Arequipa to Arica to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile 24 - 26 Jan 2006

Desert, lakes, volcanoes and geysers


Logbook index At first page Next page

24 January 2006. Arequipa, Peru to Arica, Chile. (VFR 1:05 hour). Entry formalities went smoothly, in spite of the fact that we had arrived in Chile without the permit for domestic flights. Aviator friends had told us how easy it was to fly in Chile so we hadn’t even bothered to check the Entry requirements in the Jeppesen. The Chileans greeted us with a friendly smile but told us we should have applied for the permit before flying into Chile.
We were then worried that it would take a few hours to get the permit from Santiago and we would be unable to fly on to San Pedro de Atacama the same day. But we had reckoned without Chilean efficiency… 45 minutes later, the authorities in Santiago had already issued the permit. What’s more we only had to pay 18 US$ for flying in Chile for one month! Not only was this cheap, it also meant no delays at airports while they worked out the landing and parking fees.
Arica to San Pedro de Atacama (elev. 8000 feet, VFR 2:15 hrs) near the Lincancabur volcano. After a bumpy flight due to afternoon thermals, we landed at San Pedro de Atacama about an hour before sunset. This is just an airstrip with no gates or security of any sort. We just had to hope that there would be no break-ins during the 3 nights that we stayed in San Pedro. Chile is known to be the safest country in South America, but while in San Pedro we were told that two cars had been broken into and all their contents stolen just a week before.
There is a lot to see in the Atacama and we only had 2 full days there so we really had to pack it all in. There were no rental cars in San Pedro and we were glad to be obliged to take a guided tour – that way we could take a nap in the minibus on the long drives. Also we could leave the bus and go on walks and get picked up the other end.
25 January 2006. The minibus came for us at 4 a.m. for a 10-hour excursion (2 a.m. for us as we had ‘lost’ two hours when we came in from Peru). We reached the El Tatio geysers at daybreak and had breakfast there in our warmest clothes. At 14,200 ft (4300 m), these are the highest geysers in the world. The geysers are surrounded by fumaroles and mountains reaching almost 20,000 ft (6000 m). This was supposed to be the highlight of the tour and it was certainly an awesome sight in the early morning sunlight, but for me it was the views from the bus as we gradually descended, over vast expanses of desert wilderness, that were the most memorable. In addition to alpaca and a chinchilla, we even spotted the elusive ‘souri’ (a kind of ostrich) running like lightening in the far distance.


Approaching San Pedro de Atacama over the Valley of the Moon

On left downwind for runway 34 in San Pedro de Atacama, the 6000 m Lincancabur volcano behind.

On arrival at San Pedro de Atacama airfield with curious local girls who had arrived by bike. 6000 m Lincancabur volcano behind.

Angela is freezing at dawn at El Tatio geysers (4300 m)

Thawing slowly as the sun rises...

Gushing geyser at El Tatio

Early morning frost and shades of green

Angela warming up in a cloud of steam

Church near small Indian village

Flamingos and volcanos

Alpacas grazing near a stream

Flemming dwarfed by a huge cactus

JAlbum 6.2 Copyright: Angela & Flemming PEDERSEN