Hot, dry, dusty, and water is scarce here in the Atacama desert. It is said that it is the driest desert in the world, some areas never having seen so much as a drop of rain. The environs are reminicent of northeastern Arizona and southern Utah, such as the likes of Zion, Arches, and Grand Canyon National Parks.
The town of San Pedro de Atacama is the center of all attention here in the desert and recieves the hoards of tourists, gringos and Chilean nationals alike. Not sure what the actual balance is but the amount of Chilaeans, Argentines and Brazilians seem to equal if not superceed the amount of gringos.
We crossed the border into Chile about a week and a half ago or so it seems. Direct from Oruro, Bolivia to Iquique was bumpy and not too long of a ride. The biggest hang up was at the border with the Chilean guard station.It was most reminicent of a frontera into the states. However, instead of "illegals" and "contraband" the officials were looking for fruits, vegetables and meats crossing their borders.In total it was about a two hour crossing time until we finally got on our way to Iquique...of course without missing some "salchipapas" for dinner (fries with hot-dogs on top, slathered with mayo, ketchup and Aji).
Iquique was just an intermediary stop-over on our way here to the desert. However, we ended up getting stuck a little longer than expected with Liz getting a little bit of dysentary. A little antibiotics got things cleared up, but certainly not before about 50 trips to the old can of course. Iquique wasn't too bad a place to get stuck though, not exactly the "Huanchaco" laid back beach town, but a beach town none-the-less. Pounding surf and plentiful sun (still technically part of the Atacama desert) kept us in general good spirits and we even were able to sneak into the "rich folks" hotel for daqueries and bloody mary's to recharge before our bus ride here. Pretty easy to do being a gringo and all, so we laid around the pool (including the one fashioned out of the natural rocky surfline) and lived like kings.
Arrival here in Atacama was a double whamy with prices as it is quite marooned from resources, including weater, and so the expensive Chilean prices were even slightly more marked up. So we ended up at a campground that would remind you of an outdoor music festival with just a little less tents. Only $7000 pesos ($450 peseos to $1.00 US) a night got us crunched up under a tree to avoid the relentless sun and I'm sure we were the only ones from the States there. Good enough given some of the alternatives and gave us a little more breathing room for touring the area.
So, here is where it is "to be continued..." as Liz and I need to catch a bus south to La Serena, Chile closer towards Santiago and Pacific coast penguins....so, I'll continue later from La Serena and a 17 hour busride later...