Ancient Rock Art, Llamas, and Geysers
|Pregnant Llama Petroglyph|
Terraced Farms and Llamas
|Llama with decorative ear tassels near Machuca|
The Highest Geyser Field in the World
Reliving History in Books
That evening we boarded a plane for our return flight to Santiago. The combination of dramatic landscape, extreme climate, exotic wildlife, ancient history, and rich local culture had made for a unique vacation. Now we were on our way to meet family and to spend the rest of the trip immersed in contemporary Chilean life. As we neared the capitol, I looked out the window at lush green fields below, and was struck anew that I had just left the driest place on earth. Although the paper showed no rain in the immediate forecast, there was a chance that I might need the umbrella packed at the bottom of my suitcase.
Getting there: After flying from the U.S. to Santiago, the capitol of Chile, we took a local flight on Sky Airlines to Calama. Lan Chile also flies there. (Calama is 1225 kilometers from Santiago.) Our ground transportation to and around San Pedro was provided by our hotel, the Tierra Atacama, but it is possible to rent a car and drive yourself. (The main road is paved but most other roads are dirt.) Click here for a MAP of Chile. (Calama and San Pedro de Atacama are east of Antofagasta near the Bolivia border.)
Did we need to speak Spanish? Although we can get along in basic Spanish, almost everyone at the hotel spoke English. English was the international language for us and the other international tourists, many from Brazil and Europe. Except for one person, there were no other Americans at our hotel.
When did we go to Chile? Art and I made this trip to the Atacama in December 2009. We also spent time in Santiago, Rancagua, and the beach town of Iloca (later greatly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami.)