Chile: San Pedro de Atacama & El Desierto Florido

Hi everyone! Hope you’re having a good week!  Mine has been pretty good so far.  Can’t believe the USA soccer team didn’t qualify for the World Cup though!  I was looking forward to watching this coming summer.  I guess I’ll have to find another team to cheer on (Honduras?!).

Anyways for this post, I wanted to continue with another recap of my South America travels.  After Purmamarca, Argentina, Kate and I took a bus straight to San Pedro de Atacama which is in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta.  This town is quite touristy with several desert excursions nearby.  A lot of people actually start here before heading into Bolivia to see the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world.

Our bus ride passed by the same beautiful mountain roads and Salina Grandes (salt flat) we had seen the day before and continued on further.  Eventually we made it to the border crossing that seemed to take forever even though we were the only bus there.  The workers were also a bit cranky and rude, but I think that’s pretty standard for border crossings.  Anyways, we finally make it into Chile and are driving in the middle of the desert.  As we approach San Pedro, suddenly a large cloud storm is upon us and we cannot see anything more than a few feet in front of the bus!  The driver has to slow down significantly and we pretty much creep into town.  We then try not to get blown over as we walked the very short walk to the hostel.  Once we get checked in, we start asking about excursions and are told that because of the wind, most likely all excursions will be cancelled!  And the wind storm is supposed to last the majority of the time we were planning to be in the city!  This was definitely bad news for us.

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Walking around windy San Pedro

We still signed up for an excursion, that did in fact get cancelled the following day.  So we rescheduled for the following day and ended up hanging out with a few people from our hostel that afternoon/night.

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Our wine, olive, and cheese spread.

Of course we stayed out later than we should’ve assuming that the excursion would get cancelled again, but of course guess what happened.  It did not.  So we had to get up bright and early and head out for the full day really tired and slightly hungover.  The excursion included both breakfast and lunch and a few stops.

After breakfast, our first stop was to see Piedras Rojas, which are “red rocks” that lie beside a hot water salt flat.  However, since it is located at high altitude, the water is half frozen.  It was pretty cold there, but the steam from the hot water made the views that much more stunning (and almost don’t look real!). IMG_5571IMG_5577IMG_5543IMG_5541

After the Pierdras Rojas stop, we were supposed to stop and see some nearby antiplano lakes, but the roads were closed for some reason.  So we stopped and took in some mountain views before lunch.

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After lunch, we stopped at Laguna Chaxa, which is a National Flamingo Reserve in the Salar de Atacama (another salt flat).  There are 3 different types of flamingos here, and  we saw 2 of the 3. 🙂

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(there weren’t a ton, so I didn’t get too close)

I am sad to say that this was our only day excursion while in town.  The following day we had to leave earlier than planned since a lot of the overnight buses were sold out (a first)!  Another volunteer, Lucy (from my Lima post), met up with us after arriving from Bolivia and we all headed south together.

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(Valle de Luna shot from the bus, supposedly it’s like Mars on Earth. I was sad I missed it.)

Just so you know, San Pedro de Atacama is like a 20 hour bus ride to Santiago.  We decided to break up that ride by stopping about halfway in Copiapó.  Copiapó doesn’t have too much going on, but is located near where the desierto florido (flowering desert) phenomenon was taking place.  This flowering desert only occurs in the Atacama Desert during the spring (September to November in Chile) of years when rainfall is unusually high.  It doesn’t happen every year so we wanted to take advantage and check it out while we were there.

We rented a car and drove south of Copiapó to a town called Vallenar, then we headed towards the coast to a town called Huasco (stayed the night there).   Then we headed up along the coast to a town called Bahia Inglesia (should’ve stayed the night there!) before heading back to Copiapó.  We stopped in the Llanos de Challe National Park to see some of the different species of flora there along with having a picnic on the beach and just really stopping wherever we wanted to see the flowers.  I personally wanted to see an entire valley of flowers.  It wasn’t quite that abundant (or maybe we just didn’t go to the right areas), but it was pretty close.  There was one specific road that connected the coast to the main highway 5, passing through the town of Totoral (located north of the National Park).  This particular route was the real gem, especially closer to the highway.  I think those were the best views of the 2 days.

Picnic on the beach:

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Starting to see more and more purples:

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Random, but when in Huasco we came across several of the following posters:

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The one on the left translates to: Looking for the murderers of Marta Bustos.

The one on the right translates to: Be careful machismo kills.  No more femicides. (crime involving the violent and deliberate killing of a woman)

I tried to google more about this after we left and it turns out Marta Bustos was a young woman found murdered, half buried, and decomposing in Huasco at the end of 2016.  The people in town rallied to demand justice for her since there was no evidence as to what had happened.  I cannot find more info on it, but since those signs are still up, a murderer must’ve not been found.  As far as the one on the right, it seems that this is (or was) the logo of a campaign known as the The Chilean Network against Violence against Women.  It has been around since the early 2000s and most likely the posters were also put up when Marta Bustos was murdered.

It was a bit sketchy seeing those signs in town (and not knowing why at the time!), but besides that, the town was really nice and cute.

One of the walking paths at Llanos de Challe National Park:

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So many purples:

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We stopped for a seafood lunch/dinner in Bahia Inglesia before heading back to Copiapó.  This town was super nice and I wish we would’ve had more time to hang out there.  They were already preparing for the dieciocho celebrations!

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(or maybe the Chilean flags are always up?!)

And lastly: Sneaky vino tinto while waiting for our LAST overnight bus of the trip to Santiago.  I thought the wine might help me sleep better, but honestly those overnighters suck with or without the wine for me.

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Well that’s all I’ve got for this post.  Only one more and I will be all caught up on my recap!

Until then,

Kimberly

P.S. Google Photos Albums:

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Chile: Copiapo, Huasco, Bahia Inglesia, and Desierto Florido

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