26.11.2008 - 28.11.2008 30 °C
After spendfing a week in the central region of Chile, we decided it was time to move on. Although buing a ticket for the bus was easy the 20 something hour bus ride was a test of endurance. Our journey was to Antofogasta second bigest city in Chile, north of Santiago. We took the night bus boarding at 5pm driving through the night and finally arriving at 1pm at our destination. We got to witness a bit of the countryside which started of with the usual fields, avocado orchards and vineyards.Then the landscape started changing into dry hills coloured only by some shrubery and cactuses, then we awoke to the view of the desert for the next 5 hours. Now we find our selves in the city of Antofogasta with dry brown hills to our east and the pacific laping at the coast.
Antofogasta is a strange town, originally built as a port for all the mining ventures in the region. The infistructurure is old and generally we werent imprest. We then moved onto Calama another inbetween town formed from the mining boom. This city has only one thing to offer: buses to leave.
So after a few disapointments we were pleased to arrive in a small township of San Pedro de Atacama, located in the driest desert in the world at the foot of a volcano. This township was recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site. At the moment its overun by tourists from all parts of the world. Although we feel its a still a destination of the beaten track.
In the two days that we have been here, we´ve been able to witness more of the essence of Chilean culture then in the past week. Within the hour of arriving here we hired a bikes and were off to explore the grandure of the Laguna de Muerte (death as nothing lives or grows there). Later we follwed through with an expedition of 17km on a bike to the Valley of the Moon. To our suprise the desert landscape is very diverse offering dramatic landscapes: high sand dunes, different rock formations, caves lined with minerals abd crystals.
San Pedro has the highest consintration of tourist operators in North Chile. Where every second door is either an eatery, a hostel, a tour operator or a souvenir shop. So we were inticed to jump on a tour to the Geiser de Tatio. Starting at 4am we boarded a small 4WD bus to undertake the grulling 2hour gravel road climbing 2000m from our current location. Making it the higest geothermic field in the world at 4300m above see level.(Mount Cook is 3200m). The early start guarantees our arrival at sunrise to witness the spectacle, where the hot underground water comes to the surface, mixing with the cold air -5 C to create impresive steam plumes.
The tour was good value, although a rough ride, we saw more local fauna: birds, valcoonas (small llama), a rabbit/opossum and flamengos. We even dropped by a village of indiginous Chileans to taste some BBQ llama. Mmmmm
We are now starting to feel a bit drained from lack of oxygen at high altitude, lack of green veges and grains in our tourist diet. Although we are "looking after ourselves" eating lots of fruit and taking in the sun cautiosly. Off to Bolivia on a 3day 4WD excurtion.......