After one hour and a half of cycling from Calama on a terrific new road we found a spot to sleep inside a monument in the memory of tens of people who died on October 1973 which provided a modest protection from the blistering wind. Shoham got help doing the dished after breakfast from a wild pack of dogs who were very thirsty.
The climb to the 3,500 m high pass was tiring due to the lower air pressure and Amit´s ears were clogged during the whole day. The ascent was mild and straight, yet the descent was torturous and steep (Amit got to 63 kph).
The scenery changed quickly from the boring desert to the jumpy hills and huge snowy volcanoes in the horizon.
Right before entering San Pedro de Atacama, we stopped for a walk in the "Moon Valley", which looks nothing like the cheesy moon.
Warning, tourists ahead!
San Pedro is an oasis in the desert thanks to the river flowing from the melting snows.
It got a bad reputation as the most expensive town in Chile, but we were lucky to find out that in the low season prices were just like in any other touristic part of Chile. We got a special price in Buenas Peras camping (2,000 CH$) which costs much more during the high season (4,000 CH$), but we had to pay separately for a hot shower (500 CH$) and the use of their private kitchen (300 CH$). The owner was extremely nice to us and helped us in feeling at home there.
If you go to the Licancabur avenue instead of the Caracoles pedestrian street, you would find a very good restaurant offering delicious varied meals for a reasonable price (3,500 CH$), and the cheapest supermarket in town which was almost as cheap as in Calama. We found out that changing money rates here are not worse than in Calama. The Archaeological museum should be one of this towns main attractions, as this region was settled in the past few thousands of years continuously. The sign outside says that there is a special price for students, so we plan to use for the first time our useless international student cards we issued just for this trip. The authentic atmosphere in town arises directly from the unique construction. All the houses are built of straw and mud bricks, just as the Egyptians built 5,000 years ago.
All the streets are unpaved, what makes it even more magical. At this time of the year there are much less tourists in the streets which makes our stay here more enjoyable. For dinner we cooked a great chickpeas and vegetables stew and shared it with Eva, the camping owner. Unfortunately, her husband Lorenzo could not join us, as it was his weekly "getting drunk" day. Tomorrow we plan to climb 2,000 m towards Bolivia, mostly on asphalt. For the way we plan to cook a lot of food, so that the little water we can carry would last for 3 days, before we reach the first place with water in Bolivia. Our plan is to go from San Pedro to San Juan via the lagoons, and continue on the Salar de Uyuni, in about 2 weeks.
Fordetails about our plan for the next 2 weeks