San Pedro de Atacama
The bus rolled past the snowy mountains and into the tiny town of San Pedro within the Atacama desert. Our fears were confirmed, the place was full of artisan shops so there was no chance of restocking our lost clothes here! We bought some alpaca jumpers, hats and gloves and cracked on..
The natural landscape is SERIOUSLY breathtaking. We went on a few excursions from the town. Here are a few amaz-balls ones...
Chile and more importantly the Atacama desert is known to have the most consistently clear skies in the world which is why it is home to some of the world's largest telescopes. We weren't quite let loose with the ALMA but we did get to spend a night with an astronomer looking at some pretty incredible sights including a nearby cluster, Saturn and the moon which we took a cheeky picture of!
Valley de la Luna
A trip into the desert and to the valley of the moon and it's sister, the valley of death (we found out that this was wrongly translated from French as it was meant to be named the Valley of Mars...haha lolz). The latter would have been the most appropriate as the landscape resembled that of the red planet. The lil´ mars rover was also tested here due to it's extreme environment!
Very kind (hostel mum gave Maryam some clothes and hostel dad gave us a suitcase)
State of WCs:
7/10 all good! Tiolet seat with tiolet paper
Night -4*c - Day 25*c
No. Of bites:
Maryam 0 v 0 Andy (its a dry place so no mosquitos Hurray!!
Their love of hotdogs... and more sleeping dead dogs
When bargaining in a tour agency, say that the last agency gave the tour for a lower price and ask for a group, couple discount
Only the common pets
These bad boys are the third largest and also the highest geiysers in the world (or so they told us)! They certainly lived up to expectations and were well worth the 5am start! We also visited some thermal pools which weren't quite as thermal as we would have liked and we also had another problem that we no longer had any swimwear! Never mind, boxers, bra and knickers had to suffice and a journey home commando (for Andy)!
A small city with a big mall! Gentrification at its finest - 2 levels of shops, a food court serving your finest fast food and a cinema on the roof. We could have been in Manchester and at the Trafford Centre if it wasn't for the fact this mall wasn't as garish! Did we care though? No, because we managed to restock our wardrobe and were ready to explore again!
Next stop Bolivia but we will be back in Chile in a few weeks!
We'll talk about the city in a moment but first let's talk about our first night in the hostel. Sadly, Andy found out in the most unsubtle of ways that he had put on weight over the last 2 and a bit months... His bunk bed collapsed! Thankfully, no one was physically hurt (including the guy on the bed beneath), only Andy's pride was.Once the bed was sorted we thought all would be well for a good night's sleep but oh we were wrong. There were 6 of us in the dorm and one of our room mates was snoring so loudly he forced 4 of us to flee and find new beds! When we asked the last standing roommate the next morning how he coped, his answer was, he was too drunk to even notice!
As for the city, the street art really is a sight to see. Artists come from all over the world to paint here but some of the locals are the best renowned in the area including 'Cuellimangui' who we got to meet as part of the walking tour (Google him). The artists generally start by painting for free to build up a reputation before being commissioned by local residents or shop owners. There is an unwritten law about where they can paint and a mutual respect between the artists and the local 'gangs'. Artists will not paint over a gang's tag and a gang will not tag a wall with artwork on it.
Where there wasn't artwork, the buildings were painted in bright colours and clad in wriggly tin steel. This style was a result of the port and the ships that came into the harbour in the past. Before shipping containers were invented, the only way to protect supplies on the boat were to wrap them in wriggly tin. This wasn't enough though as the tin would rust in the wet environment and so they would need to be painted. The bright colours were used to help make the boats distinguishable out in the water. As the boats would dock and unload, the steel and paint were cast aside and subsequently gathered up by the locals. The houses in the area were typically built from clay and as such were prone to weathering from the elements and therefore the steel worked perfectly as a rainscreen cladding to maintain the facades, and as there was no other paint available, the bright colours used by the ships were used on the houses.
Santiago felt affluent, much like Bacelona. The city was very cosmopolitan and there were more malls than people! OK, maybe not that many but there were a lot and just like Calama, some of them had cinemas but this time, with films in English! So off we went to see Spectre, our tickets cost a fiver (bargain) and for a minute you could easily forget you were in a foreign country! There is one thing that never changes though - the price of the popcorn was still extortionate!
'We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo and you can come too, too, too!' We love a good zoo and as we were staying a stones throw away from Santiago's it was rude not to go, especially as it only cost £3 to get in! I can assure you that despite the low entry fee the animals looked healthy and well looked after. The zoo was built into one of the hillsides which gave an amazing juxtaposition of exotic animals and city views.
Our daily diet included a Doggi's ice cream, and it was an epic ice-cream. So no regrets on putting on those extra pounds ready for our beach look.
And finally, remember all the 'dead' dogs we've seen throughout South America? Well, they have a name for them in Chile - Quiltros. Surprisingly, this isn't a derogatory term though, as the dogs are actually much loved by the locals and are generally very tame. The locals are even known to buy jumpers for their favourite dog in the winter to keep them warm on the cold nights out on the street!
Adiós South America, it has been a blast! Next stop New Zealand...
And we're back!
We caught a plane from Cusco and scooted our way down to Santiago for the final week of our trip but before we could explore there we made a brief visit to Valparaiso.