San Pedro first day

Note this post covers the 11th – 12th of Feb

Bus Journey

Because of the flooding and landslides in Peru that happened a couple of weeks or so before we were supposed to go up to Maccu Piccu, that part of our planned trip had to be cancelled. Instead, Fran and I figured we could visit some parts of Chile we hadn’t been to. The advice given was to visit the desert in the north, by going to this small town called San Pedro de Atacama.

After looking into flights, we decided that we would take the bus up to San Pedro (and the plane back to Santiago) because they were so expensive.

The bus ride up to San Pedro takes about 17 or 18 hours in total to do, which is about 1,100km non-stop. We’d booked ourselves onto an overnight “Salon Cama” bus, which is a two level job, with wide seats that fold down almost completely horizontally, the idea being that you can sleep comfortably on them if you want.

My issue was, I have incredible trouble sleeping in moving vehicles – this applies seemingly to buses, cars, airplanes, boats, everything. So while Fran managed to sleep a good portion of the night only slept maybe 2 hours if that. By about hour number 15, I was incredibly over it, and because of the fact that if we stopped somewhere, it was only for a few minutes, it was quite hard to work out where we were at any given time, and how far away from where we were going. The bus had a toilet on board, and my nightmares will be haunted by it for quite some time to come.

San Pedro

San Pedro de Atacama

Finally arrive in San Pedro in the morning, but with no indication at all where the hotel was. Google maps failed us on this one – it had only shown San Pedro as having two streets, and clearly there were more than that.

After doing a quick scout around, and worked out the street and some street numbers and fully laden with bags, we start walking in what we thought was the right direction to the hotel, in the searing heat. It doesn’t take too long to for us to pass the boundary of town, and basically we’re heading out into the desert. Eventually we get tired (and more than a little suspicious of our progress), and flag down (one of the two in town) a taxi that was passing us. He tells us our hotel is in the opposite direction to where we are heading, and he takes us there.

Church, built circa 1641

We check in, and wander into town. The plaza is really nice, and there’s this awesome little old church, which apparently whose first recorded congregation was in 1650 something. It was full of very old and cute paintings and statues. I liked this one much better than the grandiosity of Coquimbo.

We had an incredible lunch at a cafe in town, both amazing Salmon dishes, and some drinks and dessert. We wander around some more, and eventually book some tours for the next day. Because we mis-calculated, we realised we only really had one day and evening to do anything in San Pedro before we had to leave, so we filled it chock full of activity. It’s was going to be a very very busy time. Since the first tour was starting at 4am, and was going to be right up in the Andes at very high altitude, we went to the markets to I could get a warm sweater, and Fran could get some sunglasses. Utterly knackered by this stage, we head back to the hotel and off to bed.