Thursday, August 6, 2009

Adv #7 Continued: Finally....making it to the famous San Pedro de Atacama

Okay, the last posting finished with me rolling into the beautiful area of San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile. Life has been extremely busy since then, and the reasons for that will be evident as I explain what’s going on (I finally have a job!)

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.

The next day, I had time to myself to check out the Aldea Tulor Ruins that were only discovered about 60 years ago, having been buried in sand for about 3000 years. After that, I went to the famous Valle de Luna (Moon Valley) named appropriately, cause it really does make you think you’re on the moon. Not a minute after entering the park, you start to see these sand dunes and textures and colors that really do resemble the moon. (Not that I’ve been there. Yet.) Everywhere you go though in this National Park, there’s beautiful scenery and sites that I just couldn’t seem to capture perfectly on camera. To compliment the colors and rock formations on the ground is the most blue sky I have ever seen in my life! Again with the camera, trying to capture that color….it’s just something you have to see in person. I almost killed the battery on my motorcycle cause I was stopping and starting every 200 yards to take another photo!
(Yea, these mine fields are no big deal. If you ride your motorcycle fast enough, the mines can't explode fast enough to bother you It works......Julius is so fast : )

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!

Funny how the combination of a digital camera and a moon-rise like this can have you firing off so many pics. I bet I took about 30 pictures.....finally settling on these few...

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.
El Tatio Geysers are supposed to be an amazing site about 100km north of San Pedro, and most tourists there are getting into jeeps at 4 am to see the geysers in the morning light when they are at their peak eruption. Well, San Pedro is one extremely cold place (-8 Celsius overnight when I was there) so I decided to wait till mid-day and go with my motorcycle in the warmer weather. Okay, I messed that up, not realizing that the geysers are only really productive in the morning, but look at the scenery along the way on the ride there!
Alright, Jim C....what kind of a cloud is that?

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's really something up there.

The colors......the natural colors in this landscape are incredible! The ride to the geysers hugs the Bolivian border the whole way, and it's hard NOT to stop and take pictures every few hundred yards.

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.
(Seriously, does the picture below help capture how blue that sky is in San Pedro? It's a good picture.....but still, not even close to the real thing.)

I hadn’t been on a snowboard since I toured the Alps in 2003, so it was quite a rush to finally feel that again. Okay, sandboarding is actually much slower than actual snowboarding, despite the heavy amount of candle wax we were instructed to apply. Point straight down the hill though, and you can get moving pretty fast. Of course at this elevation, we each only managed the climb to the top a few times following a pretty significant bike/hike to get there. (No oxygen, no chairlifts… way!)

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….

I'll explain more about the job situation in the coming's pretty cool though..... : )


  1. Great pics E, man that sky is amazing. Congrats on the new Job - look forward to hearing more about it!


  2. YAY! I had a great time sandboarding with you!! wish we couldve hung out more. i'm sure we'll meet again!

  3. PS - youre pictures ROCCCKKKKKKK

  4. Great Blog buddy, the pics are really good. Look forward to working together.