Thursday, May 14, 2009

San Pedro and Iquique (a week off)

San Pedro de Atacama is a travellers hub. We have seen more English speaking people here in a couple of days than on the entire trip so far. Despite all the comforts that come with this, we realise we much prefer being in the wild away from anything, or anyone, that remind us of home. Strange, but we don´t want to be around English speaking people, most probably because we enjoy the reactions of locals when we turn up in some pokey one-donkey town.

Biting the bullet, on our first night in San Pedro we joined the herd and went out for a tour of the sky at night. The skies are nearly always clear in the Atacama, making it one of the best places in the world to star-gaze.

Alain, our French guide now lives locally with his 10 or so giant telescopes, most of which he built himself. We learnt about constellations, how to navigate using the stars (very handy for our next stage), about the moon and aliens and time travel and all that.

With his giant telescopes we saw close up views of the moon, of Saturn, gas clouds and star clusters. It was a fantastic night. Unfortunately we had to have our camera set to ridiculous high settings which makes loading them on here really slow. Here´s one for tasters...

On days off Ian likes to spend his time cycling. Now a fully gone nutter, the next day he headed off on his bike into the Valley of Death. It sounds just like a bit of a comical name to make a place sound interesting but the it didn´t take long to find out why. Here´s the entrance, the dust path on the right...

Straying from the main path he soon became lost. This wouldn´t have been so bad if the way was easily passable. Instead he had to crawl through holes, climb huge hills and cross massive sand dunes. Not easy when you have a bike with you.

Luckily other trails showed he wasn´t the only crazy that had been lost out here and eventually led to the way out.

After finding a safe place to store the bikes we headed down to Iquique, Chile´s premier beach resort, to take in some sun and relax before our adventures in Bolivia.

The beaches were very much like the kind you´d see on Baywatch but without all the people. A few surfers around and some kids made sure it wasn´t completely desolate. Oh and the occasional wildlife...

Being on the coast near an area of high tectonic activity means Iquique is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis. It was comforting to see the powers that be had thought out the perfect escape if such a catastrophe was iminent... RUN AWAY!!! HEAD FOR THE MASSIVE MOUNTAIN!!!

And so back to San Pedro de Atacama to prepare for what will probably be our craziest cycling of the whole trip. In just a couple of days we head into the South-western tip of Bolivia. Cycling across the altiplano at altitudes between 4,000 and 5,000m for a couple of weeks. Along the way we will pass many lakes, loads of sand, and cross the giant Salar de Uyuni. It is very remote and probably a bit dangerous but hey... we were born lucky remember... eeeh awwww!!!

Hopefully our next post will be in a couple of weeks.
If it´s not up in three weeks, somebody call the British consulate in La Paz and report two missing persons.

Love you all xxx


Zuri said...

I don't know if you have already visited Ecuador but I highly recommend it. The weather, the colonial cities and the people of this county are just fantastic. Nothing compares to the landscapes of the Highlands, the lush of the Amazon Jungle Forest, the exotic Beaches of the Coast and the mystery of the Galapagos Islands.

Ian and Gemma said...

Everybody, please ignore Zuri's comment above. We have very good reason to believe he is stupid and possibly a stalker.

Zuri, please leave us alone. We do not like you. We are only going as far as Lima as mentioned on the site. Your exceptional knowledge of the area must leave you with no doubt that Ecuador is not on our itinerary.

If we ever visit Ecuador, we will not be coming to visit you for tea and biscuits. We are not your friends.

Please leave us alone and stop bothering us.

You freak.

Ian and Gemma.