It’s funny being in a town again, even though we’ve only been on the salt flats for three days. Despite that, it’s felt like another world so it’s odd suddenly being in the heat, in this sunny little oasis town in the middle of the desert. We find a nice hostel and set up shop there for four days of chilling out, wandering the dusty streets, finding cheap food to eat, doing our laundry, sitting out in the courtyard with the sun on our shoulders and me working my way trough a trashy chic lit doorstop that I found in a book exchange. It’s lush.
Moz heads off to find a pub that’s showing the City match, discovers one that serves pints and has two lads from Chorley and our friends Charlotte and Siadhal from the salt flats also watching the game. Meanwhile I’m in heaven, having wandered to a nearby bakery set down a dusty track under a scattering of trees. They’re playing reggae and the sun is hot on my back and I have a coffee and a delicious croissant oozing with hot dulce de leche. I sit with my notepad and write, then a couple of hours later head to meet Moz and bump into him on the street in his yellow tshirt and his new cap and big smile.
We head for a tasty “menu”, the set lunches that form the centre of South American eating, and slide our trays along the canteen style restaurant and are given corn mash, quinoa, Moz has the lamb and I a rainbow salad and, to my delight, rice pudding. We sit and talk about some writing I’m doing about Finsbury Park, and our happy memories. That night we meet Charlotte and Siadhal for drinks and it’s a fun chatty night, only two pisco sours in and I’m the tipsiest I’ve been for about three months.
We decide that we should probably do something instead of too much lazing around so one day we hire some bikes and a snowboard and cycle out to town towards the ominously named Valle de la Muerte. The valley is a canyon the twists and grows as we cycle, peddling through the sand in the baking heat. Eventually we reach a huge sand dune, 150 metres high, surrounded by dry rock. It was a slog up the shifting sand with the board on our backs but amazing at the top, with incredible views down the spine of the sand dune towards the volcanoes and the blue sky overhead. Neither of us had been on a snowboard before and we tried to think what Mozza’s best mate Laurie, a snowboarder, does when we’ve been skiing with him. Adopting a bit of a squat / surfer stance we both have it our best attempts, managing to stand and do some turns between lots of falls. It was such a laugh and so much fun though neither of us will be giving up the skis anytime soon!
After having moved quickly for the past month or so, it was really lovely to relax and slow down in San Pedro Next stop: a grey smudge of industrial Antofagasta, a flight to Concepcion where we spend a couple of hours in the airport before another plane to Puerto Montt and the Chilean “Lake District”!