under rock shelters and up a yet another huge hill to see a view of the area and the town - this was crazy as all around was barren desert, and then San Pedro was just this tiny green spot on the horizon. The horses were great, even though Emma’s looked a bit like a Ringwraith from LOTR - if horses got too close to it and it felt they were being pesky he’d bare his teeth and try to bite others, and his eyes would roll red!!! Freaky!! Then at one point, Martin’s horse kicked another horse that got too close and he didn’t even realize even though he was sitting on his back (so we had to kindly inform him!!) The horses really wanted to run at several times during the trek, and Martin, Thomas and I really wanted them to (!) but a German girl who joined our horse riding trek was panicking and struggling to hold back her
horse all the time and if we let ours go it would follow! So we just sneaked in a couple of really small canters, would have loved to do more!
After this, we had a great lunch at Thaka Thaka and then updated our blogs for all you avid readers at home and abroad! That night we went to a great restaurant called 'Adobe', where tables were set around a main square of space in the middle which was open to the sky and had a huge roaring fire in the centre. Soooo cool! Definitely a pricier restaurant than we'd eaten at recently but the salmon and beef steaks were pretty awesome! One of the dogs from the hotel even followed us on foot to the restaurant, led us inside, then proceeded to curl up under our table while we ate dinner! So funny! We headed back to the hotel about 11pm, to pack and ready ourselves for a 12 hour journey through to Salta, Argentina the following day.
It's been truly great hanging out in San Pedro de Atacama, it was really nice to just relax in a beautiful spot with gorgeous hot weather. We could have
done with a week there, it was quite sad to leave!
The bus the next day though was surprisingly really comfy, comfy seats, tv screens showing movies and everything! We crossed back through the Chilean border, 5 mins from San Pedro and then travelled 3 hours to the Argentina border. It's quite bizarre - most land borders we've crossed around the world just have a couple of kilometres (or even metres!) between country borders, and this is no man's land. Here you cross out of Chile and are immediately IN Argentina, even though the actual Argentian border where your passport is actually stamped is 3 hours drive away!!! No "no man's land" here! Bizarre! The scenery was once again spectacular on the drive though, and we began to look forward to Argentina, the last country on our trip around the world!
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