Anthony on the Gringo Trail 2005 travel blog

Geysers and fumaroles, etc

Bubbling and very smelly mud pots

More volcanic stuff

The Dali Desert - the rock columns are big

Typical scenery round here

The stunning reflections in Laguna Verde

Me at Laguna Verde

The end of the road for our group

Take off in the Atacama Desert

Me and board and bike in Death Valley

Central square, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

An even worse nights sleep due to the other two blokes' snoring, awake since 2. Up at 5 anyway for an early start in the perishing cold. Off we all go to visit some geysers and fumaroles, etc at 5,000 ms. I am feeling really fit with this altitude and really wish I could just go straight to another go at Cotopaxi, which I am sure I could do now, having spent three quarters of the last two months above 3,500 metres. Very colourful, interesting and dramatic all this volcanic stuff is, very like Iceland, though perhaps a lot angrier sounding. All quite atmospheric and smelly. We also had a little paddle in a hot pool surrounded by ice on the edge of a high lake, very refreshing, considering none of us had been able to wash at all. And finally the magnificent reflections of Laguna Verde, awesome, quite blew my mind. And then by 10 am, at Laguna Blanca, our trip was finished. Sad partings with the Spanish, who were going back to Uyuni, and then along with three other small buses of dirty and tired 4WD passengers, we all head for Chile.

First proper attention at a border crossing, and then we role into the small oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama, here in the very hot and dry, but only 2800 metres Atacama Desert. First impressions are that it is a real travellers town, high hippy percentage too. Also much more expensive than we are all used to, nearly European prices. Steffan heads off to the nearest town big enough to have a proper hospital in order to have his flesh eating worms looked at, and Christine, Rikke and I continue the dorm thing, now we have got used to it and because it is so expensive here. Besides, they don't snore.

My plan to get to Salta though hits a snag straight away. All buses sold out till Friday! Places in cars available for $100 US! So after much discussion with other similarly frustrated travellers in the town square and studying of maps and options, I am on a 24 hour bus to Santiago, capital of Chile, Weds morning. I hope I can still get to Iguacu.

This place is a bit like Europe in some ways. We ate in what turned out to be quite a posh place, even those big bowls masquerading as plates. Almost European prices too. And then to a bar to drink more and play card games. I am given an access to Danish humour. Steffan and Rikke have a website for their travels, and their is a section in this called Jukebux, which is a Danish pun. You put money in the slot in jukeboxes, but change box to bux and you have the Danish word for pants. Whenever they see anyone whose pants are hanging out and or their arse is showing, they try to get a picture for the jukebux section of their website. It probably says something about how much I had drunk, but I found this really funny. I still do, even now I am sober. We got an update on Steffan too, not good. It is confirmed that he has had parasites implanted in him by sandflies, and he has to go to Santiago - the capital - to get something done. Bummer for him, as likely to finish off the rest of his trip. Hope I haven't got what he has.

Nov 1st: Breakfast reminds us all again how expensive it is here, difficult to adjust too after Bolivia, etc. So off we all go sandboarding. We hire bikes and sandboards, and ride out of town into the surrounding Atacama Desert, and then up a canyon called the Valley of Death, presumably becuase it is so damn hot. It is odd, we think of 2700 metres where we are as low, but riding the bikes uphill we can all feel the lack of air. Good fun sandboarding though, the dunes are much smaller than at Ica, only 120 metres, but the sand appears to be faster. My previous practice helps, and I manage to go fast downhill for whole seconds before I fall over. And then back to town, and goodbye to Rikke, who is going to join Steffan to see how he is. Quite a wrnech for Christine, who has been travelling with them both 24-7 for the last two weeks, a long time when you are travelling. And now I write this. Really I should go see the amazing landscape of Moon Valley, but it is so hot, it is such a chilled atmosphere here, this is my last chance for a rest for a while, and I just cant be bothered. So back to the hostel to lie around in a hammock and read, until it gets a bit cooler this evening. Another fine European type evening meal in the kind of trendy place I wouldn't go in in Britain, with the first really nice wine I have had in South America. And tomorrow to Santiago.

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