MATT: San Pedro De Atacama is a small, mostly adobe built village that sits in the cross roads of Chile, Argentina and Bolivia. It is on the edges of the high plateau of the Atacama desert and sits at about 2600m. We are beginning to feel the effects of the altitude up here...a little short of breath, but it is the dryness that hits us most. Before long we are both experiencing minor bloody noses due to insides of our noses drying out and cracking. Also, the sun at this altitude is fierce and although it is damn chilly when you are in the shade, you sweat and burn in the sun.
We are in San Pedro to pick up a tour to take us into Bolivia, so we will only be here a couple of nights - long enough to suss out the different companies and get moving again...but this is a very nice wee place to hang out for a day or two. Although we are in this tiny, remote, frontier town...it is spectacularly well set up for tourists. The hostal we are staying in is one of the comfiest and most homely we have been to and the bars and restaurants are all excellent. Suprisingly we have some great seafood here, despite being thousands of KM's from the nearest significant body of water.
We soon get our tour sorted out - three days in 4x4s across the high desert to the Uyuni Salt flats. This costs £81 each, and is generally a bit of a bargain.
We have one full day and a night in San Pedro to do something, so we sign up for a trip to the Valle De La Luna, where we will watch the sun set across the Andes after wandering about the desert, sliding down some sand dunes and climbing across some huge grains of salt (and hearing them sing in the setting sun). A great trip....
Again...leaving San Pedro is an early start. It is chilly when we get going and hump our stuff to the bus that will take us to the Bolivian border to meet the 4x4s that will take us the rest of the way, and after a quick stop at the Chilean border check point for the necessary stamps...we are en route, climbing via a long straight road back up to higher altitude and the Bolivian plateua with the Atacama desert, looking like Mars behind and below us.