Snowboarding in the Desert!
Trip Start Oct 06, 2008
38Trip End Apr 18, 2009
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San Pedro de Atacama is literally an oasis town in the middle of the Atacama desert, which has been confirmed by NASA to be the driest in the world. On our approach, the town looked just like those cartoon illustrations of an oasis - full of trees and greenery against the dusty desert. The town itself is small but extremely picturesque and is dominated by touristic agencies offering tours of the surrounding area. As we only had a couple of days before our flight to Southern Chile, we did not have enough time to take a tour, however we decided that one activity in particular was too good to miss...
After finally finding a place to spend the night - we were much like Mary and Joseph wondering the streets of Bethlehem (another running joke courtesy of Iwan!) - we set out to book our excursion for the next day, which was of course SANDBOARDING!
The next morning, after being kitted out with all the relevant equipment, we arrived at the the sand dunes - just a 10 minute trip from the town centre! The dunes were enormous, but unfortunately unlike snowboarding, there was no chair lift to take you to the top so we had a lot of exercise ahead of us! Our instructor advised that we put on the big, heavy boots to walk as the sand got so warm during midday Sun - as if walking uphill in dry sand wasn`t hard enough! After a lot of huffing and puffing, we finally reached the top of the first dune and began our lesson. Feeling confident that we could master the first slope we bagan the descent, only to realise that our boards had not been waxed (as the instructer had been informed), which meant that we had to skip a couple of steps in the learing process... Staring down the almost vertical decline, I was horrified. However, after a quick demonstration from the instructor and some words of encouragement from Iwan we were off! For the first go, we went at a controlled speed, stopping at regular intervals until reaching the bottom, by which time we were rearing to go again! After the long, tiring hike back to the top of the dune we were once again filled with excitment at the thought of another turn on the slope, but this time faster! A few hikes, a couple of tumbles and one lost pair of glasses later, our lesson in sandboarding was over. We made our way back to the town tired but happy after our exhilarating morning.
That evening, having already checked out of the hostel, we caught the bus to Calama covered in sand! Calama is another desert town, but larger and less pretty than San Pedro, however it was a necessary stop in order to catch our flight to the town of Purto Montt in Southern Chile. This would mark the start of the the next part of our South American journey, moving on from the Andean regions and into the more European-style countries of Chile and Argentina.