We got to Atacama around 8PM. I remember our hostel* being so cute that was worthy of the way-over-our-budget nightly cost. This is what I wrote in my 2005 diary:
“The hostel is delightful, with outdoor fireplaces and all. Price is salty: $5000 per person/night. That’s around US$9!”
LOL. I love these prices we thought to be so expensive.
That same night we walked down the street to a ruins-type bar and it was fun, but my camera got stolen. It upset me quite a lot at the time, and it did suck as I lost all my photos and wouldn’t really be able to buy a new one – the reason why my memories from this trip are so weak – but I also, at the same time, got homesick (and I didn’t even know there was a word for this. Homesick is a must on travelers vocabulary)
San Pedro do Atacama is a desert town, and so it has the sun dried brick houses that blends with the dark-orange dirt streets, but I remember being pretty touristic. We were sold on a night sandboarding adventure at Valle de la Muerte (the Death Valley), and I highly recommend it. The starry night and full moon contributed to the magic, but just the fun of drinking beers up on the dunes and falling down more than actually boarding were precious enough.
Next day we woke up early to do the actual Atacama Desert Tour: another Salar (not as pretty as Uyuni’s), and the Miscanti Lake, a gorgeous frozen deep blue lake with volcanoes and ice-peaked mountains on the background. These are other fun notes I wrote at the time:
“This is the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. Just that compensates the tour, because following a tour guide is a pain-in-the-butt. Specially this guy, that was sentimental and got upset if we didn’t pay attention.”
Back to town, another drama due to our limited budget situation: when we booked the tour, we weren’t told that admission to the parks weren’t included. As we had agreed to pay the tour agency at the end, we told them we would discount the value of the entrances and just pay them the difference. The agency woman kept repeating: “Yo quiero la plata” (I want the money), and so the carabineros had to be called, then the agency owner, and hours later we won the ordeal. I now feel bad, as the woman cried to the owner, saying she was tired when she booked us, while the drama-queen tour guide accused us of “letting this poor working woman pay it out of her pocket while we are just traveling around.” We reminded him that we also had to work a lot to pay for this trip. So true! That is a real truth statement for backpackers from 3rd world countries.
Next: Arica (Peru)
*Our hostel apparently was the HI (Hostelling International) one. Info thanks to Leo, one of my comrades on this trip 🙂