After our two-day border crossing from Bolivia, we arrived in the desert city of San Pedro de Atacama. This is a town full of adobe mud houses, and it felt different from any other place we have been.
It was also our first taste of Chilean prices, and that was a bit of a slap in the face. Everything was at least four times the price it was in Bolivia. The initial sticker shock made us want to run back to Bolivia. We also arrived in San Pedro during Chile and Argentina’s summer break, which means this place was packed with local tourists.
This area has a lot of beautiful attractions; from stunning desert landscapes, to geysers, to its own little salt flat. Seeing how we had recently done a few tours similar to these (and for a fraction of the cost), we just decided to visit the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) and stroll around town.
The town has a nice adobe church and a plaza to hang out it.
It was a bit of a culture shock arriving from the poorest nation in South America, into one of the wealthiest. They have crazy things in Chile, like paved roads, road signs, public bathrooms, garbage cans, and other modern convinces we haven’t seen in a while. Chile probably spends more each year on it highway system, than Bolivia does on running its whole country. It took us a little while to get use to this new, fancy way of living.
San Pedro also has a lot of dogs, who all seem to run the city. We saw locals and tourists gladly feeding them their leftovers. We never meet an unfriendly one, but they were a little intimidating when they rolled around in large gangs.
These dogs have mastered the art of scaling the adobe walls. They would have no problem jumping and standing on a wall that was six feet tall.
One day while wandering around the town, we were treated to one of the most interesting rainbows we had ever seen. It did not take on the classical bow shape, but it just suddenly seemed to appear in the sky.
The one tour we “splurged on” was to the Valle de la Luna, named so because it looks very similar to the moon. This was also our first taste of a Chilean tour, and unfortunately, we felt more like a number than a guest. It seemed that everyone in the whole town was being herded around in busses that stopped at the same stops, at the exact same time. We started to miss our small Bolivian tours, even if you sometimes got a drunken guide.
Regardless of the larger tour, and many people, we still had a good time as the views were great. Along the way to the sunset over the Moon Valley, we made a few quick pit stops.
This sand dune was huge, but unfortunately they would not let us climb, roll, or jump down it. Guess the place would look pretty trampled if everyone was running all over the place.
Logical rules were yet another thing we would have to get used to. In Bolivia, not even the dinosaur footprints are off-limits.
Our next stop was at a rock formation called The Three Marys.
There were a few other rock formations nearby.
The recent rain had washed away the dirt from the rocks which allowed the salt show through. This is also a place with a lot of salt, but it wasn’t as impressive as The Salar de Uyuni.
To us, it looked like a fresh dusting of snow had hit the desert.
For the grand finale, we arrived at the overlook of the Valle de la Luna to watch sunset. At first we were a bit disappointed as there was a heavy cloud layer, but the sun came through and gave us a good show.
This overlook was ripe with excellent places to take pictures along the edge.
The sun didn’t set until 8:15, so we quickly took our pictures and loaded back in the bus for the trip back to San Pedro de Atacama before it got too late.
Our introduction to Chile started off well, regardless of the sticker shock. We will say that Chileans have been super friendly and helpful, even if we can only understand 20% of what they say. In San Pedro, we had a great hostel (a bit of a splurge, thanks to Joe getting confused by the new currency), and some tasty meals while we settled back in to a more “civilized” life.
From San Pedro, we made a quick stop in Calama to wait for a bus, and then embarked on a 25 hour bus ride to Santiago.
After many hours on the bus to Santiago, and after accidentally riding a city bus without paying (Ooops! Thanks to the awesome bus driver for the helpful directions and not yelling at us!), we made it safe and sound to Valparaiso.