My time here in San Pedro as shown in these pictures below was just entirely for my own experience and exploration. San Pedro itself is just a tiny community of about 2000 people, but it’s a real hotspot for tourism as the scenery surrounding is just incredible. Here in the Atacama Desert at an elevation of 8000 feet, the desert known as the driest place in the world, some amazing geological phenomenon all come together to form this amazing landscape.
Just after having chosen a hostal to stay at, a guy named Orlando (from Rio de Janiero) and his friends asked if I wanted to join for a horseback ride for the afternoon. I guess I hadn’t been on a horse since the beaches of Oregon, about 1 year earlier?
The scenery we saw headed out through valleys in the area was fantastic, as shown in the pics. It’s so funny though, the differences between the U.S. and Latin America when it comes to physical activities and adventures with tourism companies. In the U.S., of course there’s paperwork to sign, questions to answer, probably a brief overview on what you should know. Here in Chile? The guide asks “have you ridden before?” Everybody nods “yes,” and we’re off and riding, just like that. No paperwork. No preparation. And the terrain they took us on was quite extreme considering we might have all been liars with friends that are lawyers......ha, ha. I couldn’t manage the camera and the horse at all times, because the terrain was so difficult. Couple of the photos show the trail we took, and how much of a test it was.
As I had been told, tourists show up by the dozens to watch the sunset from one particular dune. Here in the driest desert in the world, beneath what must be the clearest sky in the world, the best part of the sunset was actually turning around and watching that full moon rise behind us. So crisp and so clear….ya gotta go to San Pedro!
A few weeks of speaking only Spanish was finally broken up when I had the chance to meet Woody, Grace, and Adam, all from those beautiful United States of America! Seriously, I have not met many Americans on my trip, so when I get to speak English as such, it can be a real relief. Woody had ridden his KTM Super Enduro all the way from Grand Marais, Minnesota, and Grace and Adam….riding 2-up on a Kawasaki KLR 650, rode all the way from the Seattle area. They had all met on the boat crossing from Panama to Columbia, and then over the course of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, just coincidentally crossed paths again. Dinner out was a treat with my fellow Americans, and it’s too bad they all had to head south to Buenos Aires quickly for other commitments.
The awful dirt road quickly shoots up from about 8000 feet to 15,000, and still in this amazingly cold and dry place, I passed a couple of frozen ponds with some of the natives out trying to feed (I think?) The colors in this rugged, totally natural terrain are amazing. The word "raw" comes to mind when I see the landscape. Completely untouched terrain, no signs anywhere....barely a dirt road, and no pavement......it's really something up there.
So the next day, Divina from England invited me to join her and Kari from Philadelphia (another American, finally?) for a first-time adventure of sandboarding. This opportunity had caught my eye a couple of times since arriving in Chile, but somehow it never worked out before this. Divina had found a good deal for us to rent bikes, and carry the boards on our backs about 5 miles to the designated boarding area.
So I finished my time in San Pedro by quickly seeing the Quitor ruins as I was leaving town. (They are the remains of what was essentially a fortress protecting the community long ago.) Aside from wanting to get out of the extremely cold weather every night, San Pedro is also a very expensive place to hang out. Add to that the fact that I needed to meet up with Daniel, the owner of Moto Rider in Calama, and my time in San Pedro was finished! Well, for now….