San Pedro de Atacama
After spending some time on the beach in Chile we headed for the middle of the desert to San Pedro de Atacama before making our way into Argentina.
San Pedro de Atacama
Because we made some mistakes booking our accomodation in Iquique we had to take a night bus to San Pedro instead of staying a second night in Iquique. It all worked out in the end and we arrived early the next day in San Pedro de Atacama. The landscape of the Atacama desert is stunning. Dry desert landscapes that remind you of pictures from the Moon or Mars are framed by snowcovered Andes mountains in the distance. Lagoons that are are home to wild flamingos and endless looking salt flats.
San Pedro de Atacama is the shithole you have to put up with to see this amazing landscape. Similar to Aguas Calientes near Machu Picchu the towns sole reason for existence is tourism. 90% of houses in the city seem to be either tour operators, accomodations for tourists, restaurants or a combination of the former. There are no real grocery stores in the city and the few little stores are insanely expensive as are all the restaurants in town. Frustratingly they also don’t sell alcohol outside of restaurants. In hindsight we should’ve stocked up on groceries and liquor in Iquique before we came here.
Despite being in one of the driest deserts in the world it was raining every day during our stay in San Pedro. While it was nice to experience this rare event, some places in this desert haven’t seen rain for hundreds of years, it led to a bunch of logistical difficulties. The two tours we took were cut short because of the weather and walking around town was very difficult. Another unfortunate side effect was that the rain caused constant power outages. The power outages themselves were only a small nuisance, but in our hostel they also led to water outages. Water outages and a shared bathroom are an awful combination. Q: How many people does it take before a shared bathroom without water becomes completely disgusting? A: One guy with diarrhea… Markus is still upset that he missed the NFC and AFC championship games because of the power outages as well. The hostel could have at least provided temporary relief in the form of buckets of water to flush the toilets, but they didn’t.
Though we didn’t enjoy San Pedro we had a great time on the tours into the Atacama Desert that we took. On our first day we took a tour to Valle de la Luna. It is a moon like landscape in the salt range near San Pedro with unique rock formations and caves to walk through. Day 2 was a rainout and in hopes of better weather we scheduled another tour on day 3. We were supposed to visit Laguna Chaxa, Lagunas Altiplanicas and Piedras Rojas. Unfortunately because of the bad weather the Lagunas Altiplanicas Park was closed so our itinerary was altered to visit Laguna Tuyajto instead. Seeing wild flamingos and the phenomenal landscape of Piedras Rojas made it still worth it to us.
The border to Argentina was still closed the day before we left because of bad road conditions. The bus company couldn’t confirm our bus departure time the day before because of the power outages so we had to be at the bus terminal at 6.30 to wait for more information. Luckily our bus to Salta showed up and we didn’t end up being stuck in San Pedro–as we’ve heard horror stories.
Though we were nervous that our bus trip to Salta wouldn’t happen at all it ended up being one of the most scenic bus rides we had on our entire trip. The landscape was constantly changing and offered new spectacular views. We spent two full days in Salta, mostly relaxing and running some errands. One of our activities was a visit to the Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana de Salta that exhibits the Children of Llullaillaco, Inca mummies found at Mount Llullaillaco. While the museum has the remains of the three children who were sacrificced for the gods, they only have one on display at a time. For our visit, it was the youngest girl, La niña del rayo. It was a strange feeling to gaze upon her, she looked as if she would open her eyes at any moment. We couldn’t help but wonder what her last moments and thoughts were. We also spent a lot of time wandering around downtown enjoying Salta’s atmosphere. We stayed in an Airbnb apartment and it was a nice change to have our own place and a kitchen again. The Argentinian diet seems to consist mainly out of enormous amounts of beef and alcohol is pretty cheap so Markus thinks he found his perfect country.