Unlike the transition between Peru & Bolivia, on entering Chile you could tell straight away you were in a very different country.
For a start, the scenery changed dramatically – from the Bolivian Altiplano, to the Atacama desert. The town of San Pedro de Atacama, my first stop, is a dusty town of single story houses that was more reminiscent of Mexico than of anywhere I’ve been in South America. The fact that virtually every single building was festooned with a Chilean flag (possibly prompted by the fact the town was once part of Bolivia until the 19th century War of the Pacific, and is probably very glad it’s now part of much richer Chile, a wound that still hasn’t healed on the other side of the border) further underlines the fact. And then there are the prices…ouch. I’d been warned Chile was the priciest place on the continent, but San Pedro was practically at US prices.
With just a couple of days to kill before crossing the border to Argentina on my rush south to get my flight out of the continent, I didn’t have time to do much except visit the nearby valleys of death & of the moon.
First up was the Valle de la Muerte, a narrow sandstone canyon with spectacular views down to the sandunes below. The narrow canyon was a perfect wind tunnel, so strong that we were whipped with sand and even walking forward was a bit of a struggle.
All that wind and sand may well have turned out to be my downfall, for just minutes after we’d arrived in Valley of the Moon, my beloved camera died. The lens came out half way, and then stayed there, refusing to go back in or come out further. I was gutted. My Canon G10 was newly purchased for the trip, and taking photos, and gradually learning to improve my initially ropey camera skills has been one of the highlights so far. So to see it die left me gutted – made worse by the fact that I feared that getting it repaired would be a far from easy matter. Even losing, it breaking it irreparably or having it stolen would have been better – as I could buy a new one and get the cost back on insurance. A broken camera on the other hand, means I’d only be able to claim to get it repaired. This was the first real piece of bad luck on my trip so far, and it left me in a foul mood that was to last several days.
You can see all of my photos of San Pedro & the surrounding valleys, up to the moment of camera death, here.