Chilean Adventures’ Diaries: Day 2 San Pedro de Atacama
Quirky fact about Atacama desert: Scientists think that if certain bacterias can survive the most desolate part of the Atacama dessert, then they can survive in the Mars
Day 2 started with a lovely buffet breakfast in our hotel and a very important lesson for me. I had not requested for soya milk the night before. Our very apologetic waitress told me that that they would have have got Soya milk for me if I had reminded them night before. Lesson learned!
Highlight of breakfast for me was the freshly squeezed orange juice and Chia seeds! In all my travels, I have never come across chia seeds being served with breakfast. As a true to heart Londoner who makes regular trip to Holland and Barrett to get chia seeds, to say I was overjoyed is putting it lightly.
After breakfast we left for the airport. Though Our flight to El Loa Airport in Calama was a bit late, panoramic views of the desert while landing more than made up for it. The mystical beauty of the dry red earth, surrounded by majestically grey bare ice capped mountains and scattered with white windmills and not a soul in sight took my breath away. It felt as it I was landing on a different planet where no one has ever stepped before.
Our hour long drive to San Pedro de Atacama was equally breathtaking with its majestic views of the dry red valley and snow capped mountains. The feeling of solitude .. of being only ones around followed me into the drive. I felt that desert is the witness of how insignificant humans are in realty. This desert has preceded humans and will be there long time after we are gone and from its perspective we are nothing more that a speck of dust blowing in the wind.
We were staying in this beautiful boutique hotel called La Casa de Don Tomas. When the hotel manger told me that they can arrange a vegan breakfast for me, I did another dance of glee. It doesn't takes much to get vegans into throes of ecstatic happiness - just tell us that there is a option available for us to eat.
In evening, we walked around the beautiful town of San Pedro de Atacama which nests in the shadow of the ice capped Licancabur volcano.
We had our dinner in the Estrella Negra restaurant where I had a lovely vegan soya burger with avocado. Tip: Most restaurants in Chile understand 'vegan' dietary requirements and are happy to tweak the dishes to make them vegan.
I will sign off by quoting the exquisite lines by Michael Ondaatje which to me epitomise the essence of the desert:
"The desert could not be claimed or owned–it was a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names... Its caravans, those strange rambling feasts and cultures, left nothing behind, not an ember. All of us, even those with European homes and children in the distance, wished to remove the clothing of our countries. It was a place of faith. We disappeared into landscape.”
Tip of the day:
Most Chilean restaurants will tweak a dish to make it vegan if you request them.Due to very high altitude, sunglasses are a must in Atacama as is a SPF 50 sunscreen and keeping yourself hydrated.
Word of the day:
Queso - it means cheese. Any vegetarian dish which has 'queso' in its description will have cheese.
Look out for my next blog to see how the day three of my Chilean adventure went!