We ended up taking three days off in San Pedro de Atacama, partly because we were trying to sort out the issue of the broken camera lens, partly due to a few magnums of Chilean wine, but mostly because we ran into a bunch of other traveling cyclists and just wanted to hang out and rest.
At the Bolivian border post:
While at the border, we were incredibly surprised and happy to run into Thomas. We rode together in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca back in August. He sold his bicycle and is now traveling by motorcycle.
While in San Pedro we ran into Edu from Colombia, Matt from Louisiana, James from Minnesota and Tom from Australia. The latter three met up on the rode and are currently riding together. We first met Edu and Matt in June at the Casa de Ciclista outside Quito, Ecuador.
Despite our extended stay and what we read in a Chilean guidebook, we were not hugely impressed with San Pedro. It’s incredibly touristy and has a Disney World feel to it, with every other store selling souvenirs or tours. We have been warned of the increasing costs of travel as we head south, but we were shocked when we had to pay 16,000 Chilean pesos ($25 US) for a dorm room that we shared with four other people. It’s also really hot here, considering we lost over 6,000 feet of elevation and we’re in the Atacama Desert and all.
We tried to make the best of it though, and rode out to the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon). It’s one of the driest places on earth, with some areas not experiencing rain in hundreds of years. We also had read a Mars rover was tested here.
We were underwhelmed. We didn’t feel like we were on the moon (not that we would know what that feels like). We only felt like we were slow-roasting ourselves in a blazing hot desert.
I’m worried we’re becoming jaded travelers, desensitized to things that would have previously impressed us. Try as I might to experience everything with an open mind and a fresh set of eyes, we have seen so many landscapes that it seems to take more to achieve the WOW factor.