Zoe and Dan's South American Adventures: Voodoo Chile

Category: Other stuff
Date: 16 January 2004


hola from Chile

Greetings from the desert where we are sizzling away in a town called San Pedro de Atacama.

Sad to leave Bolivia which has been amazing; a country without health and safety regulations, amazing scenery, surprisingly accommodating as regards (veggie) food, and friendly hoteliers.

We arrived here after the most amazing three days. We left Uyuni in Bolivia on Monday morning and then spent three days in a jeep. Day one: the world's biggest salt lake. Difficult to imagine if you've never seen one, but when the blue sky and clouds were reflected in the saline/wet surface of the lake, it felt as if we were flying through sky rather than driving on (semi) solid land. Stayed in a hotel almost entirely made of salt - even the bases of the beds. Surprisingly luxurious and fortunately it didn't rain! Unfortunately no chips or vinegar on offer to go with said salt. Day two: mountain after snow capped mountain as the Andes met the desert. Some hairy moments in the jeep. Flamingo-filled lagoons at high altitudes (about 5000 metres). Zoe had to wear her ridiculous new Spin Doctors style hat with ear flaps and a llama design. Day 3: up at 4.30 to see the sun rise, then visits to more lakes, views of more mountains, the desert proper, and spurting geysers. Crossed the border into Chile around lunchtime.

Backtracking a bit, our final highlights of Bolivia were:

Silver mine in Potosi. Got to wear miners' clothing (including hard hat with davey lamp) and spent several hours underground crawling through hot, cramped, damp tunnels. Very humbling to learn about the way miners work, the risks they take and their low life expectancies. Makes you wonder where the silver you wear comes from. Dan got to drink pure alcohol (96%) proof with the miners - when you're likely to die at 45 you're not likely to worry about alcoholism.

Sucre, Bolivia's "second" capital city due to the fact that its supreme court is there (these lawyers eh, getting an overinflated sense of their own importance). A lovely colonial city where all the old buildings are painted white. We did four mornings of Spanish lessons, but reached information overload! Also went to see some dinosaur tracks which were discovered in a local cement works - no disney style production here - just a sandpit full of plastic dinosaur toys! It awaits Spielbergisation.

We like it here (in Chile) but are shocked at how expensive it is after Bolivia (miserable tourists that we are). Hotel costs have gone up from about $5 per night for a decent room, to about $20. Have also started self catering - all recipe ideas appreciated as we've forgotten what we usually cook! However, why shouldn't people make a decent living out of tourism? Also this is supposed to be the most expensive town in Chile so as long as we keep reminding ourselves of prices at home it's okay. Please keep the pound high in our absence!! Some things are cheap - most importantly Chilean wine - which we have of course already sampled ($1.50 per litre and it's nice!!). Spent yesterday evening on a tour of the local lunar style landscapes and climbed a giant sand dune.

Tonight we catch a bus to La Serena - down on the Chilean coast between here and Santiago - where we're hoping to top-up our sunburn!