Today was our chance to see the real Atacama Desert and it started at 4am with a tour of the natural Geysers and hot springs. It was absolutely FREEZING, about minus nine or ten degrees and so it’s safe to say I probably had every single warm item of clothing I own here, on me. We are lucky though, Juliet and I were warned about the cold and so we have coats and jumpers and were prepared, some people on the tour weren’t nearly as wrapped up and literally turned blue. Our tour started off in one of the biggest geyser fields in the world, we had a chance to explore them all and even walk through some, using the steam to warm ourselves up.
After touring round the huge geyser field for an hour or so and watching the water bubble and spurt fountains and looking at the mud baths, we headed over to the natural hot springs for breakfast. Here people had the opportunity to swim in the huge natural hot bath (although apparently it was more warm than hot) while the rest of us explored the other hot springs and geysers that the area had to offer. We then visited the wet land, a huge river with islands and home to a huge number of different wildlife, before going to the village near by. The village literally had nothing in it apart from a beautiful church and some thatched houses and we wondered how they could possibly stay warm at night before spotting the solar panels and heaters. It might be a third world country but it’s in the modern world and obviously they have electrical power.
We arrived back at the hostel at lunch time, just in time for us to head to the local market and buy an abnormal amount of vegetables in order to make a stir fry. The grand total was 4000 pesos and as there are four of us, it was 1000 each (£1.10) wooopie!
Tour number two of the day was at 3pm in the afternoon and it was to the Moon Valley in the desert. We had a bet going as to why it was called moon valley – I guessed because it trapped moonlight – but actually our friend was right and it’s simply because the surface of it looks like the moon!
We spent a fair amount of time exploring it by foot, walking down and huge long straight road taking in the incredible surroundings – it felt like we were on another planet! Then our guide showed us a cave and before we entered she asked if anyone was claustrophobic – Juliet is – but she assured her that it’s fine and you can stand up the whole way. It was quite a long and very dark cave and about five / ten minutes in, we had to crouch down and crawl through the tight passageways with low hanging ceilings. Juliet wanted to turn back but there was a huge traffic jam building behind us and eventually she knew she’d get out – and she did! Mission accomplished. We then explored more of the moon valley (it really is so so huge) before headed over to the overlooking canyon, above but facing into the valley, in order to watch the sunset. I love places like this because when watching the sunset you don’t watch the sun but what it does to everyone else, changing the colours of the sky and the rocks to every single colour of the rainbow.
It’s been such a great day getting to really know and learn about the Atacama Desert and this is exactly the same as for San Pedro de Atacama. It really is such a different but exciting town and it’s been such a pleasure getting to know the people, eating the delicious food and staying in such a fun hostel with great friends and I am going to miss it so much. San Pedro has definitely been my favourite place in South America so far and I have truly enjoyed exploring it’s beautiful Atacama Desert.
Tomorrow at 7.30am I am off on a three day tour to the Bolivian Salt Flats. The temperature will get as low as minus twenty five but hopefully it’ll be worth it! If I don’t blog tomorrow it’s due to lack of wifi and I will tell you all about my adventures when I’m back in a civilised country!