San Pedro de Atacama day 1

We awoke to perfect sunshine in the desert. Go figure? This morning’s adventure was a hike with Leo our hostel owner/taxi driver. We drove for about 15 minutes and then walked into a valley.

From the start it was unreal. Giant cactuses, razor sharp shrubs and a river winding through the valley. It was a pretty intense hike that also included some rock climbing along ledges. Not high ones at all, more just trying to get around the edge of the river so if you fell you would get wet not hurt. We did say half way through that short people wouldn’t be able to do this as we were both stretched a few times. He laughed and said no he certainly wouldn’t take short people here. We had the place to ourselves and on certain occasions we had to backtrack as he had lost the trail and we couldn’t go any further. 
After about 2 hours we climbed up a ridge and had amazing panoramic views. I thought we must have been up pretty high as I was sucking in some big ones. We checked and we were 3100 metres above sea level. The town is 2500 metres above.
When we were up there Tim noticed someone had erected a little shelter out of rocks and we found several others as well, one with a little alcove for a kitchen as well and a place where they stored their animals. 
In the afternoon we went on a tour to some of the Salt Lakes. In Laguna Cedar we got to swim, the lake is 40% salt so you actually float. And when I mean float you can stand with your hands by your side not touching the bottom and you float. It was one one the most crazy experiences I have ever had. We could have stayed there all day if the water wasn’t so cold. When I got out and the water dried on my skin, I was covered in salt!
Our next stop was to a place that had fresh water sink holes in the middle of the desert. Which was interesting but not very picturesque. We then stopped at another lake and watched the sunset, drinking Pisco sours and enjoying the sunset. We met Rick and Cathy on the trip who are an awesome Canadian couple who made the transfer a lot more enjoyable.
The hostel we were staying at was a bit out of town, but Leo was more than happy to drive us around anywhere we wanted to go which was great. For the first day we had the place to ourselves, but when we got back this evening we had two Chilean couples and their kids staying.
They were fantastically friendly. The funniest thing for us was that we thought we were having a late dinner but they were just firing up the BBQ at 10pm.
They fed us Pisco sours and tasty bits of their BBQ too which was delicious. The best bit was entrana which was melt in your mouth meat, but what it actually was, was lost in translation. S

  

The view from the hostel kitchen. The peak on the left is actually a volcano

  
One of the spectacular views on the walk

  
  
Leo and myself navigating down the waterfall. Up ahead you can see one of the rock walls we had to scale to not get our feet wet.

  

The cactuses where huge!   

We were lucky enough to see some of them flower. Lots had buds on them but they hadn’t opened yet. According to Leo they can have white, red, violets and black flowers. Though the white and red are the most common and black very rare.

 
   
The little adobe Tim found at the top of the valley. 

 The view from the top with San Pedro De Atacama nestled in the oasis at the left of centre   
Tim floating in the lake!

 The view around was pretty spectacular too

   
One of the fresh water sink holes in the middle of the desert

 The last stop of the day. Such a beautiful salt lake

  
  
Unknown to us, Kathi took this photo of us at sunset.

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