San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
14.01.2011 - 17.01.2011 34 °C
I am now back in the UK looking for a job. My incredible adventure has come to an end... I still have so much to tell you guys though and am looking forward to revisiting my final couple of months on the road. Let me tell you, it was one hell of a ride. I achieved way more during this year than I could have ever dreamed of. So, where were we then before? Oh yes, I had just been dumped in the middle of the desert, high up in the Andes at the border between Bolivia and Chile, remember? What a border crossing this was.
My throat felt like it had been sandpapered by the dryness of the high altitude air and I was thoroughly exhausted from the three day jeep journey through Bolivia. I was dumped at a hut in the middle of the desert with a Bolivian flag, oh I guess this is the border then. Didn’t really have a clue where to go, there were several minibuses but as far as I understood from my pigeon Spanish, none of them were heading in the direction of Chile. So I wandered with my bags across to where there were a few people waiting randomly and this is where I first met Jurgen and Sandra from the Netherlands who were heading the same way as me and knew which bus to catch thank god.
So we bundled into this minivan, filled out our immigration documents for Chile, then we drove down down down, dropping an altitude of around 2000 metres in about an hour all the way down to the Chilean border. I COULD BREATH, I COULD FINALLY BREATH. After quite a number of weeks in the Andes, actually breathing in air with enough oxygen to sustain life was such a relief. Consider that my body was now pretty well adapted to altitude and i was honestly buzzing, getting an energetic high just from breathing normal air. Actually, this was still considered high altitude, but something I have learnt and has been reaffirmed during my travels is that everything is relative! It was so obvious that we were entering a much more developed country. At the Chilean side of the border there were actually people there to stamp your passport, check your bags and blimey there were actually proper roads and everything!! Such a contrast to the rustic, anything goes charm of beautiful Bolivia.
The lower altitude also brought much appreciated heat, maybe a bit too much heat. A wall of dry, intense heat hit me as I got out the minibus into the cute Chilean town of San Pedro de Atacama. This place, nestled in the Atacama desert surrounded by volcanoes , mountains and sand dunes is seriously in the middle of nowhere, which is why so many travellers end up having to stay here on their way through from Bolivia or Argentina. It is pretty much overrun with tourists, travel agents and smart tourist-friendly restaurants but is still a very pretty place and the locals here extremely welcoming. I would have loved to have gone out for more exploring in the desert but my throat was still on fire and i didn’t feel like doing anything. I spent a few days here exploring the charms of the town, booking my onward journey to Argentina and relaxing at my hostel. The hostel I stayed in was a bit out of town but backed onto a scene of desert, mountains, and beautiful night time skies. I couldn’t have wished for a better place to recover. I shared a few stories and bevies with a group of ‘vikings’ who were intent on motorbiking to the highest altitudes possible and Sylvia, the owner of the hostel, looked after me, giving me fresh honey and lemon to soothe my throat. It was nice to be spoilt and mothered, even if my stay in Chile was just for a couple of days.