We entered Chile on the 26th October, at the Hito Cajon border point, about 4,000m above sea level. From there we enjoyed the super smooth 2,000+ metre descent to San Pedro de Atacama, a lively little town and hub for adventures into the Atacama Desert. San Pedro is full of travellers/backpackers. It also has a superb French Bakery. We are going to enjoy Chile - a lot.
After a brief stay, we headed off to into the desert - the driest place on earth. Our first stop the Aguas Termas de Puritama. Once there, we took a dip in eight different thermal pools. It was enjoyable, but I forgot the factor 50 and suffered a few days later!
We drove on from the pools, gaining altitude, and settled for the night by El Tatio Geysers, back at around 4,000m. The Park Ranger warned us the temperature would drop to -14°C. I was glad for the information and we dug out our 2nd set of sleeping bags to double up. The camper-van heater doesn't fire up at 4,000m, so extra bags and woolly hats had to do the job. We were here to see the Geysers at dawn - best time apparently. Ooh that was a cold night, followed by a super cold walk amongst the geysers. Whilst I was slightly underwhelmed and bloody cold, Rachel took a morning swim in the thermal waters and insisted on a second tour of the geysers - easily pleased!
Our journey continued towards Calama and on route we spotted Rhea (like Emu - big birds). We also came across the little town of Chiu Chiu, which has, what turns out to be, one of my favourite churches. It could have been from a scene in a Spaghetti Western. A white adobe building with cactus wood ceiling, rafters, doors and gates.
We drove on, deciding to head back into San Pedro, but not before catching sunset at Valle de la Luna. The following day, we headed into the town to see the adobe church and whilst having a coffee on the main square, we had the good fortune to meet Lucy, her friend Cat and Lucy's dog Wombat. Whilst we are adventuring in our van, Lucy is walking the Americas - truly hardcore. Wombat is on the adventure, whilst Cat is visiting from Australia and is going to join the walk for 3 days (aagh 150 kilometres - may regret that decision Cat). Lucy's blog is www.tanglesandtail.com.
Our time in San Pedro was done, so we drove to Laguna Cejar, a salt lake for a swim or rather a float on top, before weaving our way towards the border with Argentina, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn along the way. Just before sunset we stopped a short distance from the Argentina border in a spectacular valley next to Laguna Aguas Calientes. We wild camped and spent some time freezing our bits off whilst attempting some more night photography - not helped by a broken tri-pod.
The next morning, we broke for the border. Argentina, here we come. The van is in need of a bit of TLC.