Tuesday, April 21, 2015

San Pedro de Atacama

I had been to San Pedro de Atacama once before for a nights stopover but the place left a lasting impression on me. I was determined to visit it again given a chance so this time I spent four days here. Atacama is an adobe town with dusty streets and has been here since at least the 15th century when the Inca's conquered it. The Spaniards took over from the Inca in 1545 and not long after that San Pedro de Atacama became a government seat. The town should really have died with time but the tourists found it and now it is a bustling centre once more.
The first day I just wandering around the streets and the remaining days visiting some of the must-see sights.  The following day it was a 4.30 am rise and a one and a half hour trip in the pitch black out to Geysers del Taito, the third largest geyser field in the world. In the pre-dawn light and at 4,400 metres we were greeted with a plateau of steaming vents  The temp was -4 so the steam showed up very well. None of the vents were gushers but it was pretty impressive none the less. We had breakfast on sight just as the sun rose over the Andes. Later the hardy ones went for a swim in a hot pool.
Next day was a full day trip starting with the flamingos on Laguna Chaxa in the Salar de Atacama on hwy CH23 which heads to Paso Pico, the alternate pass to get from Salta to Atacama. We were first at the flamingos so got a good showing before the noisy tourists scared them away. Breakfast on site again. From here we went further towards the Argentinian border to a couple of uninteresting lakes (Miscanti and Miniques) and had lunch at the second. The journey around the mountains was a great drive. On the way back to town we stopped at the village of Toconao. The inhabitants grow a variety of crops in a canyon which has a water source. I gather the recent heavy rain in the area flooded the canyon and destroyed much of the crops, trees, buildings etc. Also on the way home we had a close encounter with Vicuna and later a fox which was wandering along the roadside.
The final day was a trip out to the Sala de Tara and its amazing rock columns. The drive out took me back along the route I used to come in to Atacama but this time it was without the snow. This was an excellent trip into the desert of the altiplanico.
I would like to have stayed longer in Atacama. Close by is the worlds largest copper mine, there is a space observatory and finally the night sky experience which I gather is quite something but I must go.

Valley of the Moon

Taito geyser field

Sunrise over the Andes and Taito geysers.

Hot pool at 4,400 metres

Coots in the desert. It's not all dry.


Flamingos at Laguna Chaxa

The Andean flamingo

More flamingos. Laguna Chaxa

These paths help preserve the desert floor.

Our guides prepare lunch.

Our little fox developing his winter coat.

These ducks were sitting on frozen water.

Sala de Tara and its amazing rock formations.

Monkey rock Sala de Tara

Altiplano lake

Backyard of the hostel


Compass Adjuster NZ said...

I'm enjoying your trip reports Don. Ride to Hokitika and back doesn't quite seem as adventurous. Happy trails.

Roger Arnold said...

Great Don great

Roger Arnold said...

Great Don great