After blazing through the Chilean desert for 7 hours and 700 Kms ( a land speed record) we have arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, just 40 Kms from the Bolivian border.
As mentioned yesterday, the Chilean roads are in great condition - what we didn't mention is that the roads are virtually empty. In areas where there is a steep grade, the climbing direction usually has a passing lane, which allows us to move quickly without being stuck behind slow trucks. The roads are also incredibly straight - we can see up to 10 Kms ahead at some points.
San Pedro de Atacama is a surreal place, geographically and demographically. It sits in the driest valley in the world - the driest portion of the valley gets 0.6 inches of rain per year.
The landscape is unlike anything we have seen - it is the place on earth that most closely resembles Mars - in fact this area was used to test the landing module for the Mars rover!
As for the people who visit here, they might as well be from Mars as well. There are a boatload of hippies that have come to the desert to find themselves, there are your type A backpackers, and there are the well heeled staying in 5 star resorts that rival any place on earth (they are just located down a dusty one lane road behind giant walls). This place has been featured in countless travel magazines as a world holiday hotspot (go figure!).
My son, Daniel, recently learned a piano piece called Atacama Desert - Daniel, I could hear you playing that piece as we moved through the desert. A really cool connection with home when I'm a world away!
We are taking a shuttle downtown to eat tonight (we are staying 1.5 Kms from the action) and tomorrow head for the Tatio Geysers, which at 12,800 feet are some of the largest and widespread steam geysers in the world (eat your heart out Old Faithful!). Apparently, our guides will cook breakfast for us over the geysers!
Buenos Noches from Chile!
“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