To tour or not to tour....
Trip Start Nov 26, 2009
53Trip End Jul 31, 2010
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Where I stayed
The journey took us to Jujuy to pick up more passengers and then wound its way up past Punamarca and the salt flats of the Salinas before entering the wide open spaces of the Puna and then passing into the Atacama Desert. The landscape was bleak and harsh, but sometimes very beautiful with shades of red, brown, even purple in it. The monotony of the journey was broken by first a stop for about an hour to complete Argentine border formalities and then a long, long stretch into the night to reach San Pedro de Atacama where we all had to tramp off the bus to repeat the process for Chile
Instead I wandered into the centre which is full of colonial buildings and went around the regional museum with its display on the ancient Chincurro culture, its own Inca mummies and a rather tired exhibit on Humberstone, the now derelict nitrate mining and processing operation in the desert plain behind Iquique. Having had my fill of culture for the day I grabbed some sushi on the seafront overlooking a wee reef break where the spongers (sorry, bodyboarders) were throwing themselves onto the rocks with gay abandon.
Though I had planned a series of tours whilst in Iquique now I had made it here my mind was elsewhere occupied
Instead I fell into a routine of a siesta in the afternoon followed by some beers, dinner and activity, card games, jenga and suchlike, with the other hostel folks, a nice mix of Germans, English and South Americans. In the end I do not feel I missed out on a great deal in Iquique. It was another pitstop, a place to recharge rather than charge around. I was up and away fairly quickly on Friday. The bus to Arica, the town right on the border with Peru, took me past Humberstone after all and out into the desert again.
Nothing had been settled in Iquique, but by the time I left I had discussed rescheduling my Machu Pichu trek from the beginning of March to the beginning of May. It was later than I really wanted, but Inca Trail permits are like golddust and that was the earliest I could even get on the request shortlist. That meant the bus ride to Arica was spent pouring over my Lonely Planet guide and weighing my options. Do I go into Bolivia anyway via the Salar de Uyuni or do I delay and head north into Peru early and head north to Ecuador, the Galapagos and Columbia? The freedom of travelling can be rather intimidating sometimes. How easy our normal lives seem when our greatest choice is what we are making for dinner that night?