In the aridness of San Pedro de Atacama

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 Atacama20150408_145336, 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 20150408_17525220150408_175905and 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.  IMG_20150426_180710IMG_20150426_180753IMG_20150426_181027IMG_20150426_181057IMG_20150426_181247IMG_20150426_18131920150409_130211

Surprisingly, the inside of a cactus contains very solid and thus valuable wood. This one is worth around 800 USD!IMG_20150426_180934IMG_20150426_181122

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.IMG_20150426_181218

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. IMG_20150426_181351

The Valle de la Luna and Valle de la Muerte are two of the most fascinating landscapes around SPdA…:

IMG_20150426_195409IMG_20150426_195448IMG_20150426_19553520150409_15542720150409_155535 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!

IMG_20150426_195609IMG_20150426_195636IMG_20150426_195743IMG_20150426_195809IMG_20150426_195831IMG_20150426_195900Thanks to the recent rain there were more salt deposits at the surface and the landscape was whiter than usual.

IMG_20150426_19594920150409_174150IMG_20150426_200038IMG_20150426_200419IMG_20150426_200441This most striking Volcano is called Licancabur. Doesn’t  it look just like Mt. Ngauruhoe, aka Mt. Doom?20150409_192414IMG_20150426_200504IMG_20150426_200526