Our trip through the Atacama desert brought us, perhaps unsurprisingly, to the small oasis town of San Pedro. San Pedro is a very chilled out picturesque place with some spectacular scenery surrounding it. It also seems to be a black hole for hippies who seemed to be on the streets all day long and also running most of the businesses. Unfortunately not only is Chile the most expensive country in South America but small, isolated desert towns are the most expensive places in Chile so a lot of time was spent relaxing at the hostel making the most of the sun(!) and not very subtley breaking the no alcohol rule.
After San Pedro we travelled South West to the coastal city of La Serena, the small matter of a 17 hour bus journey. La Serena has a pretty, colonial centre as well as all of the mod cons like McDonalds and a large shopping mall. We paid a visit to the local museum which included some artifacts of the indigenous Chilean tribes and also gave us our first glimpse of a Moai from Easer Island. The other attraction in La Serena is the nearby observatory. Unfortunately the weather was too cloudy on both of the nights we spent there so we didn't get a chance to do any star gazing.
Our final stop in Chile was the capital, Santiago. Like La Serena, Santiago has some very impressive colonial buildings but is a lot more built up and modernised. Here we said goodbye to our amigos in the GAP group with a trip to a salsa club. There was also enough time for us to explore the city including an art museum containing some interesting, if not all that atractive, Chilean art. After leaving the tour hotel we checked into a hostel in the very cool Barrio Brasil and found a cafe serving 15 different types of empanada (Basically a Chilean pastie) and plenty of local beer! After four days in the capital it was time to fly onwards to our next stop, Rapa Nui.