Greetings from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, a desert town at over 2000 meters above sea level. A dusty town full of little thatched white washed cafes, rambling dogs and llamas on the streets.
We had the most spectacular 13 hour trip to get here. A bus from Salta left at 7am and we had read a little that the views would astound us but we really were jaw-droppingly moved by the beauty that we saw from the bus windows. From tri-colour mountains of red, green and blue we snapped hundreds of pics which of course I can’t show you here but you can use your imagination until I get stronger wifi. As we ascended each mountain with popping ears my heart began to flutter but not from the excitement but more from the altitude. I had to do some gentle yoga breaths to calm myself down and as Niamh describes it tends to come in waves so just when you think you are fine it comes back to gently remind you you are well above sea level and the air here is not as kind as it is by the sea. God bless living in Sandymount. 🙂
Previously that night I had seen some Dakar rally cars in Salta but didn’t realize that we would see a stage on our way to Chile. My tom-boy ways were at fever pitch as I couldn’t believe my luck that I could see lots of Jeeps, buggys and trucks on the road. At one stage , a helicopter landed right in the middle of the road where we had to pull in. We were all laughing with nervous excitement snappy away at our luck at seeing a helicopter land and take off right beside it us. As the locals would say ‘Estaba Loco’. Again pics to follow. We had passed a half way stage here of the rally too. I couldn’t believe my luck I had gotten to see the rally. Unfortunately we passed a really bad accident too where a French national lost his life when his bike crashed into a police car. It was not pleasant and a reminder that the combination of the Dakar and the dangerous roads here, anybody who participates is really a little bit crazy and reckless with their own lives alas he died doing what he loved so who am I to judge. May he rest in peace.
Another 5 hours later and we had come to first border crossing where we had to get our stamp to leave Argentina, knowing the Argetinians are semi-well organized we expected an easy enough transition. Again we had to keep our expectations low and our tolerances high as we queued in line for 2 hours. Back on the bus and more beautiful scenery of salt flats and flamingos, our eyes were mesmerized at the painted beauty that lay in front of us.
Two hours passed the expected time of arrival as we pulled into the dust covered town of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Here we had to go through border control and customs. Niamh started her own little dilemma about a peach. She quoted ‘Do I dare eat a Peach’ as she had left it on the bus rather than declare it as the customs are quite strict.Thinking the bus maybe raided she got anxious we would get caught. She then made me realize that I still had a bag of pecans(nuts) which we swiftly stuffed into our mouths. So when asked did I have anything to declare, I couldn’t even speak. All very hilarious but a ‘you had to be there situation’. Between the peaches and pecans we laughed our merrily way onto our dusty Chevy where our welcoming B&B host collected us to bring us to her lovely home.
Sylvia and her daughter Isidora welcomed us around their quaint typical Chilean home where we really did feel we could make our own. Hot showers and a headaches later we ventured off into the village on the dusty roads to find water and money. You really take for granted the basics until you are traveling in South america. An hour later with money in hand and re-hydrating we bumped into Ruth a fab Swiss girl from our bus. We went for dinner and started to discuss the next leg. Ruth, had decided she would join us from Monday on our trip to Salar de Uyuni. Another new traveling companion. We walked her home that night followed by more littlest hobos and blinking street lights.
The next morning we walked into town to book our day trip for that same day to Laguna Cejar, a salt lake akin to the dead sea where you float when you try to swim. We passed the afternoon rambling around the town,taking pics,admiring llamas.
We set out for our trip to the Laguna at 4pm, thankfully as the searing sun settled down we drove through the desert to get to our first destination. Everyone on the bus chatted away in Spanish and unknowingly not one of them were native spanish speakers. 3 Brazilians , 1 polish girl and a german couple (The guy had boarded in Multifarnham in Mulligar) small world stuff united us yet again. We had so much fun with this group and spent the day swimming in the lagunas, salt and fresh. Taking pics with some other Brazilians on the salt flats and watching the best sunset yet.
That night we joined our bus companions in a local bar to watch South American pan pipe band which although sounds like a random busker set on Grafton st. They were astoundingly amazing and Niamh has turned into a major convertee. She may even become a groupie to the outfit. I got talking to a 6ft 6 Ginger bearded San Paolo Brazilian who tried to converse with me in 3 languages of Portuguese, Spanish and English. We now have a new invite to Brazil for our next visit. Nice guy. Thankfully we were sitting down whilst chatting as my small stature would have been a problem. We rambled our way home once again with big smiley heads on us ,having had such a great day that was until three dogs ran at us to which Niamh used her thick Clare accent to roar STOP at them before the ran away. Not exactly whimpering away but it did the trick. I need to learn to have no fear…this is not as easy as it sounds.
Today we are hanging out, catching up on mails etc and going on an observatory tour tonight weather permitting. We leave for Bolivia at 5am in the morning and will be out of touch for a few days. We will be on a 4×4 going through the largest salt flats in the world. Expecting amazing things and hoping rain will stay away.
As a side we are absolutely loving our trip so far. Can’t believe we are 17days into the trip and 17 days left! Totally half way and that makes it all so bitter sweet.
Chat soon everyone, hope you are enjoying the updates. 🙂 Ciao x