San Pedro de Atacama: Where the sun has no mercy

We took a bus from La Serena to San Pedro with Copiapo as a one night stop over. Six hours on the first leg and 13 on the second. It was worth it though, San Pedro is a pretty cool place.

San Pedro is situated in one of the driest places on earth, the Atacama desert. On average it rains five days a year but it hasn’t rained here for 5 years. The only reason that anyone can live in such a desert is the rivers that flow down from the surrounding mountains, making San Pedro an oasis of sorts.

A hill leading down to the river from the desert. HatHelmet is patent pending so no stealing our idea!
San Pedro at sunset
San Pedro at sunset
A main street in San Pedro

We did a lot of riding in San Pedro as many of the sites were in riding distance and the bike hire was reasonable. It wasn’t quite as leisurely as the bike hire people made out. We had to cross numerous (shallow) rivers, there was deep sand to snag your tyres and rough roads with bumps and huge holes. The sun was also relentless, we put sunscreen on every few hours but not even the HatHelmet ™ could save us from getting a bit burnt.

Our bikes
So hot!
The desert around San Pedro

A short ride away from San Pedro is a place called Pukara de Quitor which has some ruins of an ancient Incan city and walk up a big hill which has a christian monument of a crucifix (naturally) and a great view.

A view of a volcano from a monument near Incan ruins
Incan ruins at Pukara de Quitor

The only tour we did in San Pedro was to see the Geysers higher up in the mountains. San Pedro is at an altitude of about 2000m but the geysers are at 4000m so instead of being ridiculously hot, we were ridiculously cold (-8 degrees when we got there). You have to get up about 4:30 in the morning and take a two hour bus ride but it was worth it. You have to get up so early because the temperature differential between the boiling geysers and the freezing morning makes the steam clouds. We got to swim in a pool formed by the outflow of a geyser but it was still pretty cold unless you were right next to the outflow where everyone was huddling.

Smouldering at sunrise
Next to a geyser


So cold!!!!

After breakfast the sun started warming everything up and we got to see some local wildlife on the way down the mountain.

A panorama of the wetland areas
Llama on da hill
Ol’ caccy was deffers a hoot

The Cat

Our hostel is made up of outside mud cabins, which is nice, and they have a communal cat, which was initially nice…until it became clear that it was an EVIL CAT.



It is determined to sneak into our room. If the door is left slightly ajar, it will sneak in. If the door is closed it will pry it open. If you are going to the toilet it will somehow predict that  you were about to go, wait behind the shower curtain and pounce at you when you enter and lock the door.

It’s mostly friendly, if not pushy about being patted. It lets you pick it up but IT KNOWS if you are picking it up to get it out of your room. We have scratches to prove! Deep scratches!

This is our last post from Chile as we are getting a 3 day tour into Bolivia so the next post will be from there. Well actually we wrote this post at the same time as the last post and sneakily set it to post in the future automatically so we will probably actually be on the aforementioned tour at the time this is posted.


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