My flight left Santiago at 1:35, and due to the holiday I anticipated some difficulty using public transportation to get to the airport. Surprisingly everything was running like normal, and I was there by 11:45. The flight was uneventful, but the real adventure started when I landed in Calama. Here I am after getting off the flight:
To put things into perspective for those of you who aren´t familiar with Calama, it´s not the safest of cities. I purposely planned to arrive during the day so it would be safer than at night. It´s very close to the Bolivian border, and so unfortunately there´s a lot of problems with drugs and crime coming over from the border. There´s also minimal police involvement on top of that.
We arrived at 3:30, and so at the airport I considered my options for getting to San Pedro. There was a direct shuttle bus to San Pedro that would take about an hour and a half, but it cost 10,000 pesos (about 20 bucks). But then there was a shuttle bus that would take you to bus companies in downtown Calama for 3.000 (about 6 bucks), and the bus tickets were only about 2.500 pesos (about 5 bucks).
After waiting about 15 minutes for the shuttle bus to downtown Calama I decided to pay for the direct shuttle to San Pedro. The problem was that it was filled up by the time I went back, and there were no others running for the rest of the day.. I found 3 other people (a woman from Italy and 2 guys from Japan) that were trying to get to San Pedro also, so we decided to split a taxi to downtown Calama and then get a bus from there.
We got the taxi for 5.000 pesos between all of us, and we went to the first bus company. (There´s not really a central bus station in Calama, so you have to go to each bus company separately) It was about 4:00 at this point, and at the first bus station the next bus was only leaving at 6. So we walked to the next bus company, and they didn´t have any other buses going to San Pedro for the day. On top of this people were coming up to us begging for money, and one of the Japanese guys was casually stopping to take pictures with his professional camera on every street corner as if he were a tourist in New York City. Things were not looking good.
Someone suggested going to another company. A scruffy looking man came up to us asking us what we needed, and I explained the sitatuon to him. He helped us to get a taxi since none were passing by, and he asked us for a tip for his help. I gave him a few hundred pesos and thanked him for his help. Once we got to the this company´s location they luckily had one more bus going to San Pedro, so we were able to get that one at 5. It cost us 2.500 each (about 5 bucks), and we got in around 6:15. I breathed a huge sigh of relief once I was on the bus, and it was just a 10 minute walk from the bus station to the hostel.
|The view on the way from Calama to San Pedro|
After getting settled in and exploring downtown I made some dinner and am getting ready for a tour of the Taito Geysers bright and early at 4 AM tomorrow and Valle de la Luna tomorrow afternoon.
It feels great to be traveling again.