We awoke at 5.45 for an all day bus that would drop us in San Pedro de Atacama (a town in the middle of the Atacama desert – one of the driest places on earth). We drove for about 9 hours passing nothing but desert. The scenery was amazing, we passed the Chilean salt flats and drove up and down the Andes finally arriving at San Pedro at 2500m. The border crossing was also very easy although Dan did have to leve behind his cocaine.
The town reminded me somewhat of Egypt, dry reddish streets and red brick houses. We walked around the tiny, dusty, but beautiful town looking for the best tour operator to take us across the salt flats to Bolivia. After getting many quotes, we needed to ponder all our options over some empanadas. We saw a sign saying 1500 chilean pesos (the equivalent of £1.50) for 5 empanadas so we immediately went into that restaurant amazed by the great deal. After the waitress brought us 5 enormous empanadas, we knew we had misread the sign. It wasn´t too expensive but a lot more than £1.50. Dan felt a bit light-headed as we were at 2500m so he went to bed as soon as we got back to the hostel. Amazingly, there was another ping-pong table and so I challenged the boss to a game. To my surprise, I beat him, causing him great embarrassment as I´m sure he plays every day. I went to bed chuffed.
The following day, we booked our tour across the Bolivian salt flats. There are many bad reviews about every tour operator (drivers being drunk, accidents etc) so we chose the one with the least bad reviews. Hopefully we will get a nice guide and the next few days surpass our expectations. We also bought lots of coca leaves which you chew to relieve the pain from altitude sickness. We are not quite sure yet if they are totally healthy as they are illegal in some countries. We´ll soon find out.
We went out for lunch in the town and there was a small earthquake which shook the ground and was actually very very scary. In the afternoon, we went on a tour of the desert, visiting salt caves, death valley and watched the sun go down. It was beautiful!