It took me 23 hours to get from Pisco Elqui to San Pedro de Atacama in the north of Chile. That is because I had to change buses twice and because of the delay caused by the road conditions around Copiapó and Antofagasta. A terrible flood had hit this arid region shortly before, as a result of unseasonal heavy rains. Rivers swelled and poured water and thick mud all over the area. To make it worse, the mud that now covers the towns, is contaminated as the water ran through this regions many mines before reaching the cities.
I was lucky that the roads were open again and when I peaked out of the window of my bus at 2 am I saw a ghost city covered in mud where bulldozers were busy cleaning up the streets.
Thankfully, the region’s main tourism spot, the area around San Pedro de Atacama, had not been hit by the floods and the blackout caused by these had been fixed when I got there. San Pedro de Atacama is a pleasant little tourist town and the gateway to the Atacama desert and tours into Bolivia and its famous Salar de Uyuni.
The Atacama desert is said to be the driest place in the world. You can feel the aridness of this desert region with every pore of your body. Everything instantly becomes dry, your sinuses, your hair, your skin.
Hoewever, the area is stunning:
Guatin, aka the Valley of the cactus, is a beautiful valley that boasts the regions biggest cactuses – because they may not be removed here. Many of them are around 100 years old.
Surprisingly, the inside of a cactus contains very solid and thus valuable wood. This one is worth around 800 USD!
The cactus fruit was a little harder to find as it was not the right season, but we finally got to try some. You’ve got to sqeeze it and you can eat the gluey green mass that is inside. It looks gross, but it’s said to be very healthy and tastes a bit like a sour kiwi.
From the upper entrance to the valley, just like from San Pedro and around, you can see the majestic snowcapped volcanoes on the border to Bolivia.
The Valle de la Luna and Valle de la Muerte are two of the most fascinating landscapes around SPdA…:
With my roommate and soon to be travelmate Laura. I am glad you convinced me to leave a day earlier to the “Tour de Uyuni” :-)! Can’t imagine it without you!
Thanks to the recent rain there were more salt deposits at the surface and the landscape was whiter than usual.
This most striking Volcano is called Licancabur. Doesn’t it look just like Mt. Ngauruhoe, aka Mt. Doom?
2 thoughts on “In the aridness of San Pedro de Atacama”
Reading your post about heading north for Bolivia encouraged one of the voices in my head intoning “Boat to Bolivia” (as performed by Martin Stephenson and the Daintees) which makes me suffer already the whole morning from that catchy tune … 😉
Glad to make your day 😉