Tips & Tricks to help you plan your next adventure
The tour company picked us up at 4pm after our morning thermal pools quest for our trip to Valle de La Luna. The trip to the valley national park took only 10 minutes from town. We stopped to pay our entrance fees and jumped back on the bus to head into the park. The first thing that came to mind was “I can see why they call this place Valle de la Luna”, which means Moon Valley in Spanish.
We drove 15 minutes into the park past some seriously freaky and barren landscape before first stopping at some ancient eerie looking rock formations surrounded by sand. Around the time we got off the bus the wind started absolutely howling so it was pretty interesting taking photos of each other whilst trying not to be blown over, oh and as well laughing at people chasing their hats in the wind.
We jumped back on the bus and stopped again at the bottom of a sand dune pushed up against a cliff. Here we got to walk up and around this huge dune and across the top of a ridge that had the most amazing lookout over more lunar landscape and the huge Chilean Salt flats in the background. Basically trying to describe what the views were like here and how amazing these places are is well beyond the stretch of my vocabulary, so I’m just going to let the pictures talk for themselves. On the way back down though the wind really whipped up and I think we all lost about 3 layers of skin due to all the sand and small rocks flying around.
Back relatively safely on the bus and down the road towards “Valle de la Muerte” or "Death Valley" for the gringos. All of these scary, inhospitable and amazing places in the Atacama Desert are largely due to this being one of the driest regions in the entire world. On average, San Pedro de Atacama rains only 3 days a year. The last time it rained was in June 2014, a storm that lasted only 2 hours, however several roads were washed away as a result, cutting the town off from the rest of Chile for an entire week!
Anyway, as we headed to Death Valley, it started raining. It wasn’t super heavy, but the lightening storm accompanied was absolutely amazing and our tour guide lost a $20 bet. This storm luckily enough wasn’t long lasting and that wind I mentioned before managed to blow the clouds away in about 15 minutes. Still, absolutely amazing. Our guide told us that “Valle de la Muerte” (Valley of Death) was actually originally meant to be named “Valle de la Marte” (Valley of Mars), however because the guy who found and named it was French the spanish speakers misunderstood Marte for Muerte. I guess either could be accurate due to the dry red rocks and clay everywhere. We also saw a road that had been washed away in that same short storm in June 2014.
Back on the bus and on to the edge of a canyon looking over valleys and distant mountains for an amazing sunset. So many amazing sights here, again I’m just going to let the photos speak for themselves.
Next stop is a 3 day, 2 night tour to Bolivia and Salar de Uyuni, as long as it isn't cancelled due to the rain!
We awoke Sunday morning at 4am for our Geyser tour and dressed in warm clothes (we were warned it could be chilly at the geysers) and waited for our tour bus. Upon pick up it was an hour and a half drive to the geysers so we all slept on the bus.
We arrived at the Geysers and unloaded from the tour bus. It was F@%$ing FREEZING! I’m not talking "freezing” meaning a mere 10 degrees for us Sydney siders, I’m talking much, much closer to 0!
We explored the geysers for close to an hour, had a quick coffee and cake breakfast and then headed to some thermal pools nearby.
Upon reaching the pools we stripped off and chucked on our swimmers and got in as quick as we could. The water was warm, however nowhere near hot… so for me it was a very quick 2 minutes in and out. Nonetheless it was an amazing backdrop, sitting in a thermal pool looking out at the Andes.
Next stop on the tour was to a local village, Machuca, home to only 10 families.
In the village we had a wander around, visited the local church and took some pictures. We even bought a couple of llama meat skewers! The boys loved the meat, however I was not a fan… But I’m still glad I gave it a try.
After the tour we headed home for some much needed rest before setting out again that afternoon for our next tour, Valle de la Luna.
Crossing the border at 4320m!
Our trip to San Pedro begun with a 10 hour bus from Salta, in which we had to stop at the border to get the appropriate stamps from both Argentinean and Chilean officials.
The border crossing was located at Paso de Jama, at an altitude of 4320 metres. This was the highest we had gone BY FAR on our entire trip thus far. We were expecting to feel really crappy as we had heard bad, bad things about altitude sickness, especially when ascending quickly, however we all felt fine, besides some slight initial dizziness and tingling in our fingertips we were all good!
The location of this crossing was awesome, and far different to some of the dodgy and dismal border crossings we’ve done in the past. Sean even skated between Argentina and Chile.
Upon arrival in San Pedro de Atacama it was almost 40 degrees. All of us carrying our bags and wearing long pants for warmth in the bus were sweltering and could not wait to find our hostel. After wandering around for a little bit we finally found it, and put down our bags. It felt fantastic.
That arvo we booked 2 tours for the next day, Tatio Geysers for the morning and Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) for the afternoon/evening. We also had a walk around the small town, a super early dinner and attempted to go to bed early (very difficult in a hostel).
On wednesday we ventured to Valparaiso, a coastal city roughly 2 hours from Santiago. We hopped on the local Metro and caught 2 trains to the bus depot on the outskirts of town before getting a bus to Valpo. We were staying at Nomada Hostal, a groovy old house turned into a hostel.
Upon arriving in Valpo we dropped our stuff at our hostel and rushed to do the Valpo TOURS 4 TIPS, leaving that afternoon.
Valpo is very well known for its street art, and if you’ve looked at any of our photos you’ll see why… it’s insane!!! It is absolutely everywhere ranging from a tiny graffiti tag to a 50m tall building design. It’s beautiful.
It is also very unique due to it cerro’s, or in english, hills. The town is built into the hills and resultantly it is a labyrinth of amazing bars, cafes and restaurants hidden amongst tiny art stained alleyways and colourful staircases. Each cerro is basically a different neighbourhood and has it’s own little tight knit community.
Our tour guides were Priscilla and Andrea. Again we were blown away by the local culture and stories behind how all these people and places came to be the way they are today.
Again on our tour we were given a drink and a snack. The snack was an afogato, a DELICIOUS handmade chocolate biscuit with caramel in the middle, and the drink was a cocktail of some sweet juice and a local chilean chicha. This drink was another goon derivative, but again, absolutely free.
That night we went to dinner and the boys got a churillana, basically a heart attack on a plate. After dinner we went to the local micro brewery, Altimata and had a taste of what they had to offer.
The next day in the morning we went back to the hill’s to have another look before heading off to Vina Del Mar in the afternoon for a swim. Chile by name and nature. Vina del Mar is a "beach resort" town next door to Valpo but to me was not nearly as special, it felt a little bit more gold coast, with huge high-rise hotels on the beach. However that being said we were only there for 2 hours and I don’t want to judge a book by its cover.
That evening we walked a fair way into the hills to a restaurant called La Coco Sanguicheria, that served delicious sandwiches along with some cracking chilean wine. It was super yum and after dinner we headed back down the hill for a little more exploring.
The next day we rushed back to Santiago in the morning so that we could do the afternoon TOURS 4 TIPS city tour, this time covering the “city” sights in and around the main CBD.
The tour was run by Antonia, a local Chilean who knew the town inside out. You could tell she really loved her city and was very enthusiastic about showing foreigners all there is to love about Chile.
Again the tour was culturally and intellectually enlightening and ended with a free cocktail. This time the drink was delicious and slightly like a sangria. It was called borgonha.
That night we had too many drinks at the hostel with our room mates and fellow hostel stayers, went on a pub crawl and didn’t get any sleep.
Needless to say we packed our belongings whilst drunk at 5am and somehow managed to get ourselves to the airport and on the plane to Rio. The flight was a bloody nightmare.
Until next time Chile….
Next stop…. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
NB: Recipe for Borgonha, so so delicious.
1 garrafa de vinho tinto (1 litro)
1 xícara de açúcar
½ kg de morangos frescos
Modo de fazer:
Misturar tudo 6 horas antes de ser servido - servir bem gelado e com uma pedra de gelo.
I.e. Sugar, red wine and strawberries and serve chilled. Enjoy!
Whoever said that "getting there is half the fun" must have surely never endured a long distance flight in their life. Or at least never in economy.
But anyway, I'm writing this at around 3am in our hostel in Santiago, Chile, at the end of possibly the longest day of our lives. Bec, myself and our friends Sammy and Rach left Sydney at midday and travelled backwards 14 hours worth of time zones in 12.5 hours. Hence not being able to resist falling asleep at 5pm local time and being wide awake now with not much else to do.
We had an awesome first afternoon in Santiago walking around and exploring the downtown neighbourhood of Bellas Artes where our hostel is, however we all resembled complete zombies as a result of our 30 odd straight hours of being awake.
Which brings me back to my first point, the pros and cons of flying.
Okay so from this list there are obviously more cons... however the one and only pro OVERWHELMINGLY outweighs all of these terrible, terrible cons (did someone say first world problems?)
Well I'm giving up now and going to try to sleep some more.
Tomorrow entails a walking tour of Santiago and more exploring!
Oh and if anyone has any hints about how you can sleep/make flying more comfortable whether it is some magic ratio of grog and sleeping pills or some kind of yoga position to practice fitting into plane seats, please let us know!
Ps. Thank you so much to the Qantas flight crew for making our trip as comfortable as possible! You guys were awesome and made our trip so much more enjoyable (despite my whinging).
Into The Unknown….. Santiago
As Sean said in his earlier post, flying is a bitch.
Tuesday morning we woke in our hostel, Andes Hostel at 4am and could not for the life of us get back to sleep (remember this was 6pm Sydney time…). Breakfast wasn’t until 7:30 thus we lurked around our hostel and tried not to wake our new German room mates, Mario and Patti.
On our first whole day in Santiago, we started with a free city tour, run by a company called TOURS 4 TIPS.
As the name of the company suggests the price you pay for the tour is entirely up to you depending on what you think of it. I.e. if you were a total dick head you could do the whole 3-4 hour tour, get the free snack and free alcoholic beverage at the end and then decided to not pay... But like I said, that would make you a dick head.
Our first tour was run by Jose Miguel, and boy did he know his city. This was the “Off the beaten path” tour of Santiago and included stops at the local fish, butchers and fruit & vegetable markets as well as the local cemetery.
The tour included heaps of information on modern life, as well as Chile’s history, the good and the bad. If you want to know more about Chile’s political history google Salvador Allende, it’s one hell of a tale, but Wikipedia can probably tell it better than me.
During the tour we also got a free snack called a sopapilla, a delicious pumpkin bread with chile sauce and a free Terremoto cocktail, which tasted like goon... but hey, it was free.
In Chile terremoto means earthquake, and since Chile is THE MOST seismically active country on the planet it is a VERY relevant drink, and apparently very popular.
After the tour we had our own explore around the city and went to a local cafe for coffee in the afternoon to fight jet lag. That night we had dinner at a Peruvian restaurant, boy were the menus hard to decode, who knew champion meant mushrooms in Spanish?
Next stop… Valparaiso!
An Aussie who loves travelling, hiking, trail running and pretty much any activity you can do outdoors.