Monday, 6 August 2007

Atacama Desert

First stop San Pedro de Atacama. Almost set a record for the worst sunrise and sunset seen in one day, but the latter turned out alright in the end. After a 03.45 start, and two hours of horrendous road to El Tatio Gysers it got light, no sunrise, just gradually got a bit lighter. As a result the gysers didn´t get very excited, and thus remained bubbling puddles of sulphuric water with the odd spurt of steam to liven things up. Next stop was the hotsprings (read very small stream with tepid water and lots of mud), and then to a small village with four residents, eleven houses and a church. The journey back was interrupted only by numerous photo stops for cactus (singluar), llama (singular), and motion sickness (plural). Trekked up to moon valley for sunset, which looked to be a total anticlimax, but just as the sun hit the horizon the sky lit up in some pretty amazing colours.

Two days of driving through the Atacama followed. Scenery is amazing. Rock, sand, mountains and absolutely nothing alive (or dead). Total nothingness. Crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, a random statue of a massive hand emerging from the ground and lots, lots, lots more nothingness.

Next stop Pan de Azucar. Love it. No people. No houses. No traffic. Nothing. Just big rocks, waves and untouched beach. Spent the afternoon sitting out on a big rock (until I almost got stranded and waded back in to the beach), searching for shells, and wandering along the beach. Clear turquoise water crashing over the rocks and amazing sunset over the Pacific. Next morning went out on a boat to Isla de Azucar to see sealions and (a handful of) the three million strong colony of penguins.

Spent a couple of days in La Serena; half beach resort, half colonial old town. No prizes for working out which half was preferable. After an early morning dip in the ice cold Pacific, it was time to head inland to Vicuña and a Pisco distillery. Spent the night at an observatory looking through a massive telescope in an attmept to see more than just the increasingly familiar Southern Cross.

From there it was time to head all the way down to Santiago and work out where to go next......

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