Up one level Argentina, Bolivia, Chile » San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama
Our route on LAN was San Francisco to Miami to Santiago to Calama. We arrived at Calama around 5 pm where we shared a cab into town with Veronica and Wilson, a Brazilian couple we met at the airport. From town, we caught the 6 pm Frontera bus to San Pedro where we stayed at Katarpe (which we liked) for the next three nights. On our return to Calama, we took the Tur bus back, which was the same cost but quite a bit more comfortable. Serene and I got along very well with Veronica and Wilson and we collectively reserved tours for the next two days to the Salar de Atacama, Valle de Luna, and Tatio geysers. Ray joined us in San Pedro for the Bolivian Altiplano trip a few days later; we later found out that the airport transfer from Calama to San Pedro for 7000 pesos is a roundtrip fare, which is about the same price for a single traveller taking a cab into Calama followed by a bus to San Pedro.
     We spent our first day in the San Pedro area visiting Laguna Chaxa in the Salar de Atacama (contains 40% of the world's lithium reserves) and two altiplano lakes, Laguna Miscanti and Miniques. At the time, we thought these sights were really spectacular, but after visiting the Salar de Uyuni and the altiplano lakes in Bolivia, these sights paled in comparison. On the other hand, we could get relatively close to flamingos in Laguna Chaxa, which we couldn't in Bolivia, and Laguna Miscanti is the deepest shade of blue I've seen in a lake (even compared to Crater Lake), especially when contrasted against the arid dry desert landscape.
     We got up at 4 am the second day to catch sunrise at the El Tatio Geysers. The five hour time difference between the US west coast and Chile was enough to throw our sleep cycle completely off on the second day. 4 am Chilean time is 11 pm Pacific time, which is just about the time we normally go to bed. Needless to say, we didn't get much sleep that night and we were constantly nodding off throughout the day. The Tatio geysers are at 13543 feet and watching the steaming vents at sunrise was worth the trip. The second half of the day was to Valle de Muerte and Valle de Luna. The former had some unearthly scenery but the latter was a little disappointing, although it was quite nice walking along the top of a sand dune with the warm colours of the setting sun lighting up the sand.

crw_2804 On the way to Laguna Chaxa, a group of llamas were slowly crossing the road in single file. crw_2806 After leisurely crossing the road, the llamas stopped and stared at us. crw_2832 Flamingos feeding at Laguna Chaxa. crw_2842 Flamingos feeding at Laguna Chaxa. crw_2848 Flamingos flying over Laguna Chaxa. crw_2860 Volcan Miscanti (5622 m / 18444 ft) and the deep blue Laguna Miscanti. crw_2871 Birds feeding on the shore of Laguna Miniques (next to Laguna Miscanti). crw_2880 Serene on the shore of Laguna Miscanti. crw_2889 Serene feeding a llama in Toconao. crw_2906 Sunset outside San Pedro de Atacama. crw_2917 Hot pool in the El Tatio geyserfield (4128 m / 13543 ft). crw_2939 Serene and I at the El Tatio geyser field. crw_2942 Colourful rim around a hot pool in the El Tatio geyser field. crw_2950 Serene investigating a vent more closely in the El Tatio geyserfield (4128 m / 13543 ft). crw_2953 Serene taking a dip in the El Tatio swimming pool. crw_2968 We stopped at a small creek for a dip on the way back from the El Tatio geysers. crw_2982 Valle de la Muerte near San Pedro de Atacama. crw_2994 Serene walking on a sand dune to the Valle de la Luna lookout. crw_2996 Shadows of people on the top of the sand dune. crw_3002 Tourists on the sand dune to the overlook.