Recuperation and Readjustment

Date: 19th October – 25th October 2012

Where: San Pedro de Atacama (Chile) – Salta (Argentina) – Cachi

Distance: 5914 to 5914 miles

San Pedro de Atacama was a weird place. In the hostal, we could spend hours over a fruit-filled breakfast browsing the internet, in a tranquil setting of flowering hollyhocks. Outside, on the other hand, the people of the town seemed to be acutely aware that the only people who came here, were only here to spend money. Rude doesn’t even come close to some of the behaviour we saw. We were glad each time we made it back safely to our little sanctuary without having to interact too much with them.

On the evening of our first day we made it out to the Valle de la Luna on our bikes with Jörn. Purportedly, ‘one of the best sunsets in the World’, it was a little lame frankly, but the scenery of salt and sand made for some nice photos. As the sunset got good, we experienced our first taste of developed countryism. There has to be a law for bloody everything. ‘It is 8pm’, the lady said, ‘visitors have to leave now’, as she ushered us out of the park.

Visiting the Valle de Luna, we try to find some amusing camera angles with Jörn

At times the scenery resembled something otherworldly

Sarah tastes the goodness of the salt canyon

From the popular sunset viewing point we could see a huge sand dune

Looking towards Bolivia with the salt mountains in the foreground

Looking towards Bolivia as the sun set. You can see the 2000m downhill on the right, which we did two days previously

Relaxing at last

The rest of our time spent in San Pedro was all about recuperating and awaiting a visit to the largest opencast mine in the World. It was due to be on Monday, Geoff’s 31st Birthday, and really the only things we seemed to do in the preceding two days were to make a meal which Sarah had been dreaming about making ever since we started the Lagunas route, and go out for a spot of star-gazing. The Chicken Cacciatori was absolutely amazing, but unfortunately the star-gazing was a little under-whelming. The Atacama desert is one of the clearest places to see the stars and galaxies up there in the sky, but when there is a half-moon you can’t see much. The presentation was interesting enough and the hot chocolate fabulous, but when we looked through all the telescopes they had rigged up all we really seemed to see were the stars, but maybe a little closer. To be fair we saw a few vague colours, but not the red and green clusters we’d expected from the posters in the office in San Pedro. We’re glad we went though, and it was an excuse not to go to bed early. At midnight, the apple Birthday pie was duly presented and devoured…one year older. This year has flown by!

The thought which helped Sarah over all those passes, and in San Pedro, became a reality: Chicken Cacciatori!

The moon through a telescope, 2hrs before Geoff’s birthday

Marge Simpson enjoys her apple pie and rather over-sized candle as the clock strikes midnight

Early the next morning we catch the bus to Calama for the mine tour. Luckily Calama is down-to-Earth and friendly. It seems not all Chileans are going to be as rude as those in San Pedro. We find Jörn and he treats Geoff to an enormous apple Birthday pie which we then have to carry around all day, eating chunks as we go. The mine tour is not terribly interesting, but the mine itself is a sight to behold. Enormous doesn’t do it justice, and so crazily dangerous! Most of the miner’s work seems to be reinforcing the sides of the big hole. Apparently now they’ve started tunnelling as it is much safer. The hole is already 1Snwdn deep and they project there is copper for another km…that would be a very deep hole!

Another day, another apple pie! This one was huge though! Waiting for the mine visit in Calama

The Chuqicamata mine: TL: spoil heaps make mountains out of a flat landscape, TR: the mine itself, BL: the mine logo, BR: the two types of raw copper dug out of the ground

The huge trucks are dwarfed by the artificial landscape which is constantly being repaired from landslides

The happy Birthday boy and his girl

Over the course of the trip Geoff has developed his sewing skills…

The next day we board a bus for the Argentinan City of Salta. We would have loved to do the spectacular Paso Sico, but for the first time on this trip we have a deadline to keep! Blimey, this means planning! Sarah’s Dad, Stavros, is meeting us in Santiago on the 15th November, about 3 and a half weeks from when we left San Pedro! We decide to spend time on the famous Ruta 40 in Argentina rather than do another 4000+m pass (we’re also still knackered from Bolivia!).

Salta is beautiful and better than San pedro de Atacama on every level, and for the first time Geoff found himself regretting something on this trip.We wish we’d come here sooner. Everything we need to do is a short walk from the main plaza, giving us time to sit and relax with beer and ice cream as we go about our tasks. We change chains on the bikes again, fix Geoff’s pannier, get our hair cut, the list goes on. We leave the next day though, taking the bus again up and over to Cachi. Here we are amazed to find a campsite. It turns out that all these little towns in Northern Argentina have municipal campsites like France. What is more they all have BBQs…that means we are simply going to have to buy some BEEF, mmmm!

The following morning, we don’t buy beef, but a tent. Our tent did not cope too well with Bolivia, and a new tent will now be arriving in Santiago with Stavros, fingers crossed. On leaving the internet café we find another cycle tourer relaxing in the park: Pietro from Switerland, and we quickly agree to ride off together down Ruta 40 which goes all the way to Ushuaia, ‘el fin del mundo’!

Another page filled in the Passport! On the way to Argentina

The downhill we missed out on, tailwind all the way too!

Trying to find hairs on Geoff’s camera lens

Haircut time again

Salta plaza, always buzzing, we liked this City

Salta beer, mmm, a treat every now and then is good for the soul!

Albondigas: Meatballs and mashed potato. We think we may be in for a culinary treat in Argentina

Cycling to the bus station under beautiful purple-flowered trees

Another chapter begins as we meet Pietro in Cachi’s plaza

2 responses to “Recuperation and Readjustment”

  1. Jean-Baptiste says :

    Hi Geoff and Sarah.
    Estoy en Salta desde anteayer. Voy a quedarme unos dias antes de seguir por Mendoza.
    hasta ahora, todo va bien. Solo Bolivia fue muy duro.
    Tal vez nos vemos por el camino.

    Saludo

    Jean-Baptiste (ciclista frances/canadiense)

    • Geoff says :

      Hi Jean-Baptiste,
      Great to hear from you, Salta is a fantastic place. We wish we´d stayed there for longer and less in San Pedro. We now bus around Santiago and surrounding area for a month with Sarah´s Dad, so let us know when you reach Santiago and we may be nearby! Every small town South of you seems to have a small municipal campsite, asado grill and carniceria, plus cheap good wine! Have fun!
      Geoff y Sarah

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