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Provincia de El Loa

Here you’ll find travel reports about Provincia de El Loa. Discover travel destinations in Chile of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

Most traveled places in Provincia de El Loa:

  • Day44

    Now we never expected 24 hours on a bus to be fun and I can assure you it wasn't! Turbus, the company we travelled with do not treat you as well as we have recently become accustomed too. They had run out of the reclined seats so we had to go for semi reclined which wasn't the end of the world however there isn't a lot of space between you and the seat in front of you so it was a little bit claustrophobic! Especially as you have to keep your bag and things under your feet for fear of being robbed which doesn't help with the space problem.

    I can't say you don't get fed as that wouldn't be true but you don't get much at all. Around 11:30am we were given a small carton of juice and a biscuit. We didn't get fed again until 9:30pm when they gave us another small carton of juice and a ham and cheese sandwich! Luckily we had planned for such eventualities and had been rationing our supplies throughout the journey. They do however stop occasionally and let some random get on the bus with cakes, sandwiches or other random items for sale.

    Around 10pm, the bus driver came onto the bus and said something in Spanish. Pretty much everyone got up and got off the bus. We were at a bus station though so just figured that this was their stop until we looked around and realised that only the English speaking travellers were left on the bus. It was at that moment we realised that we had missed something important. Shortly after, the driver got back on and said in perfect English and in the style of Arnie 'get off the bus'. Stupid gringos! Turns out they needed to refuel so we had to get off.

    We eventually made it to San Pedro around 10am the following day. The views towards the end of the journey were incredible but it made you realise we are literally in the middle of the desert in the arse end of nowhere. The bus station is just a shelter with a few seats in and everywhere seems so baron I half expected to see some tumbleweed rolling down the street.

    We somehow managed to walk straight past our hostel so it took us a lot longer than it should have done to get there! As it was early, we weren't able to check in yet so we wandered across to the main street in search of some food and civilisation.

    After a hearty breakfast and some crappy Nescafé coffee we headed back to or hostel to check in. We are staying in a 4 bed dorm which is nice as they are all single beds and is so much better than sleeping in a bunk bed!

    We found another free walking tour on the history of San Pedro so did that in the afternoon. A couple of interesting facts for you all:

    All of the houses in San Pedro are made from adobe.

    Dancing is prohibited and pubs / restaurants can get fined if the police catch people dancing in them - crazy!
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  • Day45

    We awoke to the bluest sky I think we have ever seen. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky.

    For breakfast the lady that owns the hostel made us fresh scrambled eggs which were delicious. We absolutely love this hostel (Casa de Mathilde). It's really chilled and our roommates have been great.

    After breakfast we set off on a 3km walk to Pukará de Quito, the ruins of a 12th century fort. Pretty much the whole way there we were accompanied by 2 dogs which were very sweet. When we arrived we hiked to the top and you could see down over San Pedro which was great. It also once again reinforced how small this place is. On our way back, we stopped in the main street and mooched around the shops.

    Despite its size, San Pedro is full of tour companies. It makes choosing a company to do your tours with extremely difficult. We have decided to do the Salt Flats tour from here and then finish in Uyuni, Bolivia. It's a little more expensive than booking it in Uyuni but if you factor in the bus that you would have to get to Uyuni anyway it works out pretty much the same. Simons good friend David who has been amazing at giving us tips as him and his girlfriend Julia have done pretty much the same trip but 3 months ahead of us, also warned us that the bus journey was horrible and that he had to pee so bad he nearly peed on himself as they hardly let you off the bus. Needless to say we didn't really fancy that so after some trip advisor research we settled on Lithium and booked all of our tours with them.

    Craving some home comforts, we attempted to make baked beans and mash for dinner. We were shocked when what we created was actually edible and resembled baked beans. Simon also found giant chicken nuggets in one of the mini-markets. I think the other British people in the hostel were secretly jealous of our 6 year olds dinner!
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  • Day2

    Ankunft am Morgen nach ca. 1,5 h Busfahrt. Macht auf uns einen irgendwie verschlafen sympathischen ersten Eindruck, und unser Hostel ist sehr schnuckelig gemacht, wie eine rustikale Chillout Lounge mit kleinen gemütlichen Lehmhütten. Am Vormittag machen wir erst mal unser Programm für die nächsten Tage klar und auch unsere Jeeptour nach Bolivien. Zum Mittag gibt's Pizza. Am Nachmittag machen wir nen Ausflug zu ein paar Lagunen, u.a. die Laguna Cejar, in der man wegen des hohen Salzgehalts auftreibt und nicht untergeht. Testen wir natürlich kurz aus, aber arschkalt. Insgesamt ein netter Trip, wenn auch etwas überteuert, wie wohl alles hier.Read more

  • Day1

    Der Anflug zwischen Anden und Pazifik war noch das schönste. Ansonsten Einkaufen, Essen, Duschen, Schlafen. Am nächsten Morgen hätten wir noch fast unseren Bus verpasst, weil uns der Held von Taxifahrer am falschen Busterminal rausgeschmissen hat. Hat aber grade noch hingehauen.

  • Day58

    Crossing into Chile over the andes, we reached an altitude of 4700 meters. Except for mild shortness of breath, or a bit of lung burning when I tried a sprint thankfully it didn't have any other affects.

    As we ascended up the windy road the landscapes kept changing. From mountainous valleys above the clouds, to salt flats stretching on for miles. Arrid land with cacti and llamas turned into Volcanos and the desert.

    We stopped at the last town in Argentina for lunch supplies next to a playground. Izzy, James, John and Sheila had fun in the kids playground trying the see saw and slides. Starting back on the road we put on a Singing in the shower playlist and sang our hearts out.

    We arrived in San Pedro de Atacama mid afternoon and it was a bustling little town. Our hostel was on the main street and we had a room to ourselves for the first time since Santiago. Heading out the main street was full of little artesan shops, tour operators and little restraunts. After some shopping around we booked onto a stargazing tour for the evening.

    Hungry we had been advised by Lou the tourguide that the minimarket by our hostel made great empanadas. We were all starving so ordered four each. Something shouldnhave twigged when they bought out three crates for us to carry the empanadas back tobthe hostel. In Argentina empanadas are small... not so in the desert. Out came 16 giant pies. We fell about laughing which oerplexed the owner. Paying for our empanadas we had supper, lunch and supper again sorted for the next few days!!

    At nine we were loaded onto a bus and headed out into the desert. As we stepped out an amazing site awaited, the stars were out, more than I'd ever seen. The milky way was a clear streak in the sky and thousands upon thousands of stars twinkled away.

    Our first guide talked to us about how thwle local tribes of the area see the sky. The southern cross is called a Cucharra and is the house which holds the whole universe. Its four starts represent stages of life, the first pregnancy, represented by a snake and water. The second middle age, represented by a Puma strong and wise. The third old age, represented by a Condor and the fourth star being the connection between life and death. The four starts also represented pillars of life being do good, reciprocity, to be a leader and minga. Underneath lay the dark serpent which coils underneath the milky way.

    They called the milky way the river of souls and in November when the milky way touches the mountains they celebrate the day of the dead.

    Our second guide way an Astronomer, he talked us through star formation and death, how far the planets were away and pointed outbthe different consilations, including the llama! We were able to look through telescopes at Jupiter, Saturn, the orion nebula and a cluster of stars. By the end of the night we had seen at least five shooting stars. Arriving back at the hostel after midnight we'd had a night to remember in the desert
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  • Day59

    A lesiurley morning started with breakfast and good coffee at last at Roots Cafe. A reggae themed place with a wall of famous people to puzzle over. Back in the hostel we gorged on wifi to upload photos and update blogs. Life admin done we walked along the main street popping into the souvenir shops to get the best deal. I bought a colourful scarf, bag and purse. I'll have to wait until Bolivia for my Mate cup.

    Mid afternoon we joined a tour to moon valley guided by a lovely local called Miriam. She already wore a scarf securely round her neck and warned of sandstorms on our trip.

    Moon valley is so called because it's so dry that it shares the same conditions as the surface of the moon. It looked more like the surface of Mars with red rock caked in salt crystals. We battled 70km winds and a sandstorm to climb the ridges for the panoramic view. A great sand dune lay on one side, while red rock ridges rose up either side. We had a pit stop at a rock formation called the three Marys by a Belgian priest. I was more impressed by the rock next to it that loked like a dinasour head! Passed the "amphitheatre" and made our way to the caves hewn out by the wind.

    Putting our head torches on we wove our way through rock corridors before entering the cave. Slip and slidding, crouching and climbing we made our way through and came back out into the light to another panoramic view of red rock towers.

    In the same bus was a group from a rival tour group that tested our patience. Thank god they weren't on our tour as I may have left. Talking loudly that they were missing a football game, they were ignoring the amazing landscape around them. The only point in which they became animated was when pulling moonies in moon valley 🙈. It might sound mean but some people are tourists with a capital T.

    Back on the bus we continued in to Coyote rock, this is where we had the stargazing tour the night before. In daylight we could see that we were on a high cliff. As the sun set in the distance the rocks turned into deeper shade of reds. Leaving Chile tomorrow we cross the altiplano to Bolivia.
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  • Day72

    I have heard so many good things about San Pedro so I was so excited to come here. Before heading there I made another quick stop off in Santiago, to visit Robyn again as it was her 21st birthday party. We went on a night out in Las Condes which was really fun and I was prett hungover the next day for my flight to Calama.

    The flight there even was so cool as the views over the mountains were amazing. When we got to Calama there were mini buses to take us to San Pedro. The whole journey spent looking out of the window as this place makes you feel like you've just landed on the moon. I've never seen anything like it.

    The next day I booked a tour to the salt lagoons. There are 7 lagoons which you drive to and 2 you can swim in. Although it was cold, swimming in them was so fun as you only float - there is more salt in the lakes than the Red Sea! After we went to watch the sunset at a viewpoint overlooking the moon valley. That night I also did the astronomy tour. You go out into the desert and away from all the light pollution and can see the stars. We were explained the constellations and also able to see the moon, Saturn, Jupiter and over star clusters really clearly. This was one of my favourite parts of my stay in San Pedro because I've never really done anything like that before.

    On my last day in San Pedro and Chile as a whole, I went on a tour to see Valle de la Luna, 'the moon valley'. It was so much fun because I met an English girl named Holly and we got on really well. The first part of the tour was caving which was cool. You can really understand why it is called the moon valley because there are rock craters and sand dunes everywhere. At the end of the tour we went to watch the sunset over the valley which was perfect for photos. The sky turns an amazing red colour and the mountains turn purple. In the evening we out for pizza but we were so delirious from being out in the sun all day and kept forgetting what we were talking about.

    The next day I'm headed off on the Salar de Uyuni tour which marks the end of my travels in Chile 🇨🇱. Chile is an awesome place with some of the most breathtaking, out of this world landscapes I've ever seen. I'll be leaving in behind for Bolivia which I've heard a lot about and can't wait to explore.
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  • Day191

    Tu, 07.03. Piedras rojas
    That day I had my second tour, a full day trip to the 'Piedras rojas' (Red stones).
    Mauricio was again our guide and did another great job. The region is surrounded by the Coast and Andes Mountain Range and forms the driest desert in the world. It is equally the widest part of Chile with volcanoes of an altitude up to 6.000m. But with Chachacoma and Ojas de Mata I was well prepared against the altitude sickness ;)
    The salt here cannot be used to be eaten as it contains minerals. However, lithium and 25% of the world's copper needs are extracted here. As everywhere in SPA and its surroundings there are no sealed roads so it was again a pretty bumpy rollercoaster ride including a free massage :P
    Our first stop was 'Laguna Chaxa', a beautiful lagoon where you could see many flamencos. They can usually reach 70y but some here had even 90y of age. They breed only 2eggs once per year and with the heavy rains this year a lot of eggs were flooded away so that there were only 20-40 i/o 200 left. Btw, flamingos are born with a white colour and only turn pink after 6 months due to the betacaroteen which can be found in the shrimps they are eating 14-16h a day.
    Unfortunately, our bus had a tyre issue so that we lost an hour waiting for a new bus to arrive. But that didn't bother us that much, gave us more time to watch the flamingos and again, better be safe than sorry :)
    With the new bus we then drove through 'Salar Atacama', now already at an altitude of 3.000m and which was part of the Inka Trail that actually goes all the way from Ecuador to Argentina. We also saw a lot of agricultural terraces cultivating quinoa, sweetcorn and green beans before enjoying a tasty breakfast including scrambled eggs and mata tea in Socaire.
    Socaire is a town with one of the most earthquakes in Chile. It also has the 2nd oldest church rebuilt of red stone cold lava and a cacteen roof in 2010. The Cardon cacteen grows only 1cm per year and the one we saw was about 300y old which also explains why they are nowadays heavily protected.
    We also saw a lot of wildlife such as lamas, alpavas, lamb and goats and after passing the small town Toconao and its canyon also many trees including even Eucalyptus ones.
    The 'Piedras rojas' were the highest point at about 4.500m. It is an open field with a lot of winds but spectacular scenery that I found really hard to describe - my absolute highlight in Chile so far, just look at the pictures :) At this point our chips bags and some fizzy drink bottles inflated which is the same effect happening to our heart, lung and brain. I was fine but some people could feel the pressure with headaches (better with chachacoma) or had oxygen problems (better with mata tea).
    We then went to the 'Lagunas Altiplanicas Miñiques and Miscanti' at 3.000m with Miscanti being 10x bigger and both surrounded by 5.900m high volcanoes. There were again many flamencos, birds, alpavas in a really nice scenery.
    For lunch we then enjoyed a really yummy veg soup and then a Peruan chicken dish with salad, rice and quinoa omelette before our driver showed us how the bus can drive automatically in neutral gear based on the magnetic points and volcanic activities.
    The last stop was then at the Tropic of Carnicorn which I also crossed in Africa 4 months ago. It is one of the earth's 5 horizontal lines (aquator, arctic, antarctic, cancer and tropical) and which is also part of the Inka Trail. Here we could equally feel the real heat of the desert and got some last views of Volcanoe Laska and Atacama salt flat before heading back to SPA.

    We, 08.03.2016 Geysirs & Valle de la Luna
    That day I had two more tours; usually I don't book that many touristy tours as they are quite expensive - but with Woofing and Couchsurfing I saved some money the last days and could also get some tours at a more favourable price.
    With quite an early start at 4am and again a good sky full of stars we first went to the geysers, especially the famous 'Gyser El Tatio'. Typical for these regions, the temperature was only about 1* so definitively pretty chilly. It is the highest termal field in the world and the erupting water is about 86-96*. There was also the common smell of rotten eggs. Geysers work 24h but can best be seen in the cold mornings, similar to our breathing. They can erupt any time and the different colours come from the minerals with sulphur being yellow, thermal bacteria being orange and salt being black.
    As we were again quite high with 4.300m altitude for 5h everything and also our 30min hike along the Geysers was done in slow motion; no running, jumping or too much exercise. Alcohol and partying the day before is also not the best idea to avoid altitude sickness. There was also the possibility to bath in a 30* thermal pool but with an outside temperature of only 1* that wasn't appealing enough for me :O
    On our way we passed the active volcanoe Putanoe before we saw an incredibly beautiful and green wetland with a lot of animals such as vicunas, flamencos and lamas. That being said we visited Machuca, a 150 people village with currently only 8 habitants mainly living there to prepare empanadas and lama meat for the tourists. I also tried it and was positively surprised, it tasted quite nice but was with 3.000p quite expensive. Btw, when a lama female dies the man immediately stops eating and dies out of sorrow; vice versa when the male dies the female instantly finds a new male :P
    Fyi, the Atacama salt flat is the 3rd biggest in the world - with the 2nd biggest being in Argentina and the largest for sure the Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia which I will see in a couple of days ;)

    In the evening around 4pm I went to 'Valle de la Luna', after Piedras rojas my 2nd favourite place. The scenery is insane, you really get the feeling of being on another planet and some parts reminded me of sweet baked cupcakes - but just look at the pictures, it is again hard to describe :)
    This desert only has a humidity of 18% (in comparison, the Sahara desert has about 25%) so without water you would die even faster, after roughly 18h. On our drive through the valley we visited the 3 Marys and the Amphitheatre - great rock formations that can only be found here. We then had a long hike to the 'Great View' which was actually more than great but breathtaking: salt capped mountain ranges, volcanoes, sand dunes, Amphitheatre from the distance - just unbelievable ;)
    The last highlight was 'Mirador Coyote' where we went to see a spectacular sunset - again, pics say more than thousand words and not even with the best cameras these feelings can be captured; you just need to enjoy it :)))

    Th, 09.03. San Pedro de Atacama
    After 3 days touri program I enjoyed a really relaxed nice last day in SPA.
    That meant sleeping longer (until 8 or 9), doing some washing (which thanks to desert temperatures was already dry after 2h) and organising, i.e. booking my 3d/2n trip to the Salt Flats in Uyuni, Bolivia (the tours are generally cheaper if directly booked in Uyuni; however the bus ride from SPA to Uyuni is already about 25€, you need a hostel of min 15€ plus the tour itself from Uyuni is 90€ and as I got the SPA tour again cheaper the first mentioned option would have even been dearer for me; thanks a lot to Mauricio here, you are really amazing :)).
    For lunch and to thank Mauricio for his great hospitality and help, we both enjoyed a pretty yummy chicken in a nice small restaurant with backyard garden and a cool place to relax and digest the food.
    Afterwards I went to the 'Feria artesanal', the local craft market to buy oja de mata and chachacoma as my further travel will be in even higher altitude. I also bought 6l of water and 2 toilet rolls which is always needed to use the toilets (for which you also have to pay up to 1-6 Bolivianos, around 14-86cts).

    All in all I really loved Chile - it is a super narrow but incredibly diverse country and I have only seen the north so far.
    The only disadvantage is that it is a relatively expensive country comparable to Central European states such as Germany and France and that you have to pay for toilets and WiFi. That is also the reason why I decided to travel south in a couple of years when I have more money and to then combine it with the even more expensive southern Argentina and the super expensive Antarctica - places I can only enjoy with more money :)
    Moreover, I really met super nice people here, the country is relatively safe - a lot of reasons to come back ;)

    Concerning finances, I did quite well thanks to Nadi's contacts, my contacts, Couchsurfing and Woofing
    - in total, I only paid for and spent 3 nights in a hostel right at the beginning in Santiago and had my main expenses in transport and the 4 tours in SPA.
    I thus indeed only spent 221€, i.e. 8,80€/d in 3,5w/24d in Chile below my budget of 33€/d - saved money that I could then spent for the expensive tour to Uyuni (145€ for 3d = 48,30€/d and 15€ above budget plus 15€ shopping for hat, gloves and sweater to survive in the incredible cold) :P

    Fr, 10.03. - Su, 12.03. San Pedro de Atacama, Chile - Uyuni, Bolivia
    Pls see next footprint ;)
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  • Day53

    On my 2nd day I got up at 4am to go to Geysers del Tatio, a nature spectacel that is unique in Chile and Bolivia. Underground water get in touch with hot vulcano stone that makes the water boil and explode. Freezing cold but a great experience. After a nice breakfast during the sunrise we were able to go for dip in the hotsprings.

  • Day55

    Woke up very early (3:15am ew) to get my flight to San Pedro de Atacama. Once I arrived I tried to get my head around all the possible tours, booked one slightly randomly for this evening and headed off for a well deserved 3 course meal for 5500 pesos.

    San Pedro is fun because it's super dusty and has insane mountains in the backdrop minus any trees so they have loads of impact. It's weird seeing dust and desert and also snow on top of the mountains. Sadly I was too busy sleeping to see the views from the plane window.

    I'm writing this from my loner table in the restaurant eating a bright orange wobbly desert of some sort. I'm torn between socialising with the gaggle of Brits in my hostel and having a pre tour nap. Decisions!

    I had a pre tour nap and it was good. Then off I marched to my first tour: the Valle de la Luna
    (the valley of the moon). The guide was insane and constantly chewing Coca leaves which he claimed both relaxed and simulated him. I met a girl from Norway who was a boss and only a baby at 19 but was actually hilarious. We shuttled about in our mini bus to various parts of the valley. They were all great. We licked some of the salt from the ground which scattered over the rock and dunes to look like snow, which began with my new friend waving a rock at me and demanding 'Lick it!!'. It's hard to explain what it looked like because there were so many shapes in the ground and these jagged shapes were interspersed with long smooth swooping dunes. We had to do a bit of walking up to ridges and because I am extremely useless I felt the altitude at 2700m and had to go suuuuper slowly. The view from one of the ridges, which totally lacked tourists, was absolutely amazing; 360 degrees of spikey bits, lumpy bits, etc. with volcanoes in the background. Our guide took his shoes off for the walk for no apparent reason and then nearly left them behind. He also told us nothing about the scenery and when asked just replied with 'I don't know, I'm not a geologist'.

    We drove to a viewpoint to watch the sunset which was rammed with other people doing the same thing; it was pretty but we had to be back too soon to the bus so we missed the best colours- the problem with tours.

    I had a delicious pasta dinner (it actually was delicious) back at the hostel and met a trio of a nurse from bham, her brother and her brother's girlfriend and then went out for a glass of vino with them. We exchanged nice stories of how one of them was nearly stabbed by a random man in Bogota, but the random man was chased away by a second guy with a knife. Good. This and the fact that I read a blog post about how Bogota is like Manchester made me decide to spend minimal time there when I head to Colombia!

    The next day I basically did nothing apart from wander around San Pedro and book a star tour in the evening (and have another evening three course meal, oops). The star tour was great. It started at 11pm and we were driven to a house about 20 mins away from San Pedro where they had telescopes set up with chairs and blankets which everyone immediately put on like lord of the rings cloaks. We were split into two groups and our group was given wine and a lady with a laser pointer told us about what we could see, constellations, Jupiter, a red giant etc. Some of the constellations are dubious at best. There is one she called 'small dog' which was two stars. Apparently one is the head and one the body. I was a teacher's pet and kept answering all the questions smugly and often wrongly. The stars were so clear and you could easily see the milky way and at least one other galaxy as a smudgey cloud type thing. It was great. We then got fed hot chocolate and some neon coloured rice puff sweets then used the enormous telescopes to look at the moon, Jupiter, and some star clusters more closely. Jupiter has 60-something moons and we saw 4! Apparently they got the biggest telescope off eBay (!) for a bargainous 8000 USD. Back by 1:45 and off to bed.

    Hilarious day. Woke up late after star tour and chilled for a bit before heading off for an enthusiastic and apparently short bike ride with two very hungover Brits who I would then shadow for the next two days, Chris and Henry, and one less hungover motorcycling American who nobody knew the name of and so is now referred to as Doug. The plan was to go to .... but after renting the bikes we discovered that these places were closed following recent rain (I thought this was a desert). Thus our bike ride extended and we headed off semi- enthusiastically to Valle de la Luna (round 2). It was much better at own pace and cycling, and a lot less busy cos it was furingtje day. It was pretty hot and there was a large hill which I was stubborn enough to make it up (Doug didn't, not that it matters, but I did beat him). Doug had to leave early as he had a bus to catch but distributed cereal bars to us before he left like a kind of hairy mum.

    While we were waiting for Henry to have a nature toilet trip, Chris and I discovered a puncture in my bike which of course none of us knew how to fix. A pair of more competent cyclists came by and told us we didn't have the right sized inner tube to fix it. Joys. This in addition to Chris' helmet being about 100 sizes too big shows the dubiousness of the bike rental guy.

    The three of us had a look up the nice ridge and a contemplative moment, during which Henry announced the low quality of Chilean empanadas and how he would not be eating any in Chile as protest. We began the rigourous task of cycling back, stopping every 2 minutes to repump my tyre which everyone valiantly took in turns. I was too enthusiastic going downhill and hit a sandy patch then fell off and got an obligatory Katy Does The Outdoors scrape. The tyre on the bike completely fell apart at this point and we started carrying the bloody thing along a sandy road in the baking heat, running out of water supplies and imagining mirages of the ranger gate in the distance. The whole thing was actually completely hilarious so I spent most of the time LOLing. We made a genius contraption where we put the broken bike on top of the non broken one and the boys pushed it while I just laughed helpfully. We made up a story about Doug sabotaging us because we had all made it to the top of the hill on the bikes and he hadn't.

    Once at the ranger gate we immediately bought and gulped down loads of fizzy drinks like we'd not drunk for the last week. Chris bought an empanada and Henry threw his earlier morals aside and ate at least half.

    After a bit of me repeatedly stating that my bike was roto, I got a lift back from the park ranger, phew.

    That evening we had a team cycling dinner of a massive delicious salad with everything imaginable in it, even a homemade viniagrette! It stands as the healthiest thing I've eaten in a hostel so far and basically had every vegetable in it, avocado and the powerful combination of raw onion and raw garlic. It was very civilised with place settings on the outside table and beer.

    The next day I woke up nice and early for my tour as I was being picked up at 5-5:30am. Horrifying. As I sat eating my cereal and worrying about the upcoming altitude there was a knock on the door which I assumed would be the tour, but instead in burst a drunk Henry with a stray dog he'd picked up from the street. The dog had become so attached during the walk home that it began scratching and throwing itself at the door of the hostel to be let in.

    My tour was to the Tatio Geysers which is the third biggest geyser field in the world and has a cheeky hot spring. The geysers were quite cool but a bit crowded and the hot spring literally (not actually literally) burned my foot it was so hot! Apparently a woman was taking a selfie last year and fell into a geyser and died. Yikes. The guide made us breakfast of coffee, coca tea, scrambled eggs, avocados and cake! He was infinitely more knowledgeable than my last guide. On the way back we stopped at a wetland which was the most beautiful place I've seen so far on my whole trip as the colours were genuinely spectacular and the landscape was so swooping. We saw some kind of llama camel type thing with long legs. We also stopped at a random village which seems to exist for the church and to sell llama kebabs to tourists. It was tasty. I was living it large at the back of the bus and ended up in a complex conversation with a Chilean who only spoke Spanish, a French woman who spoke slightly improvised Spanish and a bit of English, and a German who spoke no Spanish.

    I got back and immediately went out again with da lads to book a salty lake tour. I was weirdly determined to have a floaty dead-sea-style experience. I had a coffee and an ice cream from the corner shop to wake up before we headed off (great call).

    We were very chirpy on the long drive to the lake with a long conversation about children's names in which C&H showed their St Andrews roots with names like Roland and Elspeth. The driver was insane and as we were at the back again it was the bumpiest experience ever, leading Chris to throw water in his face while trying to drink water with a totally non-sympathetic laughing fit following from me. I got taught the banter song.

    The lake lived up to my hopes and dreams because it was SO FLOATY. It was great! Apparently 60-70% salt. Our guide was hilarious. He didn't seem to know much about the lake and claimed it would cost 30,000 USD to get to the Dead Sea from Chile so this trip was far superior, basically ignored our questions by talking about other things, and said I was loco because 'she always screaming'. He told us about his ex girlfriend who also works at the Lagos. He then said I was the perfect woman which is obviously accurate but then was leery towards a Brazilian girl who knew no English, and i had to try and awkwardly translate and defend her. He then called Henry 'fatty', but all in all he was pretty entertaining.

    We drove to a spot somewhere in the desert with a nice view, with Chris becoming mardy becsusnehe thought we were just being driven back to San Pedro to watch the sunset (which wouldn't have been surprising given the quality of the tour so far). We had a cute picnic of olives, sultanas, pringles and pisco sours which was almost entirely eaten by us three. We sat on a rock and watched the sunset which was super nice.

    Afterwards there's no rest for the wicked so we bought more pisco, washed the salt off, ate fajitas (which were really kindly made for us by some of the other guests of the hostel... I had a 'this is so nice' moment when I saw the place settings...I really enjoy cooking with people and formal settings when I'm away because they remind me of home), made a small campfire in the hostel grounds, and headed out for a desert party with a Norwegian guy whose name I forget.

    Apparently it's illegal to dance in San Pedro so the locals party in the desert. I can't remember dancing but there was a fire, lots of people and men selling beers from coolers, and I did not one but two desert wees where I drunkenly tried not to pee on my trainers. It's all fairly blurry until the police came and broke the party up which led to some mild panic running away from everyone and a lot of gushing from me and the boys about what a great crew we are as we walked home.

    The next day our entire room was up at 7am for various tours and I had to say bye to mah boiz as they were off to Uyuni. Sad moment. So my two and a half hours sleep plus hangover plus 7:30am-6pm bus tour of the Atacama desert began. Luckily I'm a boss and cracked on. A few of the people from the geysers tour were also on this one, including a completely adorable couple from Switzerland. The guy loves photography and so kept taking photos of everyone in an endearing and comedic paparazzi style. I later discovered that he is a trainee orthopaedic surgeon and she an anaesthetist! We took about 100000 photos of extremely nice scenery and us jumping around in it, and there was a fair amount of group bonding as it was such a long tour. Personal highlights were the piedras Rojas, can't describe it but will attach photo, and a trip to see flamingoes in the Atacama salt flats type place. So many flamingoes. All they did was put their beaks in the water. Apparently they feed for 16hrs a day! They were beauts. That evening I had a great time watching TV, eating and going to bed early.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Provincia de El Loa

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