Day 22 - Mon 23 Apr 07 - Chile
Up at 04:00 to catch my taxi (10,000 CLP) to the airport. Used the autocheck-in as there were no desk open at that ungodly hour. The flight appears to be full, and the only seat left is a window at the back -oh well, it's only a two hour flight. Well 1hr and 37 minutes. I think I can cope with that. I'm hoping to do a couple of tours from S.P de A, and then head over the border to Boliva.
Well I survived the flight, and got some good views of the desert and the ocean. On the way into Calama saw a huge copper mine, it was a terraced hole in the ground. It's bright sunshine here, unlike smog bound Santiago - but it's still not hot. My taxi to S P de A cost me 7000 in cash. Let's hope that the ATM machine works. On the way we pass through some bleak landscape, just dirt with some low hills in the distance. But there's a lot of housing being built, square pastel coloured blocks right on tops of each other - I wonder want brings people out here to live.
As we move on the hills get bigger, and some appear to have snow on the top! Arrived in the centre of town, had a look at a couple of hotels and decided on one that took credit cards - dumped my stuff in my small room, and then headed off to see if I could find a tour.
Yes, Bolivia is possible - but I'm still weighing up the options. I book a tour to the Valley of the Moon this afternoon, got some supplies and then headed back to the hotel for a snooze - well I was up at 4am this morning!
Up again at 15:00 to head for the tour office, there's another four people on the tour, so off we go - got to see some beautiful landscape, with some great colours - a bit like Death Valley in the USA only bigger. At one point we abandon the mini van and head down a black sand dune and into a canyon made up of dried mud and salt! As the mud was cooling in the afternoon you could hear it click. Really weird! Then we crawled into some salt caves (glad I had my little torch with me!).
The mini van was waiting for us as we emerged into the daylight, and we headed down to the 'big dune'. Climbed all the way to the top, and got some photos just as the sun was setting. The views are spectacular, and the colours change as the sun slips below the horizon. Back to the van a different way down a near vertical dune - running was the only option.
I've got a low grade headache, I'm not sure if it' the altitude as it's only 2,500m. My guide said that the tour I want to do tomorrow is up at 4,000m so some coca leaves might help. We're back in town within 200 minutes, and I head for the market to find some coca leaves - my first illegal drug deal!
S P de A is a pretty laid back place with only a few (dirt) streets lined with all the shops/hotels/tour agencies. It's got a good little feel to the place.