The next morning we visit the Fortress of Quitos, in the neighbouring village less than 1km away from San Pedro – where the local peaceful Atacamanean people made their last stand against the invading Spanish in the 15th Century. The valley below is a verdant green oasis – a total contrast to the arid scree slopes above.
Then it’s onto San Pedro village to see the church (with beams made of cactus bark), and historical museum where we learn about the importance of the Atacama Desert in the nitrate industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
After that it’s a visit out into the desert to see the site of an old adobe settlement and reconstructed houses of the “Aldea de Tulor” – part of the Reserva Nacional “Los Flamencos” national park. Although this part of the park doesn’t have flamingoes – that’s for later!
Finally we return to San Pedro de Atacama village and end up at the “Resto-art” restaurant for lunch. The lomo (steak) that Theo has looks wonderful, but I know I’ll be having that tonight, so I opt for the chicken and rice which fills a hole. But the cold beer is very welcome!
Williams then tries to tease us into thinking that the hotel is 2km away, and we will need a taxi to return there! We don’t know any different as it had seemed a long way into town in the morning, but we’re still finding our bearings. So Mum decides to stay in town and I decide to walk back (good to get some proper exercise even if it is rather hot now!)
I think Mum has made the best choice as I’d rather have liked to have seen the town (siesta time or not) but I’m getting very behind with my images/blogs/email etc and need to catch up. Mum ends up thinking I have the better deal as the town was very hot and very much in siesta mode, and she doesn’t realise (as I now do!) that it is only 3 blocks walk back to the Hotel Altiplanico – absolute maximum of 10 minutes. It only seems further by vehicle as it is a fairly rough sandy track!
In the late afternoon of our second day at San Pedro de Atacama, we head out to Tocanao village, before heading onto another part of the Reserva Nacional “Los Flamencos” for sunset. This time we’re at “Laguna de Chaxa” or Chaxa Lake in the Soncor Sector. This is an important breeding ground for Andean and Chilean flamingoes – surprisingly the Andean flamingoes are the most common here. I spend a while trying to capture flamingoes in flight and am rewarded for my patience with some great shots.
Back to the hotel after sunset, and it’s time for another wonderful lomo. They really know how to cook steaks here in South America – whether it’s Argentina, Brazil and Chile they’ve all been good! But just for proper scientific research (honest!!), I think it important that I make sure my sample size of different steaks in different restaurants is sufficient that it’s not just random chance that I got a good one!!