San Pedro de Atacama es un pueblo chiquito en el medio del desierto. Casitas de adobe y ramas, calles de adoquines y tierra, y mucho mucho polvo/arena/tierra por todos lados. El pueblito es simpático, muy hippie pero muy cheto y muuuuy caro. Los alojamientos son bastante básicos, pero los cobran casi como hoteles de lujo. Había mucha gente, la mayoría chilenos. Llegamos cerca de las 6pm, y nos metimos en el primer hotel que encontramos. Por suerte tenía pileta, porque hacía mucho calor, asique los chicos aprovecharon a darse una zambullida. Al día siguiente, fuimos a visitar unas lagunas altiplánicas, a 4000 m.s.n.m. Eran muy lindas. Hicimos ahí un mini picnic, y volvimos a almorzar al pueblo. A la tarde, M y T estuvieron en la pileta y jugando con unos gatitos. El último día en Chile fuimos a la laguna Cejas, que tiene tanta sal que uno puedo flotar. Nos metimos todos, hicimos picnic ahí y después nos fuimos al Valle de la Luna chileno. Muy bueno, muy distinto al argentino. Más arena, muchas dunas y formaciones rocosas, menos colorido, más desértico. Entramos en una caverna, que se hacía muy chiquita y oscura, pero M no se animó a seguir asique sólo T y E la recorrieron toda con una linterna. Volvimos al pueblo a disfrutar nuestra última cena en Chile antes de partir a nuestro próximo país: Bolivia.
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. February 18 to 20, 2011
Our first impression of San Pedro de Atacama was that of a very dull town. The streets, sidewalks, walls and roofs all had the same dusty brown color, everything was made out of part of the desert. But inside the small doors there were usually well-appointed restaurants and hotels and the usual souvenir shops and tourist agencies. We were there during the weekend when lots of chileans visit and create a lively atmosphere. Overall the town was nice but extremely expensive. Gas was also expensive at over US$6/gallon.
There were a few places worth visiting from San Pedro. About 2 h away we visited the ‘Lagunas Altiplánicas’, two lakes at 4000 m that we didn’t find special. A bit further were salt flats that we didn’t visit. A lot more fun was Laguna Cejar, just a few miles from San Pedro. The lake has so much salt that one floats. E, L and T went for a float and were quite amused by the experience. We also went to the Valle de la Luna, chilean version. It was quite different from the Valle de la Luna we visited in Argentina. I hate to say it but I think the chileans got a better moon. We all went into a cavern that was quite tight and M decided this was not for her so E and T continued with a tiny flashlight. T got scared at parts but braved it all the way.
We had planned to enter Bolivia through a pass near San Pedro and drive through the Eduardo Avaroa Naitional Park to reach the salt flats in Uyuni. The last night in San Pedro we asked at several tourist agencies about the trip and got a range of recommendations. One said we shouldn’t do it with kids. Two other agencies told us we should take extra fuel, one said 12 gallons another said 4 gallons. A third agent said we should barely make it with a full tank. We took with us a 5 gallon tank on top of the rooftop tent. Another worry was the remoteness of the area and what would happen if we had a breakdown. Several people mentioned flat tires were very common. We would also have to stay one night at a shelter because temperatures dropped to below freezing. After some deliberation we decided to go ahead.