The valley of the moon and the Tatio geysers

Over the past couple of days I’ve been busy here in San Pedro. Firstly two days ago I went to the valley of the moon. The valley of the moon is a deserty valley that is around 10km from San Pedro, as it is so close I decided to avoid the tour companies and go myself on a hired mountain bike.

I set off after lunch to do this, so I’d hopefully have a chance to see the sunset. After cycling down the fairly flat road to the valley itself, the road was the emptiest I’d ever seen and mostly you could see any cars in either direction. Then after paying the entrance fee I got to the first explanation point. From there they explained that there was a cave and canyon nearby to explore and for the cave I’d need a torch. Fortunately I had one with me and I set off to explore the cave, that let you crawl under rocks, and at times I had to take off my bag to make it underneath the rocks. In places you reemmerged into the light and got to see some strange but cool scenery.

After that I headed down the canyon where I had some fun with the timer and tripod for my camera, it took about 6 shots to get it straight and me in the picture, the insane brightness in the canyon doesn’t help you see the display on the camera. After that I headed further into the valley up a steep hill on my boke to see the great dune, the view from the top was incredible. Afterwards I headed onto see some more stuff but that wasn’t that interesting. By the time I headed back the sun was starting to set giving great shadows on the rocks, but as I was getting up at 4am the next day I thought I should be getting back and as I’ve seen more epic sunsets than I’ve had hot dinners on this trip I thought I’d give this one a miss.

Anyhow so the next day I got up at 3.45am and headed out of my hostel to head over to the geysers. We had to get up so early as geysers are more impressive when there is a large temperature difference between the water in the ground and the air temperature, and coupled with pressure below ground that is what causes them to spray water all over the place, as we were so high up and in the desert as soon as the sun appeared from behind the mountains the air suddenly heated up by several degrees so it was good that we had got there so early. After that I had a lazy afternoon and went to bed early at about 10pm. Today I’ve also had a fairly lazy morning as I was still tired, and I’ve had a few too many disturbed nights recently. Later today I’m off on the bus to Iquipe.

The Rest of Arica and San Pedro

So on my last day in Arica I headed to a nearby archeological museum. To get there I cycled up the valley, which although the gradient uphill was subtle it was still hard work. Also I couldn’t get the highest gear to work which I usually use practically exclusively which slowed me down. The scenery on the way was also nice. The museum (aside from some noisy school children who I shared the museum with) was very interesting and had a full English translation.

Then that evening I caught the bus to San Pedro, the journey was more complex than I’d like as the police checked our ID and bags in the middle of the night.

After arriving in San Pedro I had a lasy day and saw their pre-columbian museum which was also excellent. Then the next day I went on a tour to the south of San Pedro and saw Flamingos on the salt plain which I have some great photos of, a pair of fairly saltly glacial lakes and part of the original inca road to Cusco (so if you had 3 months and a huge amount of water you could walk to Cusco) which was still a clear path through the desert.

The next day I went Sand boarding which is like Snow Boarding but slower and on sand (we went down a slope almost straight away which would definitely be a red run for skiing). I did fall over lots but am now unhurt but tired.

I’ve got some more time here in San Pedro to explore the nearby Geysers (but now we are on summer time you’ll leave at 3am!) and the nearby Moon Valley for sunset and possibly the nearby observatory if I go a day later to Iquipe and essentually miss it. Though money is a definite issue here, its almost as expensive as Oxford!

America

Firstly a boring economic note to my UK readers. The pound has weakened quite dramatically against the US dollar since I’ve been away and by xe.com there are currently only 1.75 US dollars to the pound. If Obama wins the presidency so this continues I might even make some money when I convert my US dollars back into pounds.

After paying an excessive amount (US$12 including “taxes”) to enter Chile from Peru by collectivo (ironically the driver seemed to be very trustworthy) I made my way by foot to my accommodation in Arica. It was dark but the area around the bus station was safe (though it wouldn’t have been if it was in Europe). I was then famished so I went to the local chicken and chips shop for some food. Now chicken and chips is also popular in Peru but with all the other specialites to try I’d managed to avoid it. In Chile, or at least Arica, it is a massive phenomenon available in every restaurant.

Anyhow the next morning at 10am I got up and headed to the supermarket to get some Chilean money and water. The currency in Chile is wonderful actually as there are almost exactly 1000 chilean pesos to the pound so I can really easily see how much stuff costs here. The supermarket was also pretty much like a typical US or European supermarket. That is to be expected as Chile is pretty rich and Arica at least reminds me of the USA. This is how I expected Argentina to be.

So I had a wander around Arica yesterday and had lunch in a Chinese restaurant (they are also good here) and saw lots of buildings in the centre designed by Effel. They were very striking and reminded me of the buildings by Lloyd Wright in Chicago.

At dinner I had some delicious fish (and I don’t mean in a sarcastic way ;)) with an Australian woman travelling around South America. We also had some interesting discussions about our previous travels.

This morning I headed into the mountains above Arica on a tour with my hostel. It was a bit touch and go as to whether it’d be on but in the end the car was full. So we headed slowly up into the mountains through the coastal desert all around this region. After being in the south of Peru for several weeks now I am pretty bored of it to be honest though we did see attractive Grand Canyon esq scenery on the way up. It was amusing as by half way up the mountain my Australian friend had caught up with me on a coach tour.

As we were ascending from sea level to 4500m in a single day we were given Coca tea as well as leaves to chew. Unfortunately the leaves are disgusting and the tea was very poor quality but coupled with my long stay in Peru at over 2500m I was OK.

Then half way up the mountain at our “breakfast” stop our car lost power to it’s electics. I should add that it was a fairly modern Kia and not a run down old banger so we had to get into the coach instead. We then headed up into the park above Arica. It was interesting and we saw a lot of wildlife as well though we didn’t spend long in the park and were soon returning to Arica.