San Pedro de Atacama

Trip Start Apr 05, 2008
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Trip End Aug 07, 2008


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Friday, May 23, 2008

After a smelly bus journey from Valparaiso we arrived in Calama at 3pm and booked the next bus to San Pedro which was at 5.25pm so we sat outside in the sun and chatted with Carl an English guy we met on the bus. When we were sitting around we experienced our first "earthquake" which was the weirdest feeling I have ever experienced. It was really small but just to feel the "unmovable" move was very strange. We got to San Pedro at 8.30pm and were approached by a number of people selling their hostel. In the end we went with a guy that offered 5 of us (us, Carl and 2 American girls) a double and a triple room for 4,000 pesos (5.50 euro) each a night. When we got to the hostel we had our doubts because it was a bit out of town but after talking to 2 guys that were already staying there they assured us it only took 10 minutes to walk to the square so we stayed. After dropping our bags the owner drove all 5 of us into town where we got a set Chilean meal. We walked back to the hostel using flash lights.

On Saturday we had a bit of a lie in after the lack of sleep the night before we needed it. The owner of the hostel allowed us to barrow a sandborad so we rented bikes in town and cycled out to Death Valley an area in that dessert that is used for sandborading. Once we got there we ate lunch and made our way up a dune. By the time we reached the top we were wrecked so we rested again :-) When we finally gave it a go we found it pretty hard to stay on it as we kept on slipping out of the straps. Later we brought the bikes back and booked a trip to see the geysers for the following morning leaving the hostel at 4am. So we got our stuff together and tried to go to bed early enough that night.  

We got up at 3.30am on Sunday for the geysers trip, the bus was supposed to collect  us at 4am but didnt arrive  until 4.35am. It was then a 2.5hour trip on the bumpiest roads ever and the bus was such a piece of shit we thought it was going to fall apart. We arrived at the geysers park at 7am which is 4230 meters above sea level, just over 2000m higher than San Pedro. The temperature was -12 degree celsiusus and even though we wore loads of layers we were still freezing. We then walked through the geothermal field with our guide who told us all about the area and we saw steam and boiling water gushing out of the geysers. Breakfast was included in the tour and we had it by the geysers, it was getting warmer at this stage as the sun was rising but it was still below zero. After breakfast we went to the thermal bath where it is possible to get in for a swim but we were too chicken to get it, after all it was still -5 degree celsiusus, we did however put our feet in which was lovely.
    After the park we drove along the mountain roads to a little village, there was a BBQ with Lama kebabs which we tried and they were lovely. We also had some homemade cheese empanadas. A short while later we drove back to San Pedro and picked up some new passengers along the way because their bus had broken down. We got back to the hostel at 1.30pm and went to get some food for dinner, we also booked an astronomy tour for that evening at 7pm. We went back to the the hostel made dinner and relaxed for a few hours before our tour.
    At 7pm we were brought by bus to a location about 15 minutes outside town. The tour was given by a very funny and enthusiasticic French guy. He began by telling us the history of how everyone thought the earth was flat and that the sun orbited around the earth. After about 20 minutes talking we went outside where there were 6 big telescopes one of which is the largest touristic telescope in Chile. Through the telescopes we viewed: alpha centauri, Mars, Saturn, star clusters nebula's and even another galaxy. We were also shown the signs of the zodiac in the stars and other famous star formations. We took some pictures of Saturn through a telescope which came out really well. After about two hours we were all freezing and finished looking through the telescopes so we went back inside where we had a cup of really nice hot chocolate to warm us up. We were then told about the latest of interest and research in astronomy. It was a really interesting tour and we would definitely recommend it.

We relaxed all day Monday leaving the hostel only to get food. We played some cards with other guests and went to bed pretty early after packing for our bus trip to Salta the next day.
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