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San Pedro and the Atacama Desert April 23, 2007

Posted by Jason in Chile, culture, South America.
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The last couple of days have been a delight in one of the most hostile environments on the planet.

We finally left Argentina and headed back into Chile for the last time.  This time to see the Atacama Desert

San Pedro De Atacama      Pre Inca site outside of San Pedro      Pre Inca ruins outside of San Pedro

Parts of this desert are the dryest on earth with rain only occurring every 40 years or so!! Luckily, we were stopping for a few nights at an oasis called San Pedro de Atacama.

We arrived after the usual nonsence at the border, having to open up our bags to be searched but not really searching them!  A jobsworth award for somebody.  The journey had been eventful too with a blow out on the Altiplano plateau at 4,500m.  All good fun!

San Pedro we soon discovered is quite beautiful.  Narrow dirt streets with white washed buildings.  Plenty of Cafes and restaurants and ethnic music to listen to.  A great place to hang out.

The first night we went to the local observatory, “Observacion Del Cielo Austral”.    Where at 10pm they picked us up to be taken to a nearby area in the desert where they have 5 powerful telescopes observing the sky.

Here in the Atatacam desert is one of the best places in the world to observe the stars.  Mainly clear skies all year around. 

This was excellent, 3 hours of entertainment from the french scientist who runs the observatory.  I now actually know how to pick out some of the constellations (click on the link constellations for more info!).

The next day we hired mountain bikes and rode out to some pre inca ruins, firstly a Pukara on a hill near to San Pedro called Pukara de Quitor (Hill fort of Quitor) and then to a site with round mud adobe houses only excavated a few years ago called Tulor 800BC.  Very interesting sites.

Cheryl above Death Valley!

Later in the day we took a tour of the Death and Moon Valleys and watched the sun set over the moon valley.  Quite beautiful.

Sadly, we would have liked to have chilled out here a while, but another night bus awaited us to take us to Arica.

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