Last update we were heading off for a boat trip around the marine reserve of Damas Island. After a rather choppy boat ride out we were greated by several pods of dolphins which swam and jumped around our boat as if daring us to photo them. After many unsuccesful atempts we finally got a few good ones in, and headed to the shore where we were greeted by many lazy sea lions and suspicious looking penguins. Hawks and pelicans swooped our boat as we arrived on an idylic looking beach. The only down side was that the water was absolutly freezing (I guess thats why the penguins choose to hang out there). We then headed back to La Serena for our last day on the coast, where we visited their very own Easter island statue before catching a 15hour over-night bus to the back of beyond (San Pedro de Atacama).
The bus ride was uneventful although after deciding that Tur bus calling half a sanwhich and a biscuit a "complimentary meal" wasn't really going to be enough, I made an anxious dash to a hot dog stand whilst the bus refueled and Dom made sure it didn't drive off with out us. Eventually we arrived to the spectacular loaction of San Pedro, right in the heart of the Atacama desert. The town feels like a set of a western film (although all the americans here carry fannypacks rather than a gun belts!). We spent our first day setting up tours and trips for the next few days and sampling the local cuisine of boiled meat (dunno what?) stew and drinking pisco sours with some germans.
Yesterday I decided I wanted to try my skills at sandboarding although Dom was less keen. So she went for a bike ride to some sandy ruins with one of the germans from the night before which was hot and tiring, and I went sandboarding which was also hot and tiring! Unfortunatly due to the nature of sand there are no ski lifts or even pommers to take you to the top so after a very long climb eventually I made it to the summit of the dunes. After enjoying the view I then blatted my way down the slope (partly on the board and partly on my face) along with the far more stylish dutch people I was doing it with. After several attempts at this I switched to sand skiing which was even more hard work. If you think walking in snow in those boots is hard, try climbing up sand dunes! (Edit from Dom - Ralph forgot what I did so told me to write it in! I cycled out to Quitor where the ruins of the territory battles between the Spanish and locals took place. Incredible views at the top of the hill. The ride to find the place was eventful too. We came across at pack of Llamas which started running towards us, we didn´t really know whether to run towards them or run away, but then we realised they weren´t running towards us, it was the females running away from the males who were trying to mate with them! charming!)
That afternoon we reunited to go to take a trip to Death valley and Valley of the moon. After an afternoon of sightseeing some incredible desert landscapes, the tour ended with a climb up yet another dune (ahh) to watch the sun set and moon rise. It turns out that by shear brilliance (or luck) on our part we came to the valley of the moon on the night of the largest full moon in around 100years which made for some amazing photos.
Having got home from the moon valley we headed to bed for around 4hours before getting up at ridiculous o'clock to visit the 3rd largest geezer (geyser) field in the world. The geysers are located high up in the Andes and it was extreamly cold! After wondering around bleary eyed in the steam we headed for a hot spring pool which we could swim in. After grudgingly taking off our warm clothes we dived into what should more accuratly be called a luke-warm spring pool, still it was good fun. The tour then ended with me eating a llama kebab and Dom adopting a puppy called Boris (dom - i miss him already, i took a photo but he just looks dead in it).
Its all go at the moment. This afternoon we are heading off for a float about in the salt lagoons, whilst tomorrow we are hopefully going to an observatory before heading off on a 3day 4X4 trip into Bolivia. But more on that later!