Nestled in the driest desert on earth, cradled between ranges of salt mountains and scattered oases is the very small town of San Pedro de Atacama. The town itself is very touristic, although having very little within its own, small perimeter to offer the avid deserteer (like a mountaineer but in the desert), it is pleasantly and conveniently situated within (relatively) easy reach of some of Chile's most spectacular, natural attractions.
I had planned to visit San Pedro since arriving in Chile, but given that, as I have mentioned before I think, my contract doesn't afford me the luxury of time-off, planning travel on weekends has proved no mean feat. I was told over and over again that even at a push one would need at least 5 days to enjoy the Atacama in all its glory, but I knew that I would only be able to wrangle 2 days off work at most, arranging swaps and cover for all my classes.
As it turns out, I managed, with the promise of youth, my undying love and confectionery to convince some colleagues to replace some of my classes, and made sure to make the job easier by leaving lesson plans and materials for each one. I booked flights and bought a backpack (yes, one of those awkward, twice-as-high-as-my-head, I'm-carrying-all-my-earthly-possessions-on-my-person fashion accessories) and prepared to head north. Tally ho!
M came with me, as incidentally he had been to Atacama when he was a kid, but didn't remember much. The tickets were also 2 for 1, so it worked out quite well. An added bonus I discovered is when travelling with an Archaeologist, you never have to pay for a guide book or (worse yet) a bubbly tour guide again! M knows everything about everything, and is a good travel buddy as well, albeit a bit disorganised!
In the end I managed to visit everything I wanted to in 2.5 days, without hurrying, mostly because the excursions all started at ungodly hours of the morning. Coming up: tales of my adventures in the Atacama desert, in no particular order or cohesion. Enjoy...