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Chile: Atacama Desert

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Atacama Desert | Chile | Americas

[Visited: September 1991]

Deserts always have had their attraction to me, so the Atacama desert was an obvious destination on one of my first trips to Chile. When checking in for the long flight in Santiago, I was asked: "Mountain or sea?", which means, do you want to sit on the left (and have a view on the Pacific Ocean), or on the right (and have a marvellous view of the Cordillera, the Andes mountain range). One more proof that this country is built between those two constants, the endless ocean "on the left" and the majectic mountains on the right. By the way, I was sitting on the right that flight.

Picture of Atacama Desert (Chile): Valley of the Moon in Atacama Desert

Upon arrival in Calama, I decided to try my luck at hitch hiking to San Pedro. Just before sunset, I was lucky enough to catch a ride in a truck. After having installed me for a few days in San Pedro de Atacama, already that night I found out that this was a real desert with really cold nights! The next days, I made trips to the Valley of the Moon at sunset, where I met a nice couple from Canada which later would die under tragic circumstances - see the chapter on Toronto. Together, we went to the Tatio geyser on the last day.

Picture of Atacama Desert (Chile): Tatio geyser in Atacama desert

Leaving very early in the morning (around 3!), we had to put on all clothes we had with us, and even then it was cold. When we arrived up at the geyser, at nearly 4000 metres high, it was 15 degrees below zero. And a lot of water was frozen at that time. But it was fascinating to see the effect of the rising sun, quickly rising temperatures and melting ice. Another consequence was that the steam of the geyser was becoming less impressive, because the surrouding air temperature was not so low anymore. Which is why we had left at that ungodly hour in the first place. After the geyser, we went to a village festival, to a mine, and finally had dinner in Calama. From there, for me it was back to Santiago.

Picture of Atacama Desert (Chile): Spanish church in Atacama desert
Picture of Atacama Desert (Chile): Valley of the Moon in the Atacama Desert
Picture of Atacama Desert (Chile): Tomb in the dry Atacama Desert
Picture of Atacama Desert (Chile): Colonial church in a village near San Pedro de Atacama

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