We spent the night in downtown San Pedro (also known as San Perro because of all the dogs) - the town is made up of low slung adobe buildings and looks like a set out of a Clint Eastwood / Sergio Leone western. There are little shops selling homemade jewellery, artisanal items and a ton of first class restaurants. Definitely one of the most unique places I have ever been!
Today we became tourists for the first time since Cartagena, and decided to book a tour to the El Tatio Geyser field.
Being the 3rd largest geyser field in the world (behind only Yellowstone and Golina in Russia) is great - the problem being that the geysers are at their strongest at daybreak, which meant we were up at 4:00 am so that we could depart before 5:00 am.
Another bone jarring 2 hour drive (in the dark) on a single lane road with surfaces alternating from pavement, to gravel, to cobblestone, to washed out bridges, all gaining altitude from 8,500 feet to 13,000 feet and we are at our destination!
We finally reached the geyser field and toured the various sections, also learning the fascinating history of the area (more on that in tomorrow's blog post). After taking a ton of photos and video, I decided to hop into the thermal pool that they dug in the middle of the field. Natural hot springs fed directly into the dugout, and about a hundred other people joined me. Problem is, you needed to be close to the hot spring inlet - while the pool was large, it was cold unless you were close to where the springs entered. Cue a crazy picture where all 100 bathers are crammed into one small section of the pool, fighting for some warm water!
We then got back into the bus for the journey home - however we were fortunate enough to see llamas, vicunias (a high altitude form of llama), flamingos and desert foxes! Back in our room by 12:30, we enjoyed a rare siesta.
We aren't done yet - at 5:00 pm we took Manuel to the Valle de la Luna, a national park just a couple minutes from our hotel that looks exactly like the moon. We hiked up the dunes and took in the astonishing views, the perfect way to end our stay in the Atacama desert.
We were going to stay another day, but looked at the map and realized we need to MOVE to check in for our ferry ride in Southern Chile on Saturday. Tomorrow is our most agressive driving day of the entire trip - we are going to try to put on 1,200 Kms, over 400 Kms more than our best day so far! Early to bed, with a lot of snacks stockpiled in the car (Daniel and Robert will be happy to know that Sour Cream and Onion Pringles are popular here!).
Stay tuned to our Spot to see if we can make it all the way to La Serena!
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
- Mark Twain