Monday, February 11, 2008

Chile: San Pedro de Atacama

Twenty-three hours on the bus, countless dubbed videos, way too many saltine crackers, and very little sleep later we found ourselves on the dusty streets of San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile. As the gateway to Bolivia, the stunning scenery of the Atacama desert, and the further reaches of Chile, San Pedro is a gringo magnet extraordinaire. The one-horse main street is dominated by travel agencies, curio shops, internet cafes, and restaurants catering to vegetarians. Jumping into the fray with a ¨if you can`t beat ém¨ attitude, we joined a few organized tours, feasted on mushroom and avocado sandwiches, and gazed starry-eyed at the blissful night sky.

We spent a late-afternoon traveling out to the Valle de Luna with a busload of Brazilian travelers. This ended up being a hilarious tour, because for some reason the guide insisted on speaking to us in French. Even after we clarified that while Kathleen spoke French, we were American. But he claimed to LOVE the French language beyond all else and couldn`t help himself. His enthusiasm was such that we gave up et voila! In any language, the sunset painting the distant mountains and volcanoes was beautiful.

The next morning we rose at 4am (UGH!) to head out to see the Tatio Geyser field. After bumping along a dirt road for hours and swilling down some coca tea to stave off altitude sickness at 4,200 meters (13,779 feet), we were so glad we`d made the trip. No sooner had we gotten out of the car, then the ground mere steps from us shot up a welcoming spout of steaming hello. Everywhere you turned the earth was bubbling, boiling, and steaming---it was otherworldly. And sinking into a big pit of the noxious but warm water was just the thing for taking off the dawn chill. Our day ended with more gorgeous scenery, a high-altitude stroll through a box canyon resplendent with cactus, and more guilty gringo food.

1 comment:

eunice said...

What an exotic place! I wonder when will I ever step foot there. And the photos are so well-taken.

Interesting blog! Can we exchange link? I have a travel blog -

Hope to hear from you soon. :)

~eunice, from Singapore~