Chile

Provincia de El Loa

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  • Day224

    The tour to Uyuni started with the bordercrossing from Chile to Bolivia. We were picked up in San Pedro with a minivan that would take us across the border. There we would change to a 4x4 for the drive through the desert.
    After about an hour on the road we stopped at a modern looking building with a big gate. After a moment the gate opened and someone took a picture of our car. The gate closed again for a few more minutes. When the gate opened again we saw an office to the left where we could go in and get our stamps out of Chile. So this was the chilean Immigration Office. The officer did the usual fuss with looking at the picture critically comparing it to the person in front of him. Then looking through all the pages in the passport and staring at something on his screen before giving us the stamp. I always wonder what they are actually doing. We got back into the bus inside the building and drove out on the other side.
    After a few hundred meters down a dusty road we had to stop at a barrier next to a basic building. Our driver got out to open the barrier himself and parked next to the building. He send us in saying "It's easier here, they just gonna give you a stamp!" - welcome to Bolivia.
    The contrast between the two offices couldn't have been bigger and was the first sign of the difference between the two countries.
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  • Day63

    San Pedro de Atacama

    We left Valparaiso on the afternoon of the 22nd September, headed for the desert. First, another bus trip (only 6 hours this time), hugging the coast on part of the Pan Americana Highway, which runs from Ushuaia in Argentina to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska! Weird cacti dotted the cliffs, flashes of ocean, and strange feathered plants, like Indian braves riding over the headland from the sea. We arrived around 10pm at a large modern hotel in a place called La Serena where we were to spend one night. After dumping our bags in the room, we headed straight for the bar, for the complimentary pisco sours. Priorities. There's not a lot to say about La Serena, except that it is the second oldest town in Chile after Santiago. We visited the central square and three out of its many churches in the morning, then had a bizarre, porridge like meal called chupa for lunch - a one pot, faintly seafood tasting dish, covered in cheese, with a crab's claw stuck in the middle of it.

    The second bus trip left La Serena around 4pm, an overnighter, arriving in San Pedro de Atacama around 8am. It rarely rains in the Atacama Desert (15mm a year), so we had been lucky enough to witness a particularly rare spectacle in these parts on the bus journey - the Desierto Florido, or Flowering of the Desert, although we didn't realise we'd seen it until afterwards. I had heard of the flowering of the desert, but imagined exotic blooms on cacti, not a ground cover of delicate yellow and purple flowers that looked like moorland blooms. After breakfast at the bus station cafe, we hot-hiked over pot holes with our bags to our hotel, a ranch style hostel behind an anonymous red clay wall. Built around a central courtyard, it had a small outdoor pool and comfy outdoor seating. The Portuguese receptionist wasn't up for letting us check into our room early, so she filled a bit of time by giving us detailed info on the trips we could take over the next couple of days. We chose one for that afternoon, to visit 'The Valley of the Moon' (Valle de la Luna) and to see the sunset over the desert. It didn't start until 4pm and it was hot in the desert, so we sat for a while to cool off under the verandah and drank coca tea - it was also very high where we were going.

    We headed into 'town' where we looked around the small central square. It was Sunday morning so we walked into the beautiful *adobe church, to the sound of children singing - they were practising up on the minstrels gallery, led by a nun on an electric guitar. Other children were milling around excitedly, giving out the service sheets and consulting with the priest. Apart from the Sister Act up on the balcony and the priest who gave the sermon, the service was conducted by the children. The whole affair was very relaxed - people walked around, went out, came back in again or ran after their toddlers. Then, about 10 minutes in, an elderly lady walked down the aisle from the back, with a small white poodle on a lead, dressed for the occasion in a frill-edged flowery dress, and I mean the dog, not the old lady. The creature looked decidedly unimpressed by proceedings and sat under its owner's chair trying to stare us out. Perhaps she didn't like having her photo taken, or wearing a dress. Half way through, we left by the large double-doored side entrance which had been left open throughout, letting the sun in, and went for lunch (the priest was going on a bit). We had the 'Quiche Menu' in a small cafe - Spanish omelette style pie, followed by apple pie. Diet starts on our return.

    *"Adobe is a building material made from earth and often organic material. Adobe means 'mudbrick' in Spanish" - Wikipaedia

    On the afternoon minibus trip, the lunar landscape consisted of strange twisted rock formations, peach coloured crags dusted with a frosting of salt, and large sand dunes scattered with small stone chippings, bleached pure white by the sun. The view when we climbed up and across the top of the sand dune was to a barren valley, clay roads and a backdrop of snow-topped volcanoes. 'Chris of Atacama' in his makeshift scarf-turban completed the picture, before we headed to an escarpment to watch the sunset over the desert.

    Our next trip, with a 7am start was called Las Rocas Rojas (Red Rocks). First we drove to the salt flats, getting closer and closer to the steaming volcano (reassuringly, the guide told us it does this every morning) to see the flamingos. There are three types - Andean, which are the rarest, and have yellow legs. Chilean, which have greyish legs, pink knees, and bills that are more than 50% black. Then there are the James flamingos, thought to be extinct, until a single colony was found in 1956 - they have brick red legs, a yellow bill, and are pale pink with carmine streaks. We also saw black and white Andean avocets and the small puna plover, which moves in a darting fashion making it difficult to capture facing the right way. After our short trek round the water, we were ready for breakfast, cooked by our driver/guide/chef, on a small gas stove in front of the van. The best breakfast of our trip, it consisted of scrambled eggs, toasted cobs, mashed avocado, orange juice, tea and coffee, and 'brownie' which was like a ginger cake texture, but with a chocolaty taste. After a brief stop, to visit a tiny adobe church, with stonework porch, thatched roof, and hand painted friezes, we arrived at the beautiful flower blue lakes of the altiplano, 4,120m high. First was Lake Miscanti, which we hiked down to and around, a lone vicuña on its far side, significant patches of snow still lying due to storms the previous week. This day was clear and bright though, the tufts of 'pasta brava' or 'brave grass', (because it survives in the hostile environment) golden in the sunshine. We then walked over a boulder-marked way, across the plain, with backward views to the lake and the snow-topped volcano-mountains behind. The largest of these volcanos, 'Miniques', gives its name to the smaller lake which we visited later for a 'panorama' because its eruption (hopefully some time ago) separated it from the larger Lake Miscanti. On the road again, our guide spotted a fluffy-tailed rabbit creature. What it was, nobody knows - perhaps it was that mystery creature sighted in Quorn a couple of months back.

    Finally, Red Rocks - an unassuming name for a truly gorgeous beach, on the edge of the palest aquamarine and lavender lake, heavenly in its elevated spot. The red rocks themselves were a pastel pavement of salmon pinks, blues, lemons and browns, scattered with Neolithic tomb arrangements of terracotta boulders, creating pools near the shore, which would have been tempting if it hadn't been for the arsenic contained in those seemingly clear waters. All of this with a backdrop of the obligatory snow-capped volcanos. Two of our party were so enamoured that they were half an hour late back for our meet at the bus. The rest of the passengers (and ourselves) were not very forgiving as our late lunch was now even later, at a pre-arranged restaurant about 40 minutes away! We did get to see vicuña on the way though, very close up, as they decided to cross our path and stand in the middle of the road, posing for a heavily laden passing cyclist who had his camera out. After lunch we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn and visited a small village with a shot-up church (or possibly just paint-flaked by the heat), and a realistic phallic cactus.

    The next morning, before we left the desert, we chose a relaxing trip to the thermal pools, fed by the volcanos (who knew). Next stop, Arequipa. Finally, Peru!
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  • Day221

    San Pedro de Atacama was another strange little town in the middle of the desert. Other than in Huacachina the desert was less sandy and more rocky. But also the town was a lot different. Lots of houses were build from the same stone and matched the color of the desert. The floor was often bare so you would walk on dust. But as it was one of the most touristy places around and Chile is definitely more developed and rich than a lot of the other countries it still wasn't really basic. There were lots of nice restaurants and shops around town. My hostel was nice with rooms arranged around an outdoor communal area. I knew I wanted to do a tour to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia from here so I used my first day strolling around the little town comparing agencies and figuring out what else was there to do here. At night they had a chilean BBQ with lots of meat at the hostel. It was super good and the fire of the BBQ helped a little against the cold that came after the sun went down. The difference between day and night was big here. During the day you could easily walk around in shorts and a shirt but at night you needed a lot of clothes. I went to bed the first night almost immediately after dinner just because I was so cold. The next day I got me a bike to go to Quebrada del Diabolo. I didn't do a lot of research but heard from some people this should be the best site in the desert reachable by bike. The lady in the bike shop told me I would need to cross the river 3 times. As she said it as if this was completely normal I expected the water to be really flat. But when I drove into the water for the first time I got stock halfway and had to push my bike through kneedeep water. In my shoes. After this I realized I should probably take my shoes of from now on.
    The Quebrada del Diabolo were rock formations with lots of small pathways through them. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to take my bike in so when I got to a point where a lot of bikes were lying I decided to also continue by foot. The site was pretty cool. The path would split of in more different paths between the rocks. As I didn't bring my bike I could also go for the ones climbing over rocks. After a while I found a spot on top of a big rock for my lunchbreak. I realized that it was completely quite here. Only surrounded by rocks you couldn't even here the usual sounds of nature like wind blowing through leaves or animals flying or running around. When I started walking back I realized that it might not be the easiest thing to find out as I had randomly chosen the path that looked more interesting. But turned out I could follow back my footsteps as no one had entered after me.
    Cycling back I decided to not put my shoes back on after the first river crossing but just cycle barefoot. This wasn't super comfortable but still nice and freeing.
    At night I did a stargazing tour. They had told me it weren't the best conditions for this tour as you couldn't see to many stars due to the full moon but I decided to do it anyways. And I actually liked it a lot. Especially as we got to watch the moon through the telescope and could see its rough surface with craters and everything. Our guide told us a little about stars and planets but as the tour was in Spanish I didn't understand to much when it got to more complex explanations. He showed us the cross of the south and some other constellations like the scorpion which was interesting as they were completely different to the ones we can see in the northern hemisphere.
    He also pointed out jupiter and saturn to us and we looked at them through the telescope. You could even see the rings around saturn.
    The next day I walked a bit more around town, treated myself to lunch at a nice little cafe and prepared for the tour to Uyuni. As Chile was really a lot more expensive than most other countries I usually had breakfast and dinner at the hostel. The kitchen here was ok and I actually enjoyed cooking for myself again. The only thing cheaper here than anywhere else was wine - even cheaper that beer!
    I met 2 nice French Canadian girls my last night and we talked over dinner and some wine. But when people started going out I went to bed again. I just couldn't be bothered to go out in the cold. But as I had to get up early the next morning for my tour I at least had a proper excuse ;)
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  • Day45

    Na het ontbijt om 05:00, begon de koude tocht in de jeep (de verwarming deed het minimaal) naar de geisers. Een bizar natuurverschijnsel. Vervolgens via het National Park naar de grens met Chili gereden, om daar twee jongens af te zetten die hun reis in Chili gingen vervolgen. Daarna was het voor ons een lange, maar opnieuw prachtige weg terug naar Uyuni. Bizar dat zoveel ' niks' zo mooi kan zijn.

  • Day201

    Wenn du von 360° atemberaubender Naturschönheiten umgeben bist kann beim Fotografieren kaum was schiefgehen...

    Ich bin umgeben von Geysiren, Thermalquellen und Lagunen, Sand- und Salzwüsten, bunten Kakteen, Schnee und Eis am beeindruckensten bei Sonnenauf- und -untergang 😍

  • Day30

    Diesen Vormittag ging es zum Sandboarden! 🙈
    Die Dünne war groß, wenige andere Menschen und geiles Wetter (wie hier immer) macht es allein schon zu einem coolem Erlebnis.
    Trotzdem habe ich dafür sicher nicht das aller größte Talent. 😂 Was aber nicht schlimm ist, da es trotzdem lustig war.

    Den restlichen Tag chillen wir, planen noch bisschen für morgen (den letzten Tag gemeinsam 😨) und gehen abends als Abschluss schön essen.Read more

  • Day29

    Der 2te Trip ging zum wohl bekanntesten Ziel der Umgebung, dem Mondtal.
    Das Mondtal besteht richtigerweise aus mehreren Valleys und daher gibt es nicht eins, sondern ältere und neuere, betrachtet man die geologische Reihefolge.
    Die ganze Gegend ist sehr schön und besteht aus kleinen Hügeln und kleinen Bergen, die aber alle sehr steil sind.
    Zum Sonnenuntergang ging es dann auf ein Plato außerhalb des Nationalpark und von dort aus könnte man die ganze Gegend einsehen.

    Die Aussicht war sehr verblüffend, denn wir befanden uns gerade mal 150-200m über dem Tal und trotzdem sah es so aus, als ob wir fliegen würden 🙈
    Dies lag an den kleinen Hügeln die wie riesige Berge aussehen.

    Liebe Grüße in die Heimat :)

    P.s.: Mehr Bilder gingen leider nicht, da mein liebes Handy nicht mehr fokussieren möchte. 🙄
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  • Day29

    Der erste Trip des heutigen Tages brachte uns am Vormittag ins Rainbow Valley.
    Dieses Tal gehört zu den weniger bekannten Plätzen rund um San Pedro de Atacama und gerade deswegen war es sehr schön. Bis auf ein paar einzelne andere kleine Gruppen hatten wir das Tal für uns 💪
    Die ganze Gegend ist einfach nur sehr surreal!

  • Day32

    An unserem letzten Tag gemeinsam 😨 liegen wir uns Mountainbikes aus um den Cartape Tunnel zu erkunden und die tolle Aussicht von dort aus zu bewundern.
    Die Aussicht vor dem war sehr schön! 😊
    Nach dem Tunnel fuhren wir sehr lange in einem ausgetrockneten Flussbett entlang, was einfach nur geil war! Kleine Sprünge, Kanten und meist guter Untergrund.
    Nach dem Flussbett kamen wir im Nichts raus, aber zum Glück erkannten Lena in der weiten Ferne eine befahrene Straße, zu der wir uns dann auch durch sandigen Boden kämpfenten und von dort wussten wir glücklicherweise den Weg nachhause. 💪
    Insgesamt waren es dann grobe 30-40km in 5h bei praller Sonne ☀
    Besonders zu erwähnen sind die 2 Hunde die uns ab San Pedro bis zurück zu unserem Hostel begleitet haben - den ganzen Weg, im voll Speed und den ganzen restlichen Tag - und am liebsten hätten wir Runner 1 & 2 adoptiert. 🙈

    Abends kochten wir noch gemeinsam und danach gings zu meinem Bus nach Arica.

    Mädels ich hab euch verdammt lieb und es war eine sehr geile Zeit mit euch! 😘💪
    Ich hoffe sehr, dass ihr noch eine Menge toller Erlebnisse ins Miami habt!!!! 😀✌
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