May 7 & 8 – San Pedro de Atacama

May 7  – San Pedro de Atacama Tours: Day 1

Today was the first day of activities in San Pedro de Atacama. The group departed at 7am to the “Lagunas Altiplanicas” located South of San Pedro at an altitude of 4,220 meters above sea level. This lake is part of the Flamingos National Reserve and is a very special location as it is administered by the Socaire Indigenous community. The lake is in a protected park and environmental conditions are kept pristine as it is a nesting area for the Andian Coot. This type of bird does not migrate and spends its entire life in the same geographical location.

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After the laguna, we continued our expedition to the Atacama Salt Flats (Salar de Atacama). The salt flats are located at 2,305 meters above sea level and are a Flamenco sanctuary. Brine shrimp is the main source of food for the flamencos which is abundant in the shallow waters of the Salar. The salt flats cover approximately 3,000 km2 in a subsiding sedimentary basin. This area was once part of the ocean but due to tectonic movements, it became isolated by a series of mountain ranges including the Andes Mountains. Also, the Atacama Salt Flats contain the world’s largest concentration of lithium which is recovered from the brine at various small operations in Northern Chile.

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After the Lagunas Altiplanicas we returned to the hostel for a two-hour break before leaving for our last tour of the day. In this tour we visited a natural salt cave, hiked to a sand dune and finally watched the sunset at the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon). The photo below shows some of the mining grads climbing though the caves with surrounding allite salt walls.

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Next we went hiking through some picturesque terrain where we were able to capture some stunning images of the desert landscape.

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At last, we ended our evening at the Valle de la Luna. What began as a cloudy sunset, ended as an amazing display of colours that were reflected through the clouds above us and the mountains.

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May 8  – San Pedro de Atacama Tours: Day 2

Today was the last day of activities in San Pedro and began with an early start at 5am from the hostel. Our destination was the Geysers del Tatio (Geysers of Tatio), which is located at an altitude of 4,320 meters above sea level. Due to the high altitude, the ambient temperature is generally below zero in the morning and this allows the formation of visible steam clouds emanating from the geysers.

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After arriving, we explored the geyser field with our tour guide and later went to the hot springs for a swim. Only a small group of brave students dared to swim into the lukewarm waters of the hot spring with outside temperatures below 0 degrees.

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On our way back to the hotel we stopped at the town of Machuca. This small town has 12 families that dedicate their lives to agriculture, farming, and cheese production. We spent close to 40 minutes exploring the town and tasting their cuisine, which included barbecued llama and cheese empanadas.

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During our last day in San Pedro, we visited the Laguna del Cejar (Cejar Lagoon). This is located in the Flamingo National Reserve and consists of 3 small ponds that are considered sinkhole lakes. The lake water has salt concentrations that range from 5% to 28% salt. This high concentration of salt creates a floating effect, similar to the Dead Sea in Israel. The temperature of the water is close to 16 degrees Celsius, a perfect temperature for any Canadian.

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To conclude our evening, our tour company organized a get together with the mining group. We drank the traditional pisco sour and ate snacks while watching the sunset at the lagoon.

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