Today was my last full day in the Atacama. Just in time to leave, I finally started being social with some of the other people staying at my hostel. I spent a pleasant morning sitting on the patio in the sun, chatting with two Australians (whom I’d met the night before) and an American (not only from the U.S., but a real Californian).
In the afternoon, I tagged along with the Californian and her Chilean acquaintance (a retired priest) on an epic quest for the Chilean food humitas, which neither of us had tried. After asking at four different restaurants, we finally stumbled across a restaurant that had them, and ordered a plate to split between the three of us. As seems common in Chile, the meal was prefaced by a round of pisco sours, but (appropriately for our location) these had little specks of coca leaf mixed in. The humitas themselves were excellent, eaten with sugar. They are very much like tamales, but sweeter and milder.
Back at the hostel, I asked the hostel-lady about how to get to the airport the next day, as well as inquiring about any sights in town I should see. I wandered to the address she told me, and booked the airport van (which would again meet me at my front door, hoorah!). That being achieved, I hiked down to the Pueblo de Artesanos, a collection of studios and shopfronts for the local Atacameño artisans. I hunted for a few gifts, and had a lovely conversation about Chilean literature with a local potter.
Afterwards, I wandered around San Pedro and took a few photos. San Pedro has been a marvelous place for touristing: tiny and very safe. It is a handsome little pueblo, with not a single building above one story, all built in adobe. The streets are packed dirt, rather than paved, with cobblestone sidewalks lining some of the larger byways.
All the trees have that peculiar tint of green you find in drought-tolerant plants. The “downtown” area is only a few blocks, so if you’re staying in town, you can walk anywhere you need in a matter of minutes. After the alert, paranoid style of walking I use in Valparaíso, it was positively relaxing to stroll through San Pedro.
In the evening, my new hostel-friends cooked a barbeque on the patio. I helped chop onions and avocados, while the other Californian prepared pasta and sauce. Her Chilean friends grilled the meat. We settled down to a meal of beef steak, chorizo sausage, and juicy, crisp chicken, as well as pasta with a carrot-onion sauce and some cookies. What an agreeable way to end my time here.
The airport van comes for me at 7:30am tomorrow, so I packed up most of my things tonight. As I cleared off the shelves, I had this conversation in my head: “Um, Molly, why did you pack an emergency hooded poncho for your trip to the driest place in the world? — It was… I, um… just to be prepared, okay!”
(Edit 12/10: Oh yes. And there are more photos on Flickr. The last big batch of Atacama photos!)