Sheep, Stars and Sand
Trip Start Jan 15, 2010
36Trip End Nov 09, 2010
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Our bus pulled into the Chilean side of customs 10 hours after leaving Salta (it was supposed to be an 8 hour journey, but who‘s counting?). I was joking with an Irish guy on the bus because we were literally in the middle of nowhere and he said “are you getting off here?“ I said “no way!!” There were mini dust tornadoes swirling about and it sure looked bleak! We were all piling back onto the bus after clearing customs and Jeff walked around to the front of the bus to take a picture of the “phew, glad we aren’t saying here variety”, and we see a lady walking up with “Ms. Tamara Fisher” written on a piece of notebook paper! We looked at each other, shrugged, and then grabbed our packs and threw them into the back of her truck. I guess that tells you something about first impressions-- we came for three nights and stayed for 6--that is how much we ended up loving this place
We hop in the Toyota truck and head down the road. She pulls into a field and starts honking her horn. About a minute goes by and then her 30 sheep come running to the road! She starts to drive along, honking and herding the sheep in the truck. But there is a baby that keeps straggling and the sheep are a bit disorganized, so she signals for Jeff to take the wheel and hops out, grabs a stick and starts whacking the sheep into order! It was one of those crazy experiences where you wonder how you ended up helping this woman herd sheep in the middle of the dessert, but there we were! She does this every day--after serving breakfast to the tourists, she goes to the farm and herds the sheep from their pen to an alfalfa field down the road and does other chores at the farm. Then in the evenings she goes back to the farm to bring them back. Obviously this is hard work and she starts telling me how winter is coming and she doesn’t have time to get ready, so I offer for us to help her on the farm for a day
Other highlights of San Pedro:
Star Gazing: In fact, the skies are so clear that there is a huge multi-national project (Project Alma) being built to study the skies. We went on a star gazing tour one night-a French astronomer bought some property and started a star gazing tour for tourists. He has about 7 giant telescopes and through them we could see Saturn, the milky way, another galaxy and many other stars
Altiplano lakes, flamingos and salt flats: One of the days we loaded up in the mini-van and did a tour with Cosmo Andino (there are a ton of companies, I could recommend this one). We started at the Salt Flats, where there were hundreds of flamingos who head there for the winter to feed on brine shrimp and build their nests. The nests feel like plaster and they lay one egg in there. It doesn’t seem like there is enough cushion for a rock, much less an egg, but somehow they manage to hatch! The scenery of the lakes is amazing--some look like Caribbean blue water with mountains around-spectacular!
Sand dune boarding in Death Valley: Huge sand dunes, scorching sun, and not a green thing in site! And of course, there was no ski lift to get you to the top! I made the hike up twice and boarded down, but Jeff was putting all of the 20 something’s to shame sprinting up the hill over and over again for the entire 2 hours. We had snow boards and a stick of wax. The only instruction was “lots of wax, go fast, little wax, go slow”. And there was totally lots of sand in lots of places where the sun don’t shine!!!