Welcome to Chile! At the end of our three-day 4×4 trip in Bolivia our vehicle dropped us off at the frontier with Chile. Imagine climbing at 14er in Colorado in the middle of nowhere only to come across a border crossing at summit. That’s pretty much what it was like. What was weird though was that crossing into Chile from Bolivia was like flipping a switch. Warm weather, good food, and modern infrastructure? Yeah, we were definitely ready for some of that.
San Pedro De Atacama
San Pedro was a dusty border city that surprisingly had quite a few spas and expensive hotels. Immediately we could tell we had left Bolivia. From the paved roads to the people looking much more European, we were fascinated by the quick change that a mere 30-minute drive had produced. The most difficult change was the language though. Chileans really should consider their Spanish a different language, at least that’s how we felt at first. They tend to drop the “s” if it’s at the end of the word, and the large amount of slang and rapid-fire delivery made for good times in the communication arena. Anywho, we warmed up in the desert and took a couple of very interesting tours. One was called the Valley of the Moon. It felt a bit like Moab but with sand. Really gorgeous territory and we hiked around a bit through valleys with walls made of salt. The sunset we saw in the desert is also something everyone should experience.
One evening we went to our first of many star gazing observatory trips. We went far out of town and into the desert, and I got a great lesson about the sky and how to locate some interesting objects. There were several telescopes there and for the first time I got to see Jupiter, various nebulae, a star cluster, and even another galaxy up close. I learned a ton and of course Keith knew most of what the guy was saying, but I do believe he enjoyed it as well, even though at one point he had to correct the guide.
Next we took a bus ride down along the coast and through the Atacama desert to this quaint city. Here was a town that until recently was small but has now become a booming coastal city. We were introduced to some friends of friends and were treated to our very own personal tour. Niko and his sister, Cecilia, were so hospitable, and we got to learn the in’s and out’s of this beautiful city from the locals’ perspective. It was a treat and we will always remember both this experience and the fantastic new life-long friends that we made.