Through the desert on a horse with no name

In the desert

Well he had a name, but it didn´t matter, because he wouldn´t listen to it when I was shouting it at him to stop. There´s something about me and horses, they don´t ever seem to listen to me, it´s as if they know before I even get on them that I´m going to be a blowover!

We´d been in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile for four days now, waiting on the French astronomer man to get better, and decided to go horse riding again to kill some time. The one thing we wanted to do here was to go on a trip with Spaceobs where we could go out into the desert to look through the Gaul`s wide diamater telescopes and play with his high powered laser pointer, but it wasn´t to be. We were hit by a double whammy when we reached San Pedro – the moon was full (meaning the stars couldn´t be seen properly) and the Frenchman had just returned from hospital and was ill, so all trips were off. There was a chance of going out at the end of the week if the conditions we right so we decided to wait around and try our luck.

San Pedro isn´t a bad place to hang around, but it was a little pricey. We were back in Chile again, one of the most expensive countries in South America and we were in the middle of the desert (the driest desert in the world no less!) which meant that everything came at a premium. The town itself is very small, and if you closed your eyes and thought of Bethlehem when Joseph and Mary were looking for digs, you wouldn´t be far off the mark. All of the buildings are Adobe style, made of clay with thatched roofs, and the streets are narrow and dusty, but it´s a seriously trendy spot (like most of the places we´d visited in Chile), and each bar and restaurant had cool music and blazing firepits to warm the bones.

San Pedro's Adobe Buildings San Pedro by Night

Drink Driving Wine Bar, San Pedro

There are lots of tours from San Pedro to keep you occupied, the cheapest and best known of which is a visit to the Valle de la Luna, a national park area a short drive from the town. We ended up going with a company called Cosmos, and although we payed more than most other people (about 7.50 as opposed to a fiver) it was well worth it as we went to a number of other areas in addition to the Moon Valley one of which was Valle de La Muerte where much fun was had running down the sand dunes! We´d thought about returning with sandboards the following day (another popular thing to do around there) but decided that it looked like far too much effort after seeing a gang of people panting their way up and face-planting their way down the dunes.

Running... Down... Sand... Dunes

Fun in the Dunes

The Valle de le Luna itself was pretty different and it was easy to see where it got its name. After strolling around for an hour or so, we went to watch the sun setting and the moon rising.

Valle de la Luna

Sand Ridge

Rising Moon Rising Moon

The last excursion we did from San Pedro was a few hours riding. We were really getting into the horse riding and thought it would be different to do it in the desert, so we set off with a local Gaucho from the town and made our way back towards the dunes. Up until then, we´d only ever been cantering (where the horse basically ´jogs´) as the guides are usually a bit reluctant to let you off on a gallop, but this cowboy was different and asked us if we wanted to give it a shot. We were all mad keen and before we knew it, holding on for dear life as the horses gave it all they had across the sand. It was exhilarating (even though my untrusty stead ignored me completely when I tried to get him to stop, despite me nearly pulling the mouth off him with my reins) and the horses were exhausted by the time we came to a halt. After resting for a while and trekking back to the road, we set off galloping again (but this time on an unpaved surface where pebbles and dirt were flying in our faces – it was a good thing we were wearing shades). It was fast and scary, but I think everyone has a little bit of a need for speed and galloping on a horse for me was a different and special experience, hopefully one to be repeated.

At the End of the Gallop Me and My Horse

The day after our horse trek was the day we´d planned to go star gazing, but from the moment we woke we knew the omens were bad – for the first day in five, the sky was filled with clouds. We waited around until the evening, hoping that the patches of sky that started appearing through the clouds would be enough, but the Frenchman said that it was too cloudy for a tour so there was nothing to do but go to the pub and drown our sorrows with sours (Pisco sours!). We´d spent enough time waiting and were itching to get to Peru where we could get on with our travels, so we set off for the border town of Arica the following day. Little did we know that Peru was hatching very different plans for us altogether!

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