After twenty minutes of poking around the internet and discussing with Matt where our friends have gone, we decided Chile would be a really cool place to go. It didn't take long to find San Pedro de Atacama, a small town in Northern Chile. San Pedro is not the final destination, just a stepping stone to get to the surrounding landscapes. San Pedro is in the Atacama Desert which is just west of the Andes Mountains and is the driest place in the world! The mountainous terrain is composed mainly of salt, sand and lava and has been described as being on a different planet. In my research I was bombarded with information on tour adventures starting in San Pedro and ending in Salar de Uyuni, another place I had never heard of. Three cups of tea later, I had the fundamental pieces of my trip together. We were going to to start in Salar de Uyuni, the world's largest salt flat in Bolivia and ending at San Pedro de Atacama, the world's driest place in Chile. Not exactly your dress up, dine, sleep on a soft bed and go to a museum the next day-type of trip. However, its one of those unique places that not many people have seen, and it is a paradise for photographers.
The journey begins in Salta, a city two hours from Buenos Argentina by plane. We will stay the night there and spend the next day taking numerous buses to Tupiza in Bolivia, the town where the five day tour starts. Our trip itinerary includes many stops along the way including a salt processing plant, volcanic islands, a pre-inca cemetery, geysers and lagoons. I am not exactly sure what sort of wildlife lives in these parts but I am sure we will see some very interesting things. When choosing our tour program we had the option of a group tour or private tour. We opted for private after reading enough horror stories about overpacked cars and passengers getting altitude sickness and delaying the tour. We have the liberty of choosing how long we want to stay in each place, and we get to ask as many questions as we like! On the last day we are going to be dropped off in San Pedro. We are going to spend two nights and three days in San Pedro and then head back to Salta where we will fly back to BA.
Most of the hotels in San Pedro offer packages with tours included. If we didn't want to go with a tour company, we could rent a car and explore the area on our own but its not recommended. The roads are unpaved and can be very dangerous if you get lost. Some of the activities include mountain biking, sand boarding, horseback riding and hiking. I imagine after our five day tour we will be exhausted and if that happens we can choose something with less physical activity such as hot spring swimming, star gazing and picnics. No matter what we decide to do, the views of the mountains and terrain are said to be enough to take your breath away. Of course, with the high altitude we are going to be breathless most of the time. Altitude is very common because our bodies simply are not used to it. Symptoms include headache, fatigue, stomach ache, dizziness, and sleep disturbance. With the right precautions, there are ways to avoid it. The trick is to ease your way into it by ascending slowly so body can naturally adjust. Another suggestion is to chew coca leaves or drink coca tea, although I haven't read any accounts that prove it actually works- its more just for fun!
Stay tuned! I will try and find the energy and the internet to blog during the trip.