A short and sweet entry for this time!!!
To start this entry we´ll begin with the border crossing from Peru in to Chile. Now for those of you that have made this perilous crossing you´ll know the ordeal is a little unusual, in that you have to cross a short stretch of desert from Tacna to Arica (both towns set up for the purpose of getting across the border but dont really offer any help by way of signs or information points). Well .... we arrived in Tacna a little dazed from an overnight bus and despite all the "do-nots" in the lonely planet we let a local guy sort out our ´bus´ to get us across the border. Our bus turned out to be a crammed taxi that took us to the border line. Health and safety wasn´t a big issue here - whats a few more bodies in a taxi made for four!. Lee and I found ourselves sitting in the front next to the "bus driver" hurtling down a long strech of road, trying to fill out our immigration forms, you couldn´t write this stuff! At the border crossing we had the issue of bag checks. They were said to be really stict so Lee declared a cheese sandwich in an attempt to be a good citizen, this was all OK so we chucked our bags through the x-ray machine happy with our declaration. We weren´t expecting any problems, so when Lee´s bag was pulled for a suspicious compound we were caught a little off gaurd. No need to panic, false alarm! No cocaine just good old Lyons tea!!! and of course the teabags were down the bottom of the bag so everthing had to come out. Her bag was packed within an inch of its life. Some how she managed to mash everything back in really quickly after we got the all clear so we didnt hold up the taxi bus for too long.
Once the officials had decided Lee was not a major drugs baron, we were off in the taxi (sorry bus) with Iquique as our destination.
What to say about Iquique - The surf is good and ................Yep that sums it up!
From Iquique we made our way to San Pedro de Atacama. We got in after dark and found our way to our hostel which was really lovely. We had a beautiful little room with a nice little decking area for breakfast. It felt more like staying at a friends home than a hostel. We made friends straight away with the family pets. Its funny being so far away from home, weve been fortunate to see some amazing animals but cats and dogs still put a smile on our faces. From what we had read, SP was a tourist town, but what we came to realize is that its more like 4 streets, literally, that make up this tiny town in the desert. Getting off the bus our first stop was to a bank ot get some Chilean Pesos. We asked a passing lady if she knew where a bank might be and she pointed in front of her. We walk to were she had pointed but found an empty shell of a bank with the ATM´s being wheeled in as we stood there.... Not exactly the bank we were after but we couldnt help but laugh. As it turned out San Pedro only had one bank with one cash machine, the down side of which San Pedro runs out of money quite often. On our second day there we wanted to book a tour and our bus tickets out. We made our way to the bank and were asked to come back in the aftenoon. So we walked the four streets and decided to bide our time with delicious ice cream and coffees. When we headed back to the bank we found that San Pedro had no money left. We got chatting to a local restaurant owner and he told us "not to worry, the last time this happened they had it fixed in a week". To over come this little hiccup we decided we would pay by card, except .... it turned out that alot of places in San Pedro have Mastercard and Visa signs up at the front of the offices but dont actaully have credit card facility which is bizare when you see how many tours and trips they offer- the tour office we wanted to book with and the main bus operator in the town both had signs up but couldnt take cards. We figured it´d work itself out so we headed off to spend our last few pesos on dinner (what? we were trying to help the economy!). On the way back to the hostel we saw a queue forming outside the bank which was a good sign so we jumped in the queue and sure enough they had put more cash in the ATM machine. The locals must have got a laugh at us, 10 to 20 obvious tourists standing waiting to get cash. Its really unusual because SP is a tourist town and is expensive - you´d think they´d make sure people can get their money anytime but no you´ve got to really really want it!
Once we had that hurdle out of the way we headed off to book our tour. We booked an Antiplanico tour for the following day. We were picked up at 7.00am and set off for what was to be an amazing tour. We were really lucky with our guide Marco, he explained everything in both Spanish and English. He took us to see salt flats, flamingo nesting areas and lagoons. This was quite special, the area is breeding ground to three types of flamingo but Marco explained that we would only see two out of the three as one was very very rare. As it turned out we were in for a treat as the third species was there in full force. Marco was really excited to see them, we had the added bonus on top of that that they were actually really close to where we were watching from. We got some great photos. The lake areas Marco brought us too were stunning, and at 4,200meters above sea level we saw some great landscapes. Simple little things are eyecatching here like the colouring of the rocks, the type of flora and fauna. The rocks are splattered with pinks, greens, purples. We were hoping to be able to book a trip to the Geysers too but we didnt realise the length of time the first tour would take so missed out on that one.
Everyone we spoke to before going to SP had said you´ll love it or hate it for its touristy feel and a few days will be enough and they were right. Its not somewhere you´d land for too long but we loved it.
From there we were on to Salta. The trip to Salta was another full days bus journey. This was the biggy, the bus travelled over the Andes so we navigated our way up to about 5,000 and back down again. It was a long journey (18 hours of bum numbing spanish movies - we had beds though so it was OK!) but we had arrived in Argentina.
Tune in next time for Argentina part 1 (trust me thats one not to be missed :) )
Music of Chile part 1: Calle 13,
Food sensations : Pizza and lots of it! The most lucious chocolate icecream. I know these food sensations probably wont be rocking your boots off but the simple things remind you of home and these were really really tasty simple things.
Security checks Rob 4 - Leah 4.