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.
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!
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!
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’!