Leaving Alfonso out of this one; will report when we know more. Currently he is happy under a tree at a great campsite outside of San Pedro de Atacama.
San Pedro de Atacama is definitely the Pucon of the north. There is so much to do and see it seems impossible to get to everything. We arrived at Andes Nomad, a cool new campsite owned by a Chilean named Mauricio, who is a vanlifer himself! We spent the first 2 days relaxing and enjoying the campsite, which included a star gazing tower, warm showers, and a half empty pool. I got my 2nd TRX workout of the trip in, so you can tell that that is going well. Got some good reading done, and am even working on my base tan!
The third day we went into town and saw Quitor, which is an old Inca ruin where the first Atacaman’s lived. It was pretty cool, and after we explored the local fruit markets and shops. Our 4th day we rented bikes from Mauricio and biked to Laguna Cejar. It’s only 10km away which was nice because the roads and the bikes are not friends. Having said that, it was probably a less bumpy ride than it would have been in Alfonso. Laguna Cejar is part of the salt flats in this area and the Laguna has the same effect as the Dead Sea. It’s so salty that you float with no effort and can just lie and enjoy the sun and the scenery, though the water was a bit chilly. After we got out and dried in the sun, we were absolutely covered in a salty crust that covered every inch. Needless to say, we have to have a couple showers to wash it all off. We also saw some flamingos there which was pretty neat!
The next day we signed up for a geyser tour up to Geyser field El Tatio, the highest (4300masl) and 3rd largest geyser field in the world! That was an early morning for me, when you have to wake up to turn on the kettle so your supposed better half can wake up happily, its a real testament to our relationship, alas the alarm went off at 4:45am for a 5am (ended up being 5:45 because he driver got lost) pickup. At the top near the geysers the temp dropped to -15oC which was a slap for us warm weather Canadians now. You also have to get up there early because as the day warms up the geysers start to look a bit less spectacular.
After looking at the geysers we were treated to the best breakfast we’ve had in a while, including lemon loaf, cookies, bread, scrambled eggs, and coffee/tea, all out of the back of our tour bus! The bus then takes you to a hot spring where you can swim or dip your feet (we weren’t told about this so we didn’t bring suits… huge bummer). Then we went to visit a river that was home to lots of high altitude birds and we were really feeling the altitude then at 4300m. We started our journey down and stopped at a village that had lamb kebabs fresh on the grill and goat cheese empanadas, delicious! Then we rocked back to the campsite for siesta and a couple beers while we started to work harder on figuring the whole Alfonso thing out.