Four nights in the desert

I can see how Jesus spent so long in the desert that time. There is so much to see, and He didn’t have a driver to get places quickly. Or even one of these guys:

Llama eating a sweet algarrobo pod

On our way from Calama airport to San Pedro de Atacama we saw solar- and wind-farms, but apparently there is still a big reliance on diesel generators everywhere. Seems such a shame given the 300-days-per-year of clear skies and wide-open-and-windy plains.

Clear skies and windy plains outside Calama

We paid a considerable amount of money to stay at Alto Atacama lodge with full board — three meals and two tours per day, plus snacks and drinks. I balked at the expense but it turned out to be an amazing investment. There were only a handful of guests, being weeknights during the slower season, and we were the only English-speaking guests, so we ended up having private tours the entire time.

(Not our tour vehicle)

Alto Atacama did a great job of scheduling our tours to avoid the crowds. As a result we had places like Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) and Geysers del Tatio (Tatio Geysers) to ourselves.

Salar de Atacama | Atacama Salt Flats

Along the way we adopted a llama as our mascot: Kimal, named for one of the volcanoes in the Domeyko mountain range.

Kimal atop salt rocks at Valle de la Luna

On day 3 we headed up to a higher altitude: 4,300m. And a swim in the highest geysers in the world. It was warmer than our quick dip in Iceland, and you could feel the heat in the rocks and sand at the bottom of the pool. I came out of the water a little lightheaded, then felt nauseated and apparently went a bit yellow-and-purple until we got back down to San Pedro’s 2,400m. Unpleasant, and I almost missed out on eating llama as a result (sorry Kimal!).

The hotel had a special astronomy section built up the hill and away from the hotel lights. Thanks to a great astronomy guide and a big telescope we saw Saturn, and lots and lots of stars.

The people of San Pedro have a strong connection to the original people of the area, the Licanantai. Unfortunately almost every story ended with the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s. So much culture lost to conquerors, and so many parallels to Australian history.

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