Lost in San Pedro de Atacama…out running!

Ok – so I know I said this is a very small town, and therefore one would imagine it is not easy to get particularly lost.  Well lost is perhaps too strong a description, I think disorientated is perhaps more accurate.

So as the dawn hailed yet another bright blue sky this morning, I set off bright an early to stretch out my old legs and go for a gentle run.  I turned off the high street, and down a pleasant dusty red road, with adobe red walls hiding behind them yet more hotels and hostels.  The occasional big 4×4 steaming past me, heading off on some tour.  I tuned down a different road, and then another thinking I was keeping the mountains distinctly to my left in the distance.  I was aware that my surroundings were becoming slightly less touristy and more locally residential as there were less and less hotel signs.  There was a delicious smell of freshly baked bread, and I could hear chatter and voices behind the orange dusty walls.  I thought that running a long a sort of firm road would indicate it was a main road, but I was wrong.  And I suddenly realised my surroundings were becoming distinctly rural and smallholding like….turning round I completely couldn’t work out which direction I should be taking.  Other than the mountains there are no obvious landmarks that are visible as very few buildings venture up to a second storey…I decided to trust my vague sense of direction and my own personalised tour of what were clearly the outskirts of San Pedro.  When I hit the highway I figured I should try and head back into town…and attempted to retrace my steps – but not really understanding the signposts of local areas in town I was a bit nonplussed, but kept running on. A small football stadium, a school and a rather smart looking children’s playground later and I still had no idea how to get back into the centre….and when I say centre I just mean the other side of town where my hotel was – probably not more than a couple of miles in the right direction.  I eventually stopped and asked an old toothless man who was watching me (probably with some bemusement).  He set me off in what I hoped was the right direction and I eventually recognised round the very next bend some familiar sights and headed down what was the Main Street right down to the other end to my hotel.

San Pedro is a mystifying town.  Hotels and hostels and campsites are everywhere and what it must be like in the high season is a wonderment.  It feels lik a cross between a ski resort or a small African town in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, gently moving through each day and time in general at its own pace.  Literally no one seems in a rush to do anything, and folks generally seem to be loitering with friendly intent.  Wondering around late at night after my dinner yesterday, felt safe and easy and untroubling – just soaking up the noise from bars and restaurants and the general happy atmosphere.  A few weeks ago an Argentinian warned me about going to Chile – when I asked him why, he said oh, because it is full of Chileans.  Well I have since read a bit more about the country and I have met its people.  And so far my verdict is that it is a most beautiful country and the people could not be more lovely, happy or distinctly peaceful.  The music they sing, carries their personality in its heart I feel with the beautiful lilting songs, the drums, guitars and panpipes/flutes – our music and pop star wannabes could certainly learn a thing or two.  In the evenings there are musicians roving the streets and restaurants and they stop here and there to play.  It is enchantingly fun and happy.  As I write this blog, sitting in one of the main square cafes (in fact one of the only ones that I have found that serves real coffee) there are groups of students, locals just sitting on the park walls, and various groups have someone who has a guitar and there are various songs creating a background soundtrack that is really rather pleasant.  How wrong that Argentinian was – and I shall forget everything he told me.

The one thing that completely mystifies me is the dogs.  They are simply everywhere, all the time.  They don’t seem to be a nuisance to anyone, and actually a lot of the time they are just lying flaked out in the hot sunshine. when I was running this morning, they were often loitering outside a closed door.  They mill about in the main streets , the side street, outside restaurants, outside anywhere.  There are some inside my hotel grounds, who seem to come and go as they please.  Some of them seem to be wearing collars, but they don’t really seem to belong to anyone.  They seem playful at times with people as well as with each other, and they have big dopey expressions – it feels like San Pedro would be empty without them!


So one more day to go of relaxing in the sunshine.  I haven’t seen that many other runners about, but I imagine everyone is doing last minute kit checks etc. Going for the occasional run.  Maybe some have gone out on tours – I kind of figure that as we are about to go on our own very exclusive tour of the desert that it is unnecssary to do one of these tours.  So I’m going for gentle runs and kit checking, hydrating, and relaxing.  The calm before the storm so to speak!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Lost in San Pedro de Atacama…out running!

  1. Catherine

    Blissful – wonder if you are reading Chatwin’s ‘In Patagonia’!
    Enjoy yourself tonight – all loving the music you are sending on our family whatsapp!
    Thank you for sending the 4Deserts Live Link: https://www.4deserts.com/atacamacrossing/live Exciting times!!!! (it’s going to be hard to work next week – have never got anything done when you’ve run the MDS!).
    Fondest love and take care darling,
    Cxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  2. Hi Harriet, it sounds an amazing place and that your having a great time so far. Best of luck with everything. Look forward to your next instalment. Fi xx

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