San Pedro de Atacama

After an excrutiating bus ride from Salta to San Pedro, we arrived at a place that looked like it was out of some movie set. Here we were going to start our 3-day trip to Uyuni.

From Salta, Charlie, Andy, Alicia, John, Lou and I took a bus to San Pedro. It was a 12 hour ride through desert and impressive landscapes, but the bus left much to be desired! For one, driving through the desert one would think that air-con would be standard, but no such luck. Also, thinking the seats would be semi-comfortable was a pipe-dream. After a number of hours and some extremely bad roads, we arrived at an Argentinian outpost. Here we had to get the exit stamp before entering Chile. Man, they were ineffiecient! It took over 30 minutes to stamp the bus’ passports. By this time, the altitude had increased quite a bit and the breathing was getting difficult, not to mention breathing dust is quite a task.
From there it was another few hours ride till we reached San Pedro. Here we passed through customs and a foot and mouth shoe-cleansing process. Passports were stamped and we went off to find our hostel. Somehow, but probably not surprisingly, they had no record of our booking. But, we managed to get a room and were very pleasantly surprised by the great atmosphere in this strange town. Buildings are no more than 1 storey high and it looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Also, somehow they have water, considering the Atacama desert is the driest place in the world! We found a travel agent that John and Lou had scoped out the previous day and then went to get some supper. Ate at a great restaurant that had food that was really not expected in the middle of the desert. But, be warned, the prices are similar to European prices and far from the cheapness of Argentina.
The next morning it was up early to catch a bus that was to take us to the Bolivian border. Here, all the people had no problem getting through, but somehow due to some bilateral relations, South Africans have to pay US$50 to get a stamp. I didn’t have a Bolivian visa (which I apparently needed) and had to get a stamp then and there. Thanks to the South African goverment – once again they seem to have encouraged more countries to make it difficult for us to travel!! Anyway, after that we met our driver – Dionicios (we called him dialysis, it was muchg easier) and our car. A Toyota land cruiuser. Six of us fitted in quite easily and it wasn’t bad at all!
For the next installment, see Bolivia.


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