It turns out that we incorrectly understood the duration of our bus journey from La Serena to San Pedro. It was great news to discover (as the journey was about to end) that it was only 17 hours and not the 25 we had anticipated. We broke down about 20 minutes from our final destination, allowing us time to mingle with fellow passengers and discover two pairs of kiwi girls (Jen & Polly and Jen & Phoebe) also travelling to the same destination, same hostel and soon to discover same dorm room. Small world. After an hour stranded in the early morning desert sun we were bundled onto a passing bus and soon arrived safely in San Pedro.
San Pedro is a small village located literally in the middle of the Atacama Desert. An oasis that sits at around 2,500m above sea level, San Pedro has perpetual blue skies and warm days with cold starry nights. The town’s dirt streets are lined with white wash adobe style buildings made of clay and mud. The architecture combined with the altitude sickness of many that visit the town makes for a very tranquil and pleasant vibe. San Pedro is the gateway to the Bolivian Salt Flats and due to the unique natural surroundings is host to a large range of activities. It is therefore constantly teeming with tourists and operators vying for the best deals.
After settling into our cute family run hostel and after a much needed shower we wandered into town to purchase water and organise our tour to the Bolivian Salt Flats with Jen and Polly. Later that evening we had yet another BBQ, to celebrate Phoebe’s birthday. The meal was a good team effort but celebrations were subdued due to the altitude. With the familiar blood nose and pounding headache we had a nice quiet night in anticipation of the next few days ahead.
The following afternoon we all piled into a van destined for the Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley tour. The tour began with a drive to a massive sand dune for a spot of sand boarding action. We got stuck in the sand along the way and had to push the van out, but this warmed us up nicely for the exertion required ahead. No chair lifts installed on the dune unfortunately. It was a lot of fun and with the sand providing a cushy landing it was excellent for the novice boarders.
After a couple of hours of this we were all exhausted so jumped back in the van and headed to some salt caves created over the centuries by floods and winds. Here we scrambled through some surprisingly tight spots and learnt about the various rock formations. Last stop was watching the sun set across the moon like landscape of the valley. Another clamber up a steep cliff face provided a breath taking view of the area.
As the sky turned from reds to purples we sipped our Pisco Sour and listened to our guide tell of the local legends of the mountains (some surprisingly similar to Maori legends). What a day! Feeling very wind battered and sand coated we returned home to clean up and head out for a well earned meal.
Heading home we packed up and organised our gear for the following day. Four of us are booked on the same Salt Flats tour and are very excited about the adventures that lie ahead.