Entering summer in Chile

Leaving our Uyuni tour jeep behind, the five of us left of our group climbed a bus and decended 2000 meters down to
San Pedro de Atacama where we completed the border procedures. We were finally in Chile, our last country on this trip, and with it in Summer. The temperatures were crazy hot, probably the hotest on this whole trip, and we were glad when we finally had our (overpriced) hostel.

San Pedro is a small town with a cowboy style that is completel y built for tourists. We quickly learned that January is high season due to Chilean summer vacations and that means everything is even more expensive than it is anyways. The fact that the exchange rate is similar to the Boliviano, only 2 zeros more, didn’t help and only pointed out how much more we were paying here. Together with the heat, this made the beginning in San Pedro very stressful. The good side was that we were still together with Juan, Simon and Jayeon, so our group cooked together and then went on a tour of Valle de la Luna, which was really nice. We had to walk uphill through the boiling heat but got some great views and could marvel at the salt formations. Here the pictures:

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The tour was nice but could in no way compare to the Uyuni tour, we were a little spoiled I think. In the end, we watched the sunset and drove back in the bus. We were desperately missing our 4×4 on the road through the dunes.

The next day, Juan left in the morning but Simon, Jayeon and us were still spending the day together as we had different buses in the evening. We spent a chill morning until the hostel kicked us out at checkout, not even allowing us to use the bathroom anymore (the first time this ever happened to us anywhere). We went into town for lunch after we had found a taxi driver who would bring us to Laguna Cejar for only 30000 pesos (40 Euros), cheep for San Pedro. Lunch was expensive but really great, mousse au chocolat for dessert!

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After buying sandwich ingredients for dinner, we met with the driver and went to the lagoon. In the middle of the endless desert is this small lagoon full of salty water. It has the same effect as in the Dead Sea: You float. This was an amazing feeling, like a plastic duck in a bath tube, we simply could not sink. The water was pretty cold which was very refreshing in the burning heat so we enjoyed about half an hour there, doing funny poses and trying to turn around without using our arms, for example.

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Afterwards, we had a big salt crust on our bodies (too bad the hostel would of course also not let us use the showers, the cold one without shampoo next to the lagoon were all we got). It was time to say goodbye to our friends from Switzerland and catch our nightbus. We went with Turbus, an equivalent to Cruz del Sur in Peru which however became our favorite company now, I think. They don’t serve food, only a bad “esnack” of juice and cookies, but they have a movie database which you can access with your phone! This way, the quality is much better than on little screens like in airplanes. This helped to make the 16 hours bus ride pass quickly, we slept about 9 hours, had some food and watched two movies. Before we went to bed, something really great happened: Some girls in hotpants and tops entered the bus with a lottery for the passengers, each person had to take a number ball from a bag and the highest one would win a free trip with Turbus. I had the 64! First, they congratulated another person but then they suddenly came to me and told me I was second and had also won a free trip! Wow, so cool. For a while, we thought about taking a bus to Patagonia just because I could do it for free but then we calculated that this would take about 3 days. No thanks, that will have to wait for another time. We slept happily, thinking about me winning a lottery for the first time ever. So cool!

In the morning, we arrived in La Serena and went to our hostel, German-owned El Punto which was pretty nice. The weather wasn’t great on that day, we had expected clear skies and sun at the beach but it was cloudy and rained. We still checked out the beach only to witness the Chilean life guards saving 5 people from the ocean, with helicopter and all. They were impressively fast and noone was hurt. Still, the waves looked crazy and the red flag was out. I don’t know why people went in further than were they could stand…

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The next day, the weather was better and we passed some time on the beach to make our final tan for Germany.. We
later chilled a lot at the hostel and played some more game of “6 nimmt” (6 takes it), a German game that was a really good time killer already in San Pedro and in other spots of our trip before. We had a really German round in this German-owned hostel – quite weird actually, even though Chile has a lot of German influence due to immigrants (you can buy “Kuchen” here, German pie, for example).

Together with Nicole, a German who passes time with her kids in Santiago where their father lives at the moment, we went on a trip to Isla Damas a bit of the coast north of La Serena. We took a boat to the island passing another with many sea lions and also some penguins! Finally we saw them, as we had missed them on Galapagos. The landscape of Isla Damas reminded us a lot of Galapagos, however the experience was much less thrilling or special and the sea quite rough. We had a nice walk around the island but unfortunately were not lucky enough to see dolphins – too bad. Back on the mainland, we had some good food and went back to La Serena, stopping for wildlife several times. All in all, the tour was very informative but a bit repetitive as we knew most animals from Galapagos already. Still we had a good day with nice views.

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We decided to spend our final days in La Serena in the Elqui Valley, the region famous for the production of Pisco in Chile. We took a bus to Vicuña where we stayed in Hostel Michel, a really nice family-owned place which was fair-priced and even did our laundry for a fraction of what is usually paid for it. Really recommendable! We took a collectivo to one Psqueras to learn and see how Pisco was made. Very nice and for free, we even got to taste a little. On the way back, we decided to walk and take a look at a viewpoint over the valley.
In the Pisquera:

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On the way back:

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In the evening we watched the sky from the hostels terrace together with Nicole who had chosen the same hostal. Unfortunately it was cloudy so her star gazing tour was cancelled (and we decided against waking up at 4 am to go back to the viewpoint). Bad luck, full moon had only been a few days ago anyways which was why there were no stargazing tours in San Pedro. We were fine though as we had seen the stars in Uyuni so clearly.

After a night in the Elqui Valley, we said goodbye to Nicole and the lovely owners of Hostel Michel and returned to La Serena, waiting for our free night bus to Valparaiso! Instead of one return ticket, my coupon was also usable for to one-ways, saving us about 30 Euros, yay! We went to the beach again to see the beautiful sunset and then waited at the terminal for the very last night bus of this 5-months journey. The next blog entry on Valparaiso will be the final one on the road. For now…

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