Posts Tagged With: AtacamaDesert

Desert Sand Storm

The sand in the air looks like fog but unlike fog it stings the skin and hurts your eyes

Calama, Chile, looks like a ghost town as high winds on July 31, 2011, whip up sand

It's daytime but vehicles are forced to drive slow with headlights on and windows up. It's tough to stay outside in these conditions.

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The Office

FLOATING THE IDEA: A Cejar Lagoon visitor who made me smile

As I sat on the edge of the lagoon away from the tour buses and hordes of people that had just arrived, with the vast Atacama Desert before me, the base of the snow-covered Andes Mountain range a sandy road away, the dominant Licancabur Volcano casting its massive shadow, and Bolivia just on the other side, the question came to me: Can I ever return to an office job after this? I don’t think I can was my answer. And it’s not a matter of not wanting to, but simply not being able to. My brain won’t let me. It worked for me before, but now I would likely go utterly mad in such confinement.

I’ve worked in an office all my life, living in that box someone thought it would be best to call it anything but a box. How about a cubicle? That has a nicer ring, doesn’t it? A box connotes restriction – quashed creativity. A cubicle is limitless. For me it was fine. We do what we have to do to survive. Sometimes what society dictates. But that was then…this is…now here I am soaking my restless feet in the salt water Cejar Lagoon, locked in on the beauty of the Andes, in an impressive desert, and if I tune out those pesky tourists long enough, the only sound I hear is that voice in my head that tells me do this for the rest of my life. To heck with deadlines and office politics and bullshit from people whose entire world is a commute between home and the office. Make this your office, the voice tells me. And…I’m listening.

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A Place In The Desert Sun Where Snow Kisses Sand

Licancabur, view of the volcano from San Pedro...

Licancabur Volcano viewed from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. The volcano is located in Bolivia and Chile. Click image for more information

And so I am now in San Pedro de Atacama, the tiny village in the middle of the desert that draws thousands of tourists seeking natural fun and adventure.

The Atacama Desert in Chile‘s northern region is a landscape like no other. As I made the one-hour bus ride from Calama to San Pedro de Atacama I wondered why is it that this vast land is not deemed one of the world’s natural wonders. Have you ever seen or heard of a place on Earth where in the middle of the desert there is actually snow? Boggles the mind.

The Andes Mountain range runs fairly uninterrupted through the Atacama Desert, and where there are tall mountain peaks there’s usually snow. The landscape is a study in contrasts. My eyes focused on the snow-blanketed mountains but my mind kept saying, wait a minute, you are in an arid zone, a vast wasteland straight out of Mad Max’s Thunderdome. And yet, there’s the snow, lots of it, cascading down to the desert sand. Man, I’m definitely heading up one of those mountains to shift from hot sand to cool snow in one day’s climb. Hot to cold and back to hot. Well, more like warm. It is winter in the desert and while the days are comfortably warm, the nights are chilly.

As for San Pedro de Atacama, it isn’t at all what I expected: homes and other buildings are built from adobe – a mixture of clay, sand, straw and water – and roads left unpaved – in other words, rocky dirt words that I’m sure turn to mud – if it ever rains. The Atacama is the driest place on Earth.

The village, with homes that date back to the 1500s, seems to have been built to cater to tourists. It has rows upon rows of hostels and hotels and businesses that offer guided tours to see the mountains, the desert, the geysers, lakes, lagoons and salt flats. Tour guides abound. There are also the usual shops – countless of them – selling local arts and crafts. In short order, San Pedro de Atacama is crawling with tourists who outnumber actual residents, just below 2,000 people. The tourists are here for obvious reasons. The town is the launch pad for all the natural beauty – the flora and fauna – that the surrojunding area offers. But beyond that, San Pedro de Atacama is a fantastic little town that has remained largely unchanged for centuries. It’s well worth a visit.

Now if they could only do something about the wind kicking up all that sand. Bring sunglasses to keep some of that sand out of your eyes. And expect to be dusted in that fine desert sand.

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