|The Atacama desert is the driest place on earth and only receives an average of 1mm of rain per year. It rained twice while I was here! But not for long and it was hot and dry at all other times, as you´d expect from the desert. Whilst I was on the way to San Pedro de Atacama there was a large earthquake further south in Chile, close to Santiago. I was a bit oblivious to the severity of the earthquake, which measured 8.8 on the Richter scale and sadly resulted in hundreds of deaths. So when I arrived I neglected to check in back home and let people know I was safe. Instead I booked myself straight on to an excursion. So whilst I was enjoying myself floating in a salt water lake in stunning surroundings and watching the sunset on the salt flats, my family were going out of their minds with worry. And because I hadn´t seen any news on the earthquake and was still oblivious to its severity, I went on a night out as soon as I returned from this excursion. The night out was really good. I ended up at a party at someones house somewhere near San Pedro. I didn´t get back until 7.30am. When I eventually woke later that day I became aware of how serious the earthquake was so I figured I should e-mail home to let people know I was safe. When I opened my e-mail account I realised just how much worry I had caused my family. I felt more than a bit guilty that I had been having a great time whilst they had been reporting me missing to the foreign office and just generally not having a great time. Because of the earthquake I had to change my plans. Before I left for NZ I had hoped to climb a live volcano a bit further south of Santiago but the roads south were closed due to the earthquake. Therefore, I decided to stay in San Pedro a bit longer as theres loads to see and do in the surrounding area. I hired a bike on a couple of occasions and cycled through stunning scenery. I saw huge snow capped mountains and volcanoes, huge salt mountains and canyons and much more. On one of the days we cycled to Valle de la Luna (valley of the moon) which is so named because it looks like the surface of the moon. I've never been but I have seen pictures of the moon so i concur with this. I also got up at 4am on one of my days here to go on a tour to El Tatio Geysers. These are the highest geysers in the world at an altitude of approximately 4500m above sea level. I bathed in a natural hot spring surrounded by these geysers. It was freezing cold but I watched the sunrise from the warmth of the hot spring. I walked to Valle de la Muerte (valley of the dead - not sure why its called this) later that day. This again was quite spectacular with huge rock formations and sand dunes. I found another party later in the week. This time it was outside in the desert with a generator powering a laptop, some huge speakers and a laser light. It was pretty cool, except for the music. Because I ended up staying in San Pedro for nearly a week I found yet another desert party and also visited the local town of Toconoa which is a very dry and quiet place. But it has a river running through and because of this has apparently been populated for many thousands of years and was interesting to see.