Saturday, May 30, 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015: Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama

Monday night when our host arrived home from work (his family owns a private school that uses both English & Spanish in their classes – he is the CEO), he told us he had reservations at a Cultural Dance & Music dinner theater at 8:00.  It was a very interesting evening, music and dances from the different parts of Chile, as well as Easter Island and the Polynesian Islands.  We had another great meal.

We are finding the food to be mostly the same ingredients that we use, but prepared slightly different.  They use a lot of pork, beef & chicken, plus seafood.  We thought we would have lots of rice and beans, but so far we have not had them once, instead it has been potatoes (mashed) and corn, used in many ways. I’m sure we’ll get rice and beans in Brazil, if not before!
This morning was relaxing before we left for the airport.  On the way we stopped at our host’s school for a tour.  It is a school of 1300 students from nursery to 12th grade.  The school facilities are great, and there is up-to-date technology in each classroom.  We were impressed. 
At the airport we boarded a flight to Calama, a city in northern Chile.  This is an area of extreme desert where lots of mining takes place.  The mining of copper is the largest export of Chile. Mining! I think there were only 4 women on the flight – it is Tuesday and the miners were returning to work.
The sight from the airplane windows for the first half of the flight out of Santiago was of continuous mountains.  It was a beautiful sight as they were in a blue haze. The last half of the flight was desert and desert mountains!  Unreal! Then we began seeing wind turbine farms - somebody must be using this power source.  By the time we were landing in Calama I was beginning to wonder about coming to this “god forsaken” area - the driest zone in the planet’s driest desert, but Calama is an oasis city in this dry desert. There were green trees!  We had decided to come to this area because it is a unique area and off the beaten tourist path. Our destination, the town of San Pedro de Atacama is the most popular tourist spot in northern Chile.
Mystic Andes Mountains

Wind Field near Calama

The Calama Region
 A tour guide with whom we had made arrangements met us at the Calama airport.

We had an hour drive on good roads through this desert (no towns, villages or houses) to another oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama – we will be based in San Pedro for the next 3 days – each day taking tours out into the desert to see unique things. We went directly to our accommodations owed by our tour guide. We are in a new room attached to her home located out in the country.  After settling in for a few minutes we went with her back into town to get a bite to eat and check out the town of San Pedro.

Our San Pedro Host House

We had to drive through the river to get to the house
San Pedro is a unique place in itself, as it is trying to retain its authentic pre Incan charm.  The adobe houses are built out of red sand bricks/blocks and there are walls around all the homes and courtyards.  The streets are dirt (no pavements), and there are little store fronts up and down the dusty streets.  Half of the store fronts are restaurants, tourist guides, the other half are back packer hostels, and trinket hawkers.  There is a lovely tree lined plaza in the middle of the town.  We settled on a restaurant where we ordered a small pizza, as we had a full meal on our flight north. 

Main Street in San Pedro

Restaurants near the City Plaza

Town from City Plaza

San Pedro at night
The weather is interesting.  As soon as the sun sets it turns COLD, but in the sun it is hot.  Our Host in Santiago loaned us heavy coats to wear these few days – thank goodness!! Tonight we were wearing them to walk around town.  Tomorrow we will be leaving our accommodations at 7:00 am and it will be cold – we are wearing layers so we can shed as it gets warm.  This will be an interesting few days!      

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