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Atacama desert
Written by sophie et jeremy   
Monday, 09 April 2018

The famous Atacama desert, now playground of the Dakar rally, is also known as the driest area on earth. Rain can be recorded less than every 50 years ! It spans over 600 km in the north of Chile, from the Pacific ocean to the Andean cordillera.

route du desert 2 route du desert 2

So we arrive in San Pedro de Atacama from Argentina, after a vertiginous downhill : from 4500m to 2500m on a strait line of less than 30 km ! You'd better have good brakes in Chile...

Waiting for Jeremy's mother to arrive in this very touristic city, we go and visit the copper mine near Calama, the biggest open pit mine in the world. It's impressive to see the giants trucks climbing the slopes, loaded with more than 300 tonnes of rocks. The area is very dusty, that's why the nearby city has been abandoned 10 years ago.

calama mine 1 calama mine 1 calama mine 2 calama mine 2

Geraldine having just recovered from the jet-lag, we go to the Atacama salar. At Baltanache, we admire the « ojos », kind of water holes surrounded by salt crystals. We can bath in some of them, and as the water is saturated in salt, we float here as in the dead sea ! A bit further, we see by chance a sort of river of salt, drawing a white line in the middle of the ochre landscape. Nearby, we drive in the « valle de la luna » (moon valley), with sand dunes and salt/rock formations. The next day, Jeremy and Sophie try the sand-board on a big sand dune in the « valle de la muerte » ; it turned out to be fun but also painful as we are pretty bad!

ojos 1 ojos 1 ojos 2 ojos 2

ojos 3 ojos 3 salt river salt river

valle de la luna valle de la luna sand board sand board

We start to ascent step by step, to acclimatize Geraldine before reaching the Bolivian Altiplano. On the way, we visit churches with cactus ceiling, petroglyphs, ruins of Incan fortresses, (dry) hot springs, kilometers of bad roads, and a gorgeous colored valley named « rainbow ».

cactus church cactus church petroglyphes petroglyphes

pukara pukara some more lamas some more lamas

dry landscape dry landscape arcoiris arcoiris

Eventually, we arrive at the geysers of Tatio (4200m / 2°C), which turned out to be rather steam fumaroles with some bubbling water holes than water jet. Still the cluster, the biggest in the world, is impressive, even if we had to wake up before dawn and deal with hundreds of other tourists. We have a dip in the hot pool before heading to the Bolivian border.

tatio 1 tatio 1 tatio 2 tatio 2

tatio 2 tatio 2


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