San Pedro de Atacama...Might as well try to have a good time
Sep 19, 2005
|First thing in the morning - if you call twelve early (it was a late night, ok??), headed over to the Gemini office, to confirm the availability of the bus to Salta, Argentina for next day. The lady there was very lovely, but I didn't quite understand why I had to come back later in the afternoon. I was hoping with a wad of banknotes, I would be able to secure that seat for sure. But apparently there was some other factors needed for consideration - but she told me it should be ok, no problems.
A little confused, wandered back to the plaza, where I ran into Silke, who was in the process of some coffee drinking with some friends. We conversed in English, and I felt slightly bad later for making three Chileans speak in a foreign tongue in their native country. They all spoke English really well! Shortly after Silke went back to her hostel, but I stayed chatting with the guys, and found out they were Sebastian, Agustin and Paul. These three friends go back a long way in Santiago, though now residing in different parts of Chile. They had come to San Pedro hoping to climb the volcano nearby, a five, six day job, but as there was too much snow blocking the roads, they had to spend their long weekend in town instead.
We decided to visit Chilean's answer to Machu Pichhu, "Pukara de Quitor", only three kilometres from town, an easy fifteen twenty minutes walk. "Pukara" in Quechua meant "fortress", so it literally meant the "fortress of Quitor", which was the name of the village there. Not much is known about the site, but Agustin, who had been there years before helped to fill in some gaps for us.
First stop though, was to bypass the steps up to the ruins, but further onwards to the garden I had stumbled into the day before, with the huge faces. Up the path from there, were some caves waiting to be explored. Of course, none of us had any torches, but we tried to make do with some camera flashes to light up the way. There was only a short passage which was really dark, and hands were required to feel for the path. So it was really pretty to find, a little further on, a hole in the cave, allowing in a beam of light.
Back outside in the garden, it was time for a little rest and to take some silly pictures, before heading up to the main ruins. Wicked, more scrambling up and down! Found Sebastian sitting on the side taking a rest, and ended up sitting there and chatting away. Maybe half an hour later, realised that the others had moved on, and when we climbed up, they announced that they had already explored the whole site. Oops. Anyway they went back up with us nonetheless, and from the top of the ruins, was introduced to "Fatman and Drogin" to save us from the evils of the world.
After a while of being blown by the wind, we went back down (hunger calling), and the guys kindly invited me to join them for dinner at their hotel. I think they have had enough of my complaining about how expensive things were in Chile! But first, had to go back to the Gemini office to confirm my passage the next morning. It was closed!! Ahh! To save you from a tedious explanation of my actions thereafter, I basically found out that no buses would be running to Salta - as heavy snowfall has blocked many roads, and the borders were closed. Maybe in a couple of days they would be opened again, the police officer told me. Well, that's what they told me a couple of days ago! I certainly didn't want to stay in San Pedro any longer!!
So my options... Going back up to Bolivia through the same border at Ollangüe. Would have to wait two more days for the bus there, and though it passes through San Pedro, the very unhelpful lady at the bus desk told me I would have to buy it from Calama. She was so ill-informed that I wasn't confident there would be a connecting bus from the Chilean border onwards to Uyuni, Bolivia - the place where I was ill. I didn't have a good feeling about that border (see previous moan on how I entered Chile), as there was literally nothing there, if I get stranded. Even toyed with the idea of heading north, and into Peru again. Having left Peru behind me for three weeks, had almost forgiven it for all the grievances I had endured just before leaving. But that would mean going all the way through Bolivia again - which would be a huuuge detour.
My anger of being ditched in the desert came back, and I was on the verge of tears, and Sebastian suspected I was unable to make any sensible decision. Nonetheless, wouldn't be able to stay in San Pedro for more days - have seen what I have wanted to see, and too expensive! Though options to get into Salta were limited, at the same time, more options opened up to me. Could try my luck further south, where there are more borders, as well as seeing a little bit more of the country whilst waiting for the snow to clear. Or could even forget about going to Argentina, and simply visit Chile in more depth. I know it's expensive, but as my American dorm-mate pointed out, Chile would only get more and more expensive. So this was a real test of how flexible a traveller I was.
Having consulted my Lonely Planet further, and enough time had passed for me to calm down somewhat, headed over to Eden (ok, a small lie, I had to be fetched, as I took so long!) and tried to have an enjoyable evening in the process. Agustin, as head chef, and Paul as his assistant had dished up some rice, instant noodle (perfect for my taste!), tomatoes and mixed meat. Paul had smartly bought some Cusqueña beer, as he thought I might like that (as advertised on my t-shirt) as well as some Chilean beer. Later on, we went to buy more samples of Chilean beer (Escudo, Kunstmann, Royal Blend), so I have now a favourite (well, I like the Cusqueña the most, Cristal second). Also met two Israeli girls - who also had their share of trouble with a tour company robbing their money, so some heated discussion going on there. Later, the party was split into English speaking (the girls didn't speak any Spanish) and Spanish, with the arrival of the Chilean girls. Managed to pass a pleasant evening around the campfire - well, it had been an enjoyable day on the whole, even if interrupted rudely by the bad news of being stuck in Chile.