Somebody’s stolen my horse

Well, my senses have taken a huge slap over the past few days, in a good way! San Pedro de Atacama is the town I’ve been dreaming most about during my trip and now that I’m finally here I’m feeling a bit dazed.

I took a nightbus here with the group and waking up to see nothing but arid desert for miles around was surreal to say the least. Last week I was trudging through snow and now this! San Pedro is literally an oasis in the middle of the Atacama Desert, with dusty streets and haunting landscapes that hide loads of archaeological secrets. It’s like something out of a western; everytime I walk down the street I feel like John Wayne!

Even though the days here are baking hot, the nights are bitterly cold. Last night we all went to a lovely restaurant with a roaring fire and live Chilean folk music, which was fantastic. The great food and the heat really uplifted me!

This morning I had the coldest shower known to man. It was FREEEEZING! 🙁 I stood there waiting for it to warm up, trying to decide whether to just leave it and be dirty for a day, but I was adamant that the shower wouldn’t beat me and I jumped in. We have outdoor shower rooms here, which adds to the freezingness!

Anyway, after conquering the cold shower I visited two archaeological sites a short while away from San Pedro. The first one was particularly interesting: a lost village which had been buried under the sand over hundreds of years. What I thought were bushes in the sand were actually the tops of the trees that stood in the village all those years ago! I really enjoyed learning a little bit about the history and culture of the Atacameña people and it was amazing to see more of the stunning desert landscapes too.

To round off my time in San Pedro, I went on a tour of the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) with the group. Again, the scenery was just stunning and I really did feel like I was walking on the moon with all the craters and mounds of rock rising up from the arid earth. When I got back to the hostel, though, I discovered that I had left my jacket on the bus. After much frantic dashing up and down San Pedro’s only main street to the tour company office and back to the hostel, I was told to come back to the office at 9.00 to collect my jacket because the bus had already left for another tour. I used the time before that to buy some food for the salt flats trip, and when I went into a little corner shop one of the workers started talking to me. He was so shy and lovely and seemed really intrigued that I had travelled so far. After telling me his name was Raul, he gave me a free chocolate bar! 🙂

I walked back to the tour office at about 8.40, and just as I was again analysing the generosity and gentle nature of Chileans, I found the tour guide from earlier sitting on a sofa and motioning to me to sit down next to him. He had left his jumper on the bus too! We talked for what seemed like ages until the bus finally arrived back with my jacket safely still on board. It was 9.20 by this point! The tour guide turned to me and said, “Why did you come so early anyway? In Chile, 9.00 means 9.20!” He shyly said goodbye, wished me luck and left the office. I have to say that Chileans are the most hospitable and friendly people I have ever met, and they have left their mark on me in such a powerful way, as have their country’s incredible landscapes.

So tomorrow morning we all head off on our Salar de Uyuni adventure… surely this will be the highlight of my trip?

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