As nice as it was to be back in civilization, in a land with paved roads and road signs and everything, we didn’t exactly hang around in Chile. In fact, less than 24 hours after we’d entered the country we were back at the same border post being stamped out by the same guy who stamped us in the day before. He didn’t even bat an eyelid as he removed the tourist card on which I’d written that we’d be staying in the country for a month and passed my passport back to me.
It’s not that we didn’t like San Pedro de Atacama. On the contrary, it’s a pleasant little town–if a little touristy–of whitewashed houses and traffic-free streets. And after spending so long at chilly altitude it was lovely to be somewhere warm again (even if it had been cold, there would have been no danger of us shivering through the night, as the bed in our hostel had sheets made of polo fleece–it was as if we’d slept in a big comfy jumper).
But Chile is expensive. With no functioning ATM in town (seriously, what is it with border towns?) and only a limited supply of US dollars to exchange at punitive exchange rates, we were forced to keep moving. And as the bus across the Andes to Salta in Argentina only runs on certain days of the week, the first thing we did after checking into a hotel was to go and buy our tickets out for the next day.
We were joined in Salta by Chris and Kyria, who we’d first met on the chilly salar de uyuni, and who happened to be heading the same way as us. After we’d helped them celebrate American Independence day in Salta they went back to Bolivia and we started to work our way south through Argentina: a day in Tucumán (the cradle of Argentine independence) here, a few in uni town Córdoba there, and several more in Mendoza enjoying the delights of the country’s wine region.
From Mendoza, we poped back into Chile for a little while. The road over there takes you right up to the top of the snowcappped Andes, and back down through the ski resorts on the other side (at one point the road even goes under the ski run–and I hope no one ever strays too far from the middle, as that looks like a rather large drop on either side…)
But once again we didn’t hang around in Chile. We spent a few days in Valparaíso, a pretty town on the side of a hill by the ocean where we saw the first rain of our trip so far, and then a few in Santiago, before heading back across the mountains once again to Mendoza.