My time in Bolivia was all too short and I would have loved to have stayed longer. The last day’s drive out of the country did its best to persuade me to stay, but onwards to Chile I go.
The immigration exit post in Bolivia was a tiny brick building, and bizarrely we weren’t even required to show our faces. Our guide entered with all our passports and returned five minutes later with our exit stamps. We crossed into Chile at San Pedro de Atacama, where the process was rather more onerous, although relatively painless, despite having to haul out all of the bags and undergo a truck inspection.
It was only a short drive to the town and our cute hostel, although the bedroom was so small, my hair barely fit in there. Thankfully, a few days later a lovely Scot called Kirsty came to my rescue and snipped my barnet back to a more respectable length. The streets of San Pedro are very cute; red clay roads, low-lying buildings and a beautiful main plaza, all surrounded by the nearby mountains. As usual, I could’ve stayed longer, exploring all of the little side streets, each populated with interesting restaurants and shops. The only negative aspect of the town was the extraordinary amount of tourists, something that I’d not really experienced thus far on the trip. They seemed to outnumber the locals by about fifty to one. Thankfully, this is offset by the fact that the streets are lined with dogs, all of whom are very well fed, impeccably behaved and wanting tickles, so obviously I was in seventh heaven.
Speaking of seventh heaven, the following day we went on a midnight stargazing tour where we learned that the phrase came from a time when astronomers thought there were only seven planets in our solar system, of which Earth was the sixth to be classified as a planet. The Canadian astronomer was very engaging and despite the very late hour, many of us could’ve stayed longer, and not just for more of the delicious hot chocolate.
Earlier that day we also drove out to Moon Valley, an incredible section of the Atacama Desert that was reminiscent of a set on Star Wars, or so I was reliably informed. I’m not a sci-fi fan, and indeed on my first date with my partner, he spent 15 minutes trying to explain the merits and differences of Star Wars and Star Trek. He eventually picked up on my bored/vacant expression and thankfully the subject has never reared its head again. Let’s just say I’m very happy the new Star Wars (or is it Star Trek?) film is released while we are 12,000km apart! Anyway, I digress. After a short hike up to a ridge, we were greeted with a landscape like none other I’d seen on this trip. And yes, I do realise I sound like a broken record but there are only so many superlatives available in my vocabulary. My introduction to Chile has been pretty special, but I have to wait a while to see if the rest of the country is equally impressive as we drive to Argentina tomorrow, the fifth country on my trip, before we spend the next few weeks criss-crossing the two countries.