Days 11 & 12 (February 18 & 19, 2014) I get bad colds every year but I rarely get the flu. It is a real bummer to spend two days in San Pedro de Atacama bedridden with flu-like symptoms. I guess the flu shot I got a few months ago at Kaiser Permanente did not immunize me against the Chilean strains of the virus. Thankfully Adrián is feeling great so he is doing the exploring and the photography. I was here 10 years ago searching for hydra so I know the area well including every single body of water—mostly salty and hydra-less. Yesterday Adrián rode to Laguna Miscanti and visited the small village of Socaire. The area of San Pedro de Atacama is at the foothills of the Andes so clouds crossing over the mountains from Argentina and Bolivia provide enough humidity to maintain a few streams that allow for small-scale agriculture. The Inca system of terraces and irrigation is used to grow corn, potatoes, beans, etc. This part of Chile belongs to the region known as the Puna de Atacama, a high plateau that in pre-Columbian times was inhabited by the Atacameño people, a pre-Inca culture. Today most of the Puna is in the territories of Chile and Argentina. It is not surprising that the vibe of towns like Socaire and San Pedro very much resembles that of settlements in bordering Argentina and Bolivia.
The town of San Pedro is a trendy tourist destination for both Chileans and hordes of foreigners. Most buildings in town are built in adobe style following the traditional architecture of the region. The old-style ceilings made of caña de Castilla (a bamboo-like grass) and roofs made of straw have been replaced by corrugated galvanized iron sheets. Some streets have pavers while others are just dirt. Acequias (water canals) run through the town providing water to algarrobo trees, false pepper trees, and even poplars, which provide some green contrast to the reddish or white of the adobe walls. From many locations throughout town one can relish the nearly perfect conical shape of Volcán Licancábur (5916 meters), located on the border with Bolivia but less than 40 kilometers from the town. At only 3 kilometers of the San Pedro, the Pukará de Quitor is an Inca fortress on the west bank of Río San Pedro. Apparently the pukará (fortress in Quechua—the main language family of the indigenous people of the Andes) was built in the 12th century and was attacked and taken by a group of 30 men under the orders of conquistador Francisco de Aguirre in 1540. After many years of service to the Spanish Crown in Perú, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, Francisco de Aguirre retired and died in La Serena, Chile, where he was hopefully bitten by the same bed bugs that got me last week!
I felt much better today so in the late afternoon Adrián and I took a short stroll through the charming town. We had dinner at the table outside our bedroom at Hotel La Casa de Mireya. I had crackers with palta (avocado) and a banana (tying to be careful not to upset my stomach). Adrián had Mountain House Chicken a la King with Noodles.