Today we travelled from Calama to San Pedro de Atacama. The 5 minute taxi ride in Calama (and it was a ratty old taxi, like so many of them in South America) from the hotel to the bus terminal cost us $4.60. The bus ride that lasted 1.5 hours in what was a luxury highway bus cost us $5.20. Their bus system here is amazing and cheap. They have different classes of buses from our regular coaches to sleepers where the seats lie completely flat.
The bus ride into San Pedro looked amazing. Can't wait to start touring the country side tomorrow. Today we checked into our new digs and explored the town. The hotel is a cross between a hostel and a hotel. Very clean and good size rooms, pretty much just the basics and that includes no heating. The difference between our room and the hostel rooms is that we have a bathroom. The shower is exciting because the water temperature fluctuates way too often.
The town is very unique. How to describe it: well it is fairly small (10-15 blocks?). The taxi ride from the bus station to the hotel was 1000 pesos ($2.00). Figure that was the minimum cost. Well worth it because our suitcases don't drag very well in the gravel. The streets are all narrow, hard to imagine 2 cars meeting each other. Mainly pedestrians walking, plus the occasional horse riding group. The town is a small oasis on a plateau that is near the Licancabur volcano (you can see the volcano on the photo). There are also 2 other nearby volcanoes. The town has a population of ~2,000 people plus probably 2,000 tourists. Because the town is located at an altitude of just over 2,400 metres above sea level some people do get altitude sickness. What we have noticed the first day is that it is very hot and sunny during the day but really cools off at night. Not much chance of rain, it is the world's most arid desert.
History wise it was conquered by the Incas in 1450, by the Spanish in 1540 and then by the tourist in the last 10 years. The town has the typical white washed church that is so old they don't know when it was built, but did serve as a parish in 1641. Today the town thrives on the tourist industry with so many tourist agencies and artisan stores.
Supper tonight was in an enjoyable little spot with mud walls, thatched roof that was open in places as well a clay fire place in the center. The food was very good and at a good price.