Saturday, July 9, 2016

San Pedro and the Atacama Desert

San Pedro with a volcano in the distance

The bus from Salta to San Pedro takes around 10 hours and it leaves at the antisocial hour of 1 am, so the first part of my journey was spent sleeping - but around 6 am I was awoken to landscapes high in the Andes mountains.

Sunrise

The road winds through the mountains that still had patches of snow alongside the road.

The road through the Andes

Snow on the side of the road

Until it reaches the Argentina - Chile border.

The border

And after the usual lengthy messing around with immigration and customs, begins to descend to the small town of San Pedro.

Volcanoes just outside of San Pedro

The town itself is a small village almost entirely dedicated to tourism.

A street in San Pedro filled with touristy shops

It is easy to see why, San Pedro is surrounded by areas of incredible natural beauty such as the Atacama desert and Taito Geysers. 

San Pedro is surrounded by the desert and a short drive away the town gives way to the incredible scenery of Atacama.

The desert just outside town

Further into the desert

Various rock formations dot the landscape 

The Three Marias formation

But by far the most impressive is the Valley of the Moon.

The Valley of the Moon

Which changes colour as the sun begins to set.

Sunset colours

Another angle of the valley 

As do the Andes in the background 
Volcanoes in the background changing colour 
The Andes changing colour
Panoramic view of the valley 
Until the sun finally disappears 

Night falls

The next day I got up at the exceptionally antisocial hour of 4:30am to begin the trip high into the Andes to see the volcanic Taito Geysers.

The geysers are around two hours drive from San Pedro and because they are at over 4000m altitude it was -9 degrees outside.

The geyser field

Steam rises from the boiling water, on occasion making it difficult to see.

Lots of steam

But a network of paths enable you to see the pools of boiling water.

Boiling water

Another pool

Erupting geysers 

A geyser erupting

Mini volcanoes 

Steam rises from a mini volcano

And pools of water coloured by extremophile bacteria 

The orange colour is caused by bacteria

Before taking a dip in the nearby thermal pool.

A very pleasant 26°C in the pool, around 0°C outside


Further down the mountain is a lagoon with a myriad of birdlife.

Birds walking on the ice in the lagoon

Overlooked by the only active volcano nearby.

Smoke hovers around the top of the volcano

When I returned to San Pedro there was some sort of festival going on

Music

and dancing

Which went well into the night. However, unfortunately I was unable to join the celebrations as I needed to prepare for the 3 day journey accross the Andes to Uyuni in Bolivia.....