San Pedro de Attacama

May 28, 2008 - Calama, Chile

After Valparaiso we high tailed it north a fair distance (25 hour bus journey or so) to the attacama desert and to the oasis town of san pedro de attacama which lies at a height of 2400 metres above sea level (so it takes a day or so to get used fully to the altitude). The town itself is fairly small and very touristy but well worth a visit and there is alot to see and do in or around it. It lies just below an extinct volcano called Licanbur and near the argentinian and bolivian borders. The area actually used to be under Bolivian control until the war of the pacific between Chile, Peru and Bolivia which was sparked basically by finding of rich nitrate deposits in the attacama desert (and is also known as the nitrates war) in which chile annexed a large portion to the north and caused bolivia to become a landlocked country (the town of antofagasta was originally a bolivian port - so if you see a map you'd get an idea how much land chile gained - relations between the countries are still a bit cold apparently)

On arriving in the desert i thought it would be alot warmer but it is rather pleasant heat during the day and gets quite cool as soon as the sun starts to go down (but it is at altitude and there winter i suppose). Activities we got upto hear where going to the Tatio Geysers one morning on a tour which left at 4.30 in the morning as it is best to see them in the morning before the sun rises as the steam rises high from them in the cold - and it was cold -10 degrees fecking freezing! The geysers are at an altitude of 4,320 metres above sea level the highest i have ever been and so was a tester for me to see how i would cope with altitude and you definitely can feel it but i got through it ok! (which is a good thing as in bolivia everything is at altitude) The highlight of the geysers though was the thermal baths which lie right beside a geyser opening and is filled by the hot water streaming out - it was heaven after the cold temperatures!

Another day we rented mountain bikes and tore out into the desert into the valley of the dead and also to valle de luna and through some sand dunes - some amazing views i have to say and definitely glad i came to see the attacama desert - also we got to bomb down through some dried up stream beds which was fun

Other than that not much else to report except i crossed the tropic of capricorn for the first time over land (which mightened excite most people i suppose but i was interested after watching that programme on bbc called 'tropic of capricorn' before i left in which the presenter circum navigated the globe along this line of latitude - great show if you ever get a chance to watch it)

Tomorrow morning we head across the border into bolivia via a 3 day 4WD tour to Salar de Uyuni (better known as the salt plains of southern bolivia) and see some other sites like volcanos and lagoons etc.

1 Comment

May 29, 2008
Well Brian, glad to see the trip is going well, ya seem to ave been to loads of places already!..wots this about ya up at 4:30am surely i reckon u must ave been dreaming :)....them geysers sound good, could do with one of them in the back garden at home! Ya better start uploading more pictures soon!!!...wots the chilllllian women like...i hear alot of strange things about these south american lassies!
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