Saturday, 1 August 2015

The worlds driest desert, Attacama, Chile.

On Thursday after having breakfast we went to the bus station and with 5 minutes to spare, jumped on a 10am bus for only 30 soles (£6) to Tacna, our first proper day bus. We arrived at 5pm and had to stand around confused for a bit trying to get enough people for a collectivo to cross the frontier and go to Arica. This took quite a while but eventually, after a lot of faffing around, we arrived at 8:30pm and booked a 10pm bus to San Pedro de Attacama. It only cost us 15,000 CHP, (£15), which was half price for some reason unknown to us... Maybe they just needed to flog the tickets.

On this journey we stopped quite a few times so they could search our bags. At one point they were just searching for certain fruits to ensure you didn't damage their Eco system. It was really embarrassing around 4am as we were woken up by an angry bus driver. Turns out we were the only ones on the bus whilst everyone else had gone to get their bags searched. I had my eye mask on and ear plugs in whilst Matt had his hoody over his face. Also, rows were empty in front of us so we didn't get disturbed by people getting up... Whoops!

We arrived at 9:30am to San Pedro, 24 hours of travelling later. (Not as bad as the 30 hours from Santa Cruz to Uyuni though). After wandering around, we checked into SonChek hostel. All the prices in San Pedro are insane, it's so expensive for accommodation. The cheapest they had on the Internet, including hostel world, was £20 per person per night. This place though was 9,000 CHP (£9) for a dorm of 4 each. It doesn't include breakfast but has a little kitchen to cook in. 

Due to the high prices of everything in chile, we decided it was time to start cooking for ourselves. So, for breakfast we had scrambled eggs on toast and for lunch we had cheese toasties. We decided to go out for dinner - it turned out to be a mistake as it was more than I usually spend in ASK! It came to £10 each, but we did get a bottle of house wine to share that cost £3 each.

We booked a star gazing tour for that evening at 15,000 CHP (£15), leaving at 9pm and getting back at 11pm. Personally, for me, it was a huge waste of money. The guy was a bit of nut and was going on about aliens. He was questioning how craters were on the moon, arguing it was the remains of where a statue, 3 miles high, used to be.... He is from Chicago and used to specialised in underwater photography for 20 years working with national geographic. Now, he just studies the stars. Unfortunately for us, because it was a full moon, it bleached out most of the sky so he couldn't show us the things he'd usually show groups. The coolest thing I saw was Saturn, and you could see the rings up real close. He was super enthusiastic though, and made great hot chocolate... Oh, and I fell in love with his cat - possibly the only cat to ever like me! Yay!

This morning we had to wake at 5am. We had booked a tour to see the geysers and hot springs. It cost 17,000 CHP (£17) each, and 2,000 (£2) CHP park entrance with a student card, 5,000 (£5) without one. It is the third largest thermal site in the world. When I say it was cold... That's under exaggerating. It was about -12 degrees as we were walking around looking at them. It was beautiful but my nose and fingers were redder than Rudolph's. I had 3 pairs of trousers on - a pair of fur lined leggings I got in Cusco, normal leggings, and a pair of tracksuit bottoms I got in La Paz. On my top half I had a thermal vest, t shirt, knitted jumper and matts fleece/ jacket with a scarf, hat and gloves. It was colder than Uyuni by far - but, at night time in my hostel I wasn't cold at all, unlike Uyuni. 

Call me Rudolph... 

Don't put your hands over the geysers they told us.....

After we went to another set of geysers with a hot spring area too.... They lied when they said it was hot! It was about -5 out then, but 20 in the springs... I decided nope, I wasn't going to risk it. Matt did and he was freezing - one area was slightly warmer but on the whole it was pretty damn cold. When he got out I had his towel ready and wrapped him up, helping him to get changed as quickly as possible to stop him dying from the cold haha.

Smiling in pain at how cold it is!

On the way back to San Pedro we stopped at a nice lake, and again at this little village where you could buy BBQ'd lama for £2.50. I don't like eating animals that are cute looking - I'm not sure why.... So I didn't try it, but Matt had some and said it was 'okay' I quote.

Once back we booked our bus tickets to Santiago for 28,000 CLP (£28). It's going to take 24 hours - yawn! Back at the hostel we had a few drinks before the owners came out and inexplicably got mad at us and said we were being excessive.... We actually weren't, nor were we being noisy... It was 8pm... Weird. Oh well.

After dinner we went night sandboarding. It cost 12,000 CLP (£12) each. It was in death valley and they had big lights on and a DJ playing music whilst getting high... I went up once and decided that was enough for me haha. Walking up the sand killed me, my heart was beating so fast it felt like I was having a premature heart attack! I could not handle the altitude. Besides, when I was at the top, a guy fell over before we even began and his board cut into my wrist, it was really painful. It's kind of like snowboarding, just on sand.... My previous practice was of no use, didn't help I had the wrong foot forward in the board. Also, the sand is so heavy as soon as you get any sand on it, the board flips you over. I decided 3 bruises was enough and cracked open a bottle of beer and went and sat on a mound opposite watching the stars and people fall over with this American guy who was travelling with his brother. 

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