I'm woken up by the bus assistant handing out sweet black tea and packets of mini chocolate cookies. A nutritious breakfast if I ever had one! A few hours later we stop at a town and everyone gets off with their hand luggage. I follow suit even though it's too early to be at San Pedro de Atacama. Me and a Swiss guy are confused but it seems we're to switch buses even though we were both told there were to be no connections. Whatever! The next bus had no air con, was stifling hot and the fan was like having a hairdryer in your face. My watch notched up 35°C. Everyone looked uncomfortable.
We drive through a nothing desert land and stopped at a few bus stations at western looking towns with no signage, leaving me and the Swiss guy wondering if we'd arrived yet. Nope, nope and nope. Then at 16:30 (25½ hours later) we stop in a dusty desert plaza surrounded by mud shacks with corrugated tin roofs, just off a dirt track in the middle of nowhere. We're here!!! This is it - San Pedro de Atacama at an altitude of 2,400 meters. Wow!
Whilst wrestling my bags off the bus driver some local woman approaches me and enquires, "Steve? Amigo Steve?" "Si," I reply suspectingly. She hands me a hostel flyer. I turn it over, it reads simply, "Sean & Monika :) Amigo Steve." I look at the woman astounded that I've been met at a bus station in the middle of nowhere. She says, "Si, Amigo Sean y Monika aci Hostel Elim!" Cool! I grab my bags and follow her.
Hostel Elim is more of a quaint rustic B'n'B, sharing facilities with the owners. It has rocking chairs, hammocks, tables and Sean & Monika! It's great to see them again. They've even bagged me a bed in their triple room! (I'm on the top of Monika's bunk.) We go out, buy some food, chat, drink and play cards. Generally catch up, it's been 3 months! It seems they told the woman (the hostel owner) to look out for a man with a ginger beard. Eh! (Well, I haven't shaved since I started the Torres del Paine Circuit!)
Posted by Steve Eynon