Adventures in San Pedro De Atacama
Arriving in San Pedro De Atacama on my birthday should have been the thinly veiled excuse Cass and I needed to go out and party after weeks spent on the road.
Instead uncharacteristically I want nothing more than an early night and something to soothe a cough and cold picked up over the previous weeks exertions crossing Abra Del Acay and Paso Sico.
What starts out as a couple of days rest eventually turns in to 10 days spent in this small enchanting dusty town nestled at the edge of the Atacama Desert. As each day passes we explore local single track, meet many new people and eventually put right postponed birthday celebrations.
Armed with a hand written map, our first evening’s ride takes us high up on to a ridge line above town.
In the evening light we cast our eyes upon the jumble of ridgelines of Valle De La Muerta.
Before following vague jeep tracks.
Still high above the town as darkness descends we anxiously look at the ‘map’ unsure we will make it back to the road before dark. By chance a car’s headlights signal the entrance to a canyon far below. Riding down steep sand dunes we emerge on the main road in the dark under our the illumination of our head torches, for once pleased to be back on asphalt.
Curious to explore the areas potential we spend the next three days exploring armed with local knowledge, missing turns and slowly piecing together the areas canyons, we arrive home each day in the dark tantalisingly closer to linking up the ride in to the Valle De La Luna through the chaotic maze of canyons.
On our first attempt we miss a vital turning. Pedalling off in to the distance, realising our error we manage to hitch back and catch sunset over Valle De La Luna, providing a birds eye view of the valley floor.
The following day we follow tyre tracks on the valley floor that eventually peter out, leaving us scratching our heads. We back track only to find the dry river bed we were supposed to follow. In fading light we race down, emerging on to the road in darkness. Once again bound for twinkling lights of San Pedro De Atacama having unlocked the secret.
On your final attempt, local bike mechanic Guilerme joins us. Following single track around the canyon’s rim we kick up dust clouds.
Before following an arrow straight track across a salt flat.
We carry our bikes down to the start of dry river bed.
As the canyon walls narrow shadows mark the entrance to a deep cave.
The river bed narrowing ever further, twisting and turning.
Racing through unfamiliar surroundings and jagged textures.
We bobble along over golf ball sized salt formations.
As Guilerme turns for home, we carry on to watch another sunset over sand dunes of Valle De La Luna.
Jagged ridgelines seem to be the order of the day.
Evening light dapples the volcano of Sairecabur in the distance. Despite ideas to ride the volcano we find ourselves running out of time. Bolivia beckons.