Getting into Chile from Bolivia seems to be quite a challenge. First of all, the frontier where you get the exit stamp from Bolivia is at the end of the desert journey. I am not sure how people can get there if they are not doing a salt flats tour. Secondly, buses going to San Pedro only come between 10 and 11 AM and they need to be somewhat pre-booked before getting on. I did see some people being left out of buses and I don’t know if there were any other coming for them. Thirdly, the drive from the Bolivian frontier to San Pedro, where the Chilean frontier office is, lasts around 30 minutes. I am not really sure who owns this piece of land…
We were lucky as our big tour had us covered. We said good-bye with hugs and kisses to our Bolivian guide and off we went to our next stretch of the trip – Chile, Argentina, and Chile again.
The apple complication
Chile is extremely strict on bringing any fruit or vegetable into the country. They put all your luggage and bags through x-ray machines and if they see something they will take it away. So on the way there, I just had to eat the apple I had from Bolivia. Two days later I discovered another one in my backpack. Oups… But don’t worry Chile, I ate it before it even had a chance to do any damage to your environment! Not even the seeds were left!
Chapter 2 – Sandboarding in the Death Valley
San Pedro de Atacama is a very small town in the Atacama desert and it is a very touristy place. Restaurants, bars, coffee shops, tourist centers, and souvenir shops are almost everywhere. Most of the tours include similar things to what we had already seen in Bolivia – lakes, hot springs, volcanoes, moon valley.
The one thing that is special and worth doing is sandboarding in the Death Valley. Especially the afternoon one that takes you after to the moon valley for the sunset and they offer you a cocktail. We did the tour with Sandboard San Pedro operators. I believe they are the only ones who offer the sunset/cocktail option. Regardless, definitely check them out if you end up in that area.
So what is sandboarding? As a snowboarder, I can say that it is the younger and wilder cousin of snowboarding. You pretty much receive a snowboard, boots and a few instructions on how to get down. In the beginning, I didn’t find it easy as sliding on sand is so much more complicated than sliding on snow. Especially when your board decides to burry itself in sand. Even so, it is very fun and easy to get a hold off after a few runs. I am proud to say I only had a couple minor falls and I actually did a slalom on my last run.
The downside is that you have to go up the dune by foot in order to come down. The upside is that the view from there makes it worth all the panting.
The Moon Valley sunset
I have seen many sunsets in my somewhat short life, but none of them has been as breathtaking as the one I saw in the Moon Valley of San Pedro de Atacama. This experience is a must for anyone looking for peace and serenity through nature. The colours of the sky vary so much from pink to orange to purple to red, that it seems as if a painter is playing with his colours because he cannot decide on one. From the top, the moon valley becomes slowly covered with the shades of the evening.
The most beautiful part of the sunset was the Licancabur Volcano in the east and its surrounding mountains, which were slowly saying goodnight to the disappearing sunlight. Even the moon was shining brightly above them, almost as bright as a star, preparing itself for a night of adventures.
After the sandboarding/sunset excitement in San Pedro de Atacama, we woke up nice and early the next day to cross the Andes to Argentina, a new country, a new adventure.