Biking through Atacama Desert
Before I start, I just need to do a quick rant... I NEED TO LEAVE CHILE!! Holy moly, I thought South America was supposed to be cheap but it's the complete opposite, or at least in Chile and Argentina. I've spent so much more here than I did in Europe. I need to get into Bolivia asap. I just looked at my expenses and calculated everything and I'm so shocked at how much I've already spent here in the past 2 months. My wallet is crying up a storm right now... My budget is pretty tight for the next couple of months here, just to make back half of what I went over my budget by in January and February. Ughhh not okay!! Okay rant over.
After some travel struggles, my few days in San Pedro de Atacama made up for it. Being such a tourist town, everything here is very expensive, especially the tours. And after looking at my budget, I needed to be a bit stricter on the things I did and if it's not a "Must-Do" type of thing, then I would re-evaluate and maybe go a different route. I think that's what happened in Atacama. We had a few things we were looking to do but ended up not doing them because of costs. For example, we wanted to the Geyser and Astronomical tours but opted out of them because we would get to do similar things on our Salar de Uyuni tour.
Basically we spent both days very similar, during the morning, we would be planning and prepping for things to do or the next phase of our travels. We walked around the town looking at different tour companies who did the Salar de Uyuni tour and then cross-reference with the reviews online. Since we were spending 3 days with the tour group and guide, we wanted to vet them and make sure it was a good company with reputable reviews. We've heard and read horror stories of drunk drivers and guides who didn't care about their customers. Then the later half of the day was for biking through Atacama Desert and to different viewpoints.
Doug and I met Ben, a Brit, who was traveling alone and we've been doing a lot of things together. He's coming on the 3 day salt flat tour with us. Super chill dude and stoked to have him travel with us.
First day... we biked to Valley of the Dead, ran up some sand dunes, went to lookout points, and caught the sunset. We wanted to enter the Valley of the Moon but it closed at 6pm and it was already 6:10 when we were leaving Valley of the Dead so we had to head to a different way. We were still able to catch a great sunset at a different path, sneaking around the entrance so we didn't have to pay. We had an Israeli guy with us who had us try Israeli coffee and brought a different type of character to the group. For one, he's carrying around a 90L bag (like how?? why??) with a guitar and another day pack. Crazy dude, but if he needs all of it and he can carry everything, then power to him.
We made it back into town around 8:30pm then headed back to our hostel for dinner. We had a family dinner of paster and tomato sauce with veggies and chorizo (pretty nasty chorizo, but it worked).
The next day, we spent the morning doing pretty much the same thing. We actually wanted to rent a car to drive around and do all the touristy stuff. It would be cheaper and allow us to see more things on our own schedule. So we got up early to head to the Wicked Camper Van office to see if they had anything available and nothing. We check Eurocar and no luck. So our only option was to bike again, especially to the Valley of the Moon. After the unsuccessful first part of our morning, we went back to the hostel to do research on all the places we've looked into and ended up using the hostel's recommended tour. However, it was a more expensive than we wanted to pay at $115,000 CLP. We were looking for $90,000 - $1000,000. So we went to the tour office and was able to negotiate to pay $100,000. I'm pretty happy with the price because it was such a pain trying to pick a good tour company. They were all pretty hit or miss with both good and bad reviews. Plus there were so many companies that it was hard to set yourself on just a few to look up.
After that, we rented bikes and headed to the Valley of the Moon, the real one and made it before closing time. It's absolutely beautiful! It's something I've never seen before. It's the driest desert in the world and it's covered completely in salt so it kinda looks like snow or powder on top of the peaks. It was all worth the uphill biking... let's just say I wasn't able to bike entire thing. I had to get off an just walk my bike. My quad weren't made for biking. haha But all very worth it. Then we had another family dinner and made fried rice. Soy sauce tasted so good after so long of not having it.
** Pictures to come!
We tried to be pretty cheap in San Pedro de Atacama and skipped out on all the tours and just heading to Bolivia after 2 days. Tomorrow, Feb 15th, we're heading on a 3 day 2 night tour through the Salt Flats and end up in Uyuni, Bolivia. I'm soooo excited for it!! Everyone has told me great things and it's been everyone's favorite thing to do in South America.