We were slightly relieved to arrive in San Pedro de Atacama. Despite being located in the ‘driest non-polar desert in the world’ (source: Wikipedia) it’s a bustling vibrant little town. We had booked a place to stay called Lodge Tatais, which was about 1km out of town, with comfortable beds and actual taps where we could wash our hands with real water….!
Lodge Tatais was pretty chilled. There was a ‘restaurant’ attached, which had particularly random opening hours; they essentially started serving whenever they felt like it. One evening we just let ourselves into the kitchen and cooked for ourselves as nobody seemed to be about!
After sitting in a 4×4 for several days on the salt flats tour, we wanted to do something active, so booked a hiking and biking day to Canyon de Guatin. It was led by Edgardo from the Lodge – who incidentally also flipped pizzas in the ‘restaurant’. He met us with his girlfriend, Paulette, and two other girls, who couldn’t keep their hands off each other.
I’m not sure we expected to walk through such an incredible landscape. We navigated our way by following the river through the Canyon, jumping across at various points and scrambling down rocks. We trekked past the biggest (and most phallic) cacti I’ve ever seen, and in some places it felt as if we were almost bouldering; clinging onto the edge of mini cliff faces. We all plunged into the water to cool off and found a small waterfall you could put your head through, arriving inside a watery cave. The scenery was spectacular.
As we hiked out of the Canyon, we stopped to check out some ruins and the two lesbians rolled a joint. We declined a smoke – I actually thought I might fall off my bike if I had a toke (!) but they puffed away, and needless to say it took them a long time to climb to the top of the hill…!
We got on the bikes and, fearing I was going to have accident number two (following my crash in September), I peddled somewhat sedately towards the sunset. The view was stunning, but I kept my eyes firmly on the menacing gravel….! With the slow pot-smoking pair and my wobbling wheels, we ended up cycling the last few miles into town in absolutely pitch darkness. I bizarrely became more confident on unfamiliar terrain once I couldn’t actually see where I was cycling and we arrived home tired, dusty but without mishap. An awesome day.
After our desert triathlon (!) we spent a chilled out next day on a bus tour to Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon). Incredibly it does actually look like the surface of the moon in places. It has weird and wonderful stone and sand formations which have been carved by wind and water over many years, and the colours are beautiful. There are also dry lakes where the salt deposits have left a white covering layer. I’m told the valley is considered to be one of the driest places on earth, as some areas haven’t received a single drop of rain in hundreds of years. Our guide also told us NASA tested a prototype for a Mars rover there, because of the valley’s dry and forbidding terrains.
After a hot, dry and relaxing few days, we were all set for Argentina; the home of steak and red wine…but you never know what’s round the corner, do you?
Stayed tuned 😉
J & R xxx